Friday, May 09, 2008

Dutch Banker goes Supermodel

Dutch Triple A rated bank Rabobank has been fiddling around with gadgets, widgets and virtual worlds a lot in the past years. Their first metaversal experience came from Why Robbie Rocks and in april 2008 the bank hit the typical avatar-based 'girlworld' goSupermodel targeted at a 12 to 17 year old audience, loosely styled like Habbo Hotel.

goSupermodel has about 250.000 unique visitors a month, which log in about 200 times a month and spend 22 minutes each session. Rabobank has launched a chatbot, called Yvette. Through the chatbot Yvette you can ask questions about finance. This financial coach is also reachable through SMS, MSN, Hyves and Live-spaces.

Actual numbers from the first week of operation are promising:
  • 5.881 mails to Yvette
  • 25.901 chatsessions with the girls
  • 44.305 visits to the Rabobank office

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Friday, March 21, 2008

RIPlounge moves into Beta

Earlier this week I got word that there's yet another Virtual World to be launched into beta. This time it's Riplounge. Now, I've been getting used to typical web 2.0 names like flickr, tumblr, xing and ning and so on, and virtual worlds do have their own peculiarities when it comes to finding an available url.... but RipLounge ?


You may think "Quod Nomen Est," but Riplounge. It immediately has several associations, like R.I.P. and Rip off, but that will probably not be the intend of the producers, Wyndstorm Corporation. If you look at the the typography in RipLounge and note the capitalised RL.

With this new platform Wyndstorm is trying to add more social web 2.0 functionality to the realm of NVE's, and thus make the crossover from the Metaverse to RL (real life), perhaps that explains the naming and typography. This is a sound business plan in itself. 3D Social Networking will be the mashup for the next few years. The question is, will it work out in riplounge?

RipLounge opened up for beta signup this week (and so I registered) and is to open early april. The only thing we've got to go by is the promo video out on the web:



Riplounge.com Demo - video powered by Metacafe

It's a little early to tell which way it's gonna go, but judging from the promo I'd say Virtual World is a big word. It looks more like your avatar will be confined in a limited number of rooms, much like Stagespace for instance.

The world is set up around music and clubs, and is aimed at the more grown-up audience in the range of 25 to 35 year olds. Year end 2007 we saw an enormous increase and focus for (girl) teen worlds, and RipLounge is setting itself a difficult challenge as this agegroup is much more critical and not easily satisfied with a few gimmicks. In this agegroup the world has to attain some level of persistance. RipLounge promises to showcase independent music artists and offers advertisers “in-scene” advertising in order to attempt this persistance.

From a graphics point of view RipLounge doesn't seem to offer new and improved stuff either, probably best described by Tech Crunch:

"Having not yet tested the service it would be perhaps unfair to make an assessment based on the demo video, however why avatars waddle around like penguins in each scene was not made clear. Maybe it’s a special feature…or maybe not."

However, within the limited are (judging from what we have now) and the quality of the graphics, RipLounge will have a mountain to climb to grab a bit of the market.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Charting the new Worlds

UPDATE: The numbers in this blog are old. There will be an update shortly.

This blogentry was posted first at the Virtual World blog powered by Sogeti Sweden. As it is a new blog I gave an outline of the market we're dealing with. Several bits and bytes have appeared on this blog before - VeeJay



It's a brave new world out there, the question is which world? We've seen the industry of virtual worlds explode in this past year with billions of dollars of capital funding, takeovers and corporate builds. Over the past year Second Life has drawn more media attention than any other virtual world, respectively positive and then later ill-informed negative publicity has driven the world of Second Life into a hype cycle (as defined by Gartner).




Networked Virtual Environments

There's more to it though. There's not only a brave new world out there, it's an entire universe. It was also Gartner who did a short report on virtual worlds in december 2006 and introduced the term NVE, Networked Virtual Environments as an overal term for the industry, their definition:



An NVE is an online platform in which participants are immersed in a three-dimensional representation of a virtual space. Other, analogous, terms for
NVEs in the market are metaverses and virtual worlds.


It's not a 100% definition as the industry also includes 2D spaces. I'd like to use it as a term for the entire universe whereas I would reserve the usage of the metaverse for a specific section in the industry.



So how big is the market we're talking about?

A very good kick off was given at the Virtual World Conference in San Jose (10-11 October 2007) by Christian Renaud. He put in some good effort to come up with a list of about 75 Virtual Worlds with subscription numbers.





This subscription pie is based on the number of subscriptions per virtual world. Adding up to a grand total of 465.000.000 registered users. Wow, that's huge. That's the entire population of North America, or the entire population of Western Europe. And this is not even counting the Asian (Ralph Koster estimates the number to be close to 2000!).


This might be an unbelievable number. We have to put that into perspective. People do sign up a lot, then drop out. The current number of registered users in Second Life is about 9.2 million of which close to 2 million are active. Christian Renaud estimates the total number of active virtual world residents to be close to 50 million. Still, the number of signups is impressive. Let's take a look at the Social Network list on Wikipedia; it gives a list of 85 community sites totalling 1 billion registered users. Like web 2.0 sites, we do travel a lot. We sign up, play around and then move to the other world / site. And there's people like me. I'm registered at about 15 Virtual Worlds.



A division by Universe

This is the division of the NVE's I'd like to make




How do we use these worlds?


A quick and easy split up is to say we use these worlds for social activities (i.e. Social Network Worlds) and for personal recreation (online gaming). But we also start to use these worlds for business purposes: online meetings, training, simulation, promotion, recruitment etcetera. Where does the business fit in? There's a number of platforms out there that could be considered as being typical business environments. Like Qwaq with office applications and Forterra which focusses on training and simulation. And then there are the intraverses. These have a business oriëntation as well. The chart below shows the division by usage focus. There is business on Second Life, but Second Life is not focussed on business.







What is my audience?


Each world has its own culture and its own demographics. The chart below gives an overview of agegroups. It's not a demographic of the VW residents but an overview of worlds focussing on a specific agegroup. Teen Worlds are growing fast in the sector. There's no world yet that has a focus on elderly people yet. The virtual residents are generally young people. But there will be a market for elderly people, I'm sure. One of the problems of a lot of elderly people is a lack of social contact. We'll be seeing our first virtual elderly home in a few years time.






Genderspecifics


In a virtual world there probably is no discrimination by gender. For example. Construction is an industry in which we usually find very few women. Perhaps it's prejudice, but the genereal thought is that women can't carry a load of bricks. Physical inhibitions don't count in virtual worlds. Another point is that we use avatars, representations, choosing whichever form we like. I know enough men dressing as women or vice versa in Second Life. Likewise, most worlds are open to both man and women without specifically aiming at a gender. There are a number of worlds however that are specifically targeted at teen girls. I've called them Girl Worlds. They're usually running on an extraverse, being brand driven. Examples of these are



Here's a chart of the marketshare these worlds have:




Finally, it's an enormously varied landscape. Different cultures, people and habits. A wide variety of engines are used to drive these worlds. Some are java-based, some are desktop applications that connect to grids and some are using streaming technology. It's almost impossible to try and define these worlds, let alone find ways for unified communications, interoperability and portability for the sector.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

YSL fashion without body

The summertime has been extremely quiet when it comes to new corporate immersions. Now summer break is long gone and I'm having a hard time keeping up. There's hardly been time to do some proper simspotting. Since we've been on the television meets virtual world meme thing in the past weeks it might be of interest to see what's exactly behind the Sera Korea sims. These are a bunch that might supporting the Korean TV drama series Que Sera Sera. The Asian invasion doesn't end here, there's another heap of islands shouting the name Samsung.



Yves Saint Laurent & Elle


Asia isn't my particular interest, there's others who keep a closer watch on the devs from the Far East; I'd rather keep an eye one European and American corporations. Since I've been running a streak of Fashion and Girlworlds it seems fit to note the immersion of Yves Saint Laurent, a well known French house of Fashion.



Blogging it is also logical, because I might otherwise forget this one is actually here. It didn't impress me and may fade out of memory soon. YSL's immersion has been centered around their fragrance "Elle", or as Nic Mitham from KZero reports:

"YSL is using a fuschia-themed island in SL on a tactical basis during October to promote their new fragrance Elle.

Marketing Director of YSL Fragrances, Thomas Lalague commented:
“Elle is geared toward “an active woman who is urban and contemporary, daring and elegant, attractive and bohemian, smart and sexy. A woman who is open to the world and who wants to express her personality.”

The theme of the island is the story of Elle using audio/video of the TV spot as well as rooms containng further information."


For a casual visitor though, this story is hard to find. Yes, there this big fallic bottle in the center of the island which is hard to miss, and it has an audio outfit. But on a rather casual stroll, I didn't feel tempted to pick up one and listen to a lengthy story.



I hovered around a bit to see what the rest of this purple-sim was made of, but the hallways are rather empty. Without you taking time to listen to their story, this sim has no body. If this sim is about the expression of a woman's personality.... I think there's a bit more to most women out there.









SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/YSL/128/128/0

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Virtual CosmoGirls goes There.com

I just received a comment on The Office stars Second Life by an author of the Dutch "up the vortex" blog. I followed the link and took a peek. One of the most recent articles features another upcoming Girl-World: CosmoGirl. The American teenmagazine, which is also available in the Netherlands is partnering with Makena Technologies to build their virtual hotspot on There.com. Teen worlds seem to be the fastest growing in the industry.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Go Supermodel

Last week I already mentioned the fashion vw goSupermodel in the article virtual Girlpower. Today I ran across a YouTube promo. Here it is.

All said and done, now you don't need to check out yourself ;)

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Does Robbie Rock?

There's a platform out there that has some attraction to corporations, but hardly known in the regular Virtual World Business, named Why Robbie Rocks.





Now it's pretty hard to define what exactly is a virtual world (see this discussion at Metaversed), but I think Why Robbie Rocks should be considered one, except... it doesn't really show. There's quite a bit of preformatted avatar pimping, but that's about it.



A feature on the website is the Elle Girl shop / site which uses WRR. As for serious business, also Dutch banker Rabobank (one of the few triple A rated banks in Europe) runs WRR and the latest is the Dutch One Campaign version.




The fun parts though is that there's web 2.0 integration. You can put your avatar on the (Google) map, push it to MSN spaces, MSN Messenger or embed it on your website or as a gadget on the ruling Dutch social network site hyves.

I haven't been able to see the full potential of Why Robbie Rocks, so tell us, why should we sign up?

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Monday, October 22, 2007

virtual Girlpower



One of the most targeted audiences for Virtual World and general online advertising has become the teen and tween girlscene. In the wake of tv-programmes like (America's) Next Topmodel and various makeover series this group has an appetite for fashion and beauty.





doll 2.0


By the end of october Red Chocolate will come with doll 2.0 which will have to put this Dutch startup ahead of compeition. Doll 2.0 has been developed with the watAgame software. This Danish enterprise is also responsible for girlcommunity goSupermodel, and recently received an additional 3,000,000 euro in funding. goSupermodel now has about 1,5 million unique visitors worldwide.




Girlz'own City


Another Dutch girlpower developer is CiC Mercurius which teamed up with Mindscape. Last june saw the beta release of Girlz'own City. Mindscape backs up the technical aspects and CiC Mercurius powers the look & feel from a marketing point of view.



Girl Classics


Other specialised Girly sites are Cartoon Doll Emporium, Stardoll, Girlsense and Barbiegirls.
Another Dutch site dealing with fashion and dressing up is Why Robbie Rocks which brings a beauty shop and an ELLE-girl special mashup.

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