Friday, March 21, 2008

More more more worlds

After writing on the new Beta launches for RipLounge and Magi Nation I noticed a number of posts over at the KZero blog which also report on new teenworlds getting ready for launch. What is it these days that one after the other company releases their world?

The answer is probably very simple. A number of these worlds have been targeted to open up in 'early 2008' and didn't make the deadline in januari, but the prime reason for this sudden onrush is the Virtual World Conference, the industry's largest stage for promotion. The spring edition of the conference will be held in New York from 3 - 4 april and has a dedicated track for Kid and Teen Worlds.

Lego Universe

One of the most interesting new releases probably is the Lego Universe. Most interesting probably because of old-times-sake; Which one of us didn't grow up with Lego? KZero adds:

"Maybe they’ll also launch a Technical Lego version for us older kids"







Cartoon Network: Fusion Fall

Next in-line is a Cartoon Network release named Fusion Fall. You'd expected this one to spring next fall, but its scheduled for release this Spring.... maybe they've got their seasons fused.








Build a Bear

The youngest segment of the market, the under 10s also is a highly competative corner of the industry. Largest in this segment is NeoPets and now there's a bear world: Build a Bear Ville.







The Build a Bear world has the advantage that it already has a number of fans out there in the real world, as the brand has been around for some 10 years now.

Since 1997, at Build-A-Bear Workshop® we have created a safe place where your child can play, express their creativity and use their imagination. Please be assured that we bring these same qualities you value and trust about Build-A-Bear Workshop in the real world into our new virtual world of
buildabearville.com™

In this competative market it will be very hard for a truly new kid on the block to make a major stand, and it may well be that this will be the way to go for a number of 'established' toy companies.

VizWoz

Last in Line this week is another fuzzy name: VizWoz. It's probably best to quote KZero at this one:

"With phrases such as ‘the next big virtual community’, ‘Set to become the most dynamic virtual world’ and ‘virtual reality in its most realistic form’ Vizwoz sounded like a pretty exciting place"


But then the presentation went a little wrong...

So, I turned up and logged in at 4.55pm to beat the rush. First impressions, a standard 2.5d flash-based UI with click and glide avatar customisation. Ok, so what’s the differentiator here? How does this world plan to stand out from the (growing) number of MMOG’s and VW’s aimed at kids? What’s the revenue model? And where is everyone else?

I was given the wrong URL, no big deal. So, a quick logout and login took me back. The founder was set to arrive at 5 to give a tour of Vizwoz. Excellent I thought. And a chance to ask some questions beforehand. Even better. I managed
to ask five questions before he had to leave.

  1. What’s the target age range? Dan said 11 - 14. I actually asked this question to the PR agency before hand and they said 7 -14.
  2. What’s the gender split from the beta? 47% boys
  3. How many people were on the beta? 5,000.
  4. What’s the business model? Premium, was the answer. Premium what?

My fifth question was the one I was most interested in - differentiation. I managed to ask it but unfortunately Dan had to leave at this point. This was a shame, but one should remember that the site had just gone live to the public.
He did briefly give me the answer of ‘have you seen the GUI?’. Yes, I saw it, but that’s not differentiation - it’s a means to an end. The overall experience is good, it’s smooth and the interface works well but I still a feeling of something missing.

Read the rest of the KZero review here.

I guess we'll have to see how it turns out, but making a first impression like this might end any chance of success even before the world actually sees the light of day.

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