Tagged: kids

Two New Virtual “Worlds” For Kids

WebbliWorld, a new virtual world for kidsWith the success of Nicktropolis and even more so WebKinz, Club Penguin, and things like GoPets and more (Animal Crossing, anyone?), virtual worlds for kids have become the hot ticket this summer. Two new ones are on their way: one an educational 3D theme park, the other a cool 2D “world” designed in part by Aardman Animations, the outfit behind the excellent Wallace & Gromit cartoons.

The Aardman offering is known as WebbliWorld, and is populated by all kinds of avatars and features beginning for the most part with W- or Webbli-. That’s WebbliWallace above, the avatar I created by sticking together the bits and pieces on offer. Not really an immersive multiuser world, as far as I can tell, WebbliWorld instead offers a range of Flash games and activities designed to educate young ‘uns and inspire them to take on real-world activities like sports or mucking about in the garden. You can view other Webblis profiles, but communication seems limited. Continue reading

Virtual Goods: KartRider US Coming Soon

Min Kim of Nexon gave a presentation at the Virtual Goods Summit and said the company would probably announce the release of its KartRider in the US soon, which has been in closed beta. Kim also said Maple Story has been “kicking ass” in the US, with 3.5 million registered users. The company is also introducing prepaid cards at Target that can be used to buy virtual items, which it expects will push up sales as well. It also just released Audition, which already has 100,000 registered users, more than half of them female. Continue reading

Neopets’ NC Mall to Open Next Week

Kyra Reppen of Neopets gave a presentation at the Virtual Goods Summit on MTV’s Neopets. Like other MTV presenters before her, she began her presentation with a video. Perhaps the most interesting part, though, was about the new NC Mall that Neopets will introduce in beta next week. It’s about customizing and self-expression. It’s complementary to the Neopoints economy, no exchange between the two. Themed items around Neopian events. Launching with PayPal. Why do we think this is going to work? Digital is real life for this audience. Technology is invisible. Emotional connection makes the pixels go away and it’s about these experiences. Virtual worlds and virtual economies are simply applications to achieve those four core goals: fun, self-expression, social needs, and control. Kids ages 6-14 have $60 billion in income. One important feature of NC Mall is try before you buy. Continue reading

Gaia Partners With Millions of Us For Advertisers

I’m still catching up from flying across the country today, but I have to post this one, since it’s pretty big news. Virtual world services and marketing firm Millions of Us has struck a partnership with Gaia Online, which bills itself as “the Web’s
fastest-growing hangout for teens.” According to a press release, the partnership is “designed to bring new advertising clients to both parties while providing Millions of Us with an additional community in which to conduct campaigns.” That’s pretty significant stuff, since Gaia, which boasts an active membership of more than two million, is not an open platform, as is the virtual world of Second Life, where Millions got its start — along with 3pointD’s sponsor, the Electric Sheep Company, and firms like Rivers Run Red and Infinite Visions Media. The press release doesn’t say whether the partnership is exclusive to Millions of Us, but it does open a new world to Millions that its competitors don’t currently have access to. Congrats to Reuben and co. Full press release reprinted below. Continue reading

D-Briefs: Parties, Sweden, Jobs, Charity

3pointD briefsTwo stories out of Sweden in today’s D-Briefs, plus a charity in Africa, a party for a book of watercolors and one for Second Lifers in Europe, and eight job openings — all happening in or around virtual worlds.

• SL.UK07, Europe’s annual meetup for Second Lifers, now has a date: it’ll take place 23 June, starting midday (that’s noon if you’re American) till “rather late,” at a place called the T-Bar, located in the Tea Building, Shoreditch High Street, London E1. RSVP to Nick [at] riversrunred.com. Machinima or video submissions can be sent to Eddie Escher in SL, music submissions to Neil [at] riversrunred.com, and art gallery submissions / video projections to Rosie [at] riversrunred.com, all of which must be received by 16 June. Places are limited, RSVP early.

Continue reading

Japanese Child Avatar Portraits from Second Life

Eva and Franco Mattes' Annoying Japanese Child Dinosaur portaits from the virtual world of Second LifeEva and Franco Mattes, the Italian artists and pranksters who put on the 13 Most Beautiful Avatars show in February, have another series of portraits on display, starting June 2. This time it’s Annoying Japanese Child Dinosaur, a portrait series featuring avatars constructed in the virtual world of Second Life to resemble Japanese children. (I.e., residents’ avatars, not avatars constructed specially for the show.) The title of the show is apparently taken from a James Patrick Kelly novella titled Mr. Boy, which is “the tale of a genetically stunted 12-year-old who literally lives inside his mother, who has turned herself into a three-quarter-scale model of the Statue of Liberty. And his best friend, Stennie, is a child-dinosaur,” according to Franco. Very Second Life. The February show in New York was fairly gorgeous. This show, at Dockswiss in Luzern, Switzerland, is not to be missed if you’re anywhere nearby. There’s an opening reception for the artists on Friday, June 1, from 6-8pm. If you miss them there, you may be able to catch them on »Cosmos Island«, where they’re reenacting Joseph Beuys 7,000 Oaks as part of a series of Synthetic Performances, or reenactments of historical performances by artists like Vito Acconci, Chris Burden, and Valie Export inside synthetic worlds such as Second Life. Definitely worth checking out. Be grateful that two such creative minds as Eva and Franco are working in SL. They push the boundaries of art and performance in the real world; it’s interesting to see how they approach the same task in Second Life.

SecondCast #59: Teens of SL, Unite!

Alex Harbinger holds a teen grid debate on intergrid commerce in the virtual world of Second Life
Alex Harbinger holds a teen grid debate on intergrid commerce in the virtual world of Second Life. Photo courtesy of Lucky Figtree.

We recorded a great SecondCast this past Wednesday with two residents of Second Life‘s teen grid, Lucky Figtree and Alex Harbinger (both 15 years old). They’re leading the charge (or at least, Alex is) to unite the teen and adult grids, or at least to let them overlap to a certain extent. Along the way, we discuss Cristiano’s open letter to Linden Lab, and give away a couple of books. (There’s still time to enter the giveaway, actually.) Plus, listen for the dulcet tones of Starr Sonic, who joined us from the Second Life Cable Network as a special guest host. Definitely check out SLCN.tv’s news archive and live broadcasts. Starr’s doing it right.

RuneScape Reports 1 Million Paying Subscribers

RuneScape reports 1 million paying subscribers
Not alone in the wilderness

RuneScape, the browser-based massively multiplayer game from Jagex, now has a million paying subscribers, the company reported today. Just $5 a month gets players “exclusive quests, skills and a huge map of the fantasy world Gielenor, to explore.” The fact that it’s being shelled out by a million kids (or their parents; the RuneScape demographic is reportedly very young) is fairly impressive. Among Western MMOs, only World of Warcraft can boast more than a million paying subscribers. (Most MMO subscribers, including WoWs, pay around $15 a month.) And, as Matt Mihaly pointed out some time ago (in asking whether RuneScape would reach 1 millions subs), the game reportedly has some 5 million players, including those who play for free, and concurrency rates above 200,000. Jagex says they have 150 support staff devoted to the game, if that’s any gauge. [UPDATE: Matt has more details from an interview with the Jagex dude, Andrew Gowan.] I think it’s pretty significant to the future of media that there are a million young teens paying for this game, and four million more playing it from time to time. More evidence that 3D multiuser environments are here to stay as part of the media landscape. Most readers of this blog don’t need to be convinced of that, but there are many, many people out there who aren’t yet clued in. Successes like Jagex’s should help with that.

Top Seller in CyWorld USA? NBC Tie-In Items

A mini home page in CyWorld USA

Thought it worth noting that the top-selling virtual items to date in CyWorld USA, which launched last summer, are tie-ins from the Bravo TV show Top Design, according to a press release. (Bravo is part of NBC Universal.) CyWorld’s Top Design club was apparently very popular during the show’s first season, and members were able to purchase virtual items that were based on the winning designs from the show. “These Top Design-inspired collectibles became the top-selling digital items to-date for Cyworld USA,” the release says. CyWorld is adding Top Design features during the show’s off season, including “an immersive social network and commerce platform from View22,” which does 3D ecommerce services, and a Top Design 3D Throw-Down. No surprise that networks are moving closer and closer to virtual worlds as the age of New New MediaTM takes hold. CyWorld is pitched at a younger audience than Top Design, but that may be perfect for Bravo: get ’em hooked early via the virtual world, then gather ’em up in a medium where advertisers will pay more for their eyeballs.

Zwinky Builds Virtual World For Toolbar Avatars

Zwinky toolbar avatars get their own virtual world in ZwinktopiaWith 4.7 million “active users,” Zwinky lets you create and share avatars, emoticons, cursor icons and other stuff that teens seem to love, all from your browser’s toolbar. Now, IAC, the company behind Zwinky, hopes to lead those millions of users into its new virtual world. Known as Zwinktopia, the world “will provide Zwinkies a social community with 29 unique locations and dozens of games and activities,” including shopping, chat, games, events, and hanging out in dorm rooms. As in worlds like Club Penguin, users can earn a virtual currency, called Zbucks, and buy clothing, furniture, etc.

As a virtual world, Zwinky looks like nothing special. But it’s interesting that creating at least a 2D Flash-based multiuser environment like this has now become simple enough that you can just add such a service on top of one that’s already been adopted. Are these kind of virtual world services going to proliferate? What will be more interesting is when Web sites start to have these kind of “presence-based” services associated with them, almost like a Gabbly with avatars that an move around. I don’t think I’ve seen one yet, though Me.dium comes close.

New Barbie Dolls to Interact With Virtual World?

Barbie Girls may link to virtual world

Unless I’m much mistaken, it looks like Mattel’s new Barbie Girls, to be launched later this month, will be a physical doll that can interact with a virtual world, and should be a very interesting new experiment in that kind of crossover entertainment. BarbieGirls.com is a multi-user isometric browser-based virtual world just launched by Mattel for fans of the company’s Barbie dolls. It’s pretty simple stuff (see screenshot at end of this post), but it looks like it could be tied to the company’s physical dolls in interesting ways. The Barbie Girls concept is due for a broader launch on March April 26. Mattel isn’t saying what that involves, except that “the toy blends fashion doll play, the Internet and music,” according to the L.A. Times. But clues can be found in the Barbie Girls world, where you can visit with friends, shop for clothes, earn B Bucks by playing games, and do many of the other things that are fast becoming standard in virtual worlds. If you’ve been to Habbo Hotel or CyWorld, you know what I’m talking about.

As usual, it’s the shopping that’s interesting. When I tried to buy the rather attractive pair of pedal-pushers pictured above for Walkerette, I was told to “Connect your Barbie Girl to buy this fabulous fashion!” (The “Tell me more” link, however, is blank at the moment.) That indicates to me that the physical Barbie Girls dolls will be interactive with the virtual world on the Web site. That’s a pretty interesting concept, especially if you can buy physical clothes for your Barbie Girl that match the ones she’s wearing in the virtual world. Maybe you get extra B Bucks if your physical Barbie Girl meets up in the real world with her virtual friends. Stuff like that, and more. Very cool. I’m looking forward to hearing more about this. I may even have to get myself a Barbie Girl. Uh-oh.

Barbie Girls browser-based virtual world
Walkerette at home

New Metaverse Session: Ethan Zuckerman

John Swords and I recorded a couple of new Metaverse Sessions while we were down at South by Southwest, one with Ethan Zuckerman of Global Voices Online and one with Jamais Cascio of World Changing. Johnny has just posted Ethan’s session (incorrectly labeled #9, even though it’s #10), and there’s some really interesting stuff there. Ethan talks about how Google Maps was used to heighten political awareness in Bahrain, how LiveJournal has become the blogging tool of choice for politically active adults (not kids) in Russia, and the “cyber-utopian dominant narrative” in which everyone gets along in the same online place. We also explore some interesting question of how cultural backgrounds inform the use of technologies, questions that don’t get much discussed (or thought about) in most our metaversal questions. A really cool guest to have for the Sessions, and highly recommended listening.

Next-Gen: Web Integration in Virtual Worlds

The presentation I gave in Berlin on Thursday was ostensibly on “virtual worlds, media and identity,” but as I’ve been going over it I’m finding it’s extending itself into a small picture of what the next generation of virtual worlds might look like and how we might get there. A lot of it was stuff that’s probably pretty basic to 3pointD readers, but it might be worth going over anyway. And since it marked my first PowerPoint presentation (and hopefully my last), I can even paste in some slides below. (If you want the full set, send me an email.)

A 3pointD comparison of communications mediaI started out by comparing what can be conveyed via traditional communications media, or rather, what tools are at our disposal when we work in various media. In SMS text messaging, of course, we’re very limited in how we communicate (despite the fact that a lot can be communicated via SMS). In instant messaging, we have a little more leeway, and in email yet more. Voice adds a great deal of breadth to the channel, video conferencing expands it further, and of course the broadest channel through we communicate is face to face, since we have access to facial expressions, gestures, proximity and other “messages” at a higher “resolution” than in any of the other media in the chart. I actually thought this would be pretty unremarkable to most people, but more than a few audience members were quite excited to see things arranged like this — which means I’m going to stick with my habit of pointing out the presumably obvious; sorry, guys. Continue reading

Calvin Klein Launches Scents in Second Life

Calvin Klein Launches Scents in Second Life

The nose knows nothing in virtual worlds, but that hasn’t stopped Calvin Klein from launching a virtual version of their new ck IN2U fragrances for men and women in Second Life, according to a press release. The virtual launch accompanies the real-world launch of the same scents today, March 21. Since avatars can’t smell, the virtual perfume bottles will enable SL users to spray each other with bubbles that “initiate dialogue,” as the release puts it — probably requesting the sprayee to engage in a Calvin Klein animation. There will also be “graffiti bottles” available from the Calvin Klein build, put together by Justin Bovington’s Rivers Run Red on their Avalon island in Second Life, where Calvin Klein is holding a L$1 million photography contest to accompany the launch. Finally, if you’re in the UK you’ll be able to click through to a Web site and order a free sample. Continue reading

NASA Budgets $3m to Develop MMO and More

NASA to develop educational MMONASA, the U.S. space agency, is getting ready to launch its own exploration into virtual space. NASA’s Learning Technologies arm has issued an intramural call for proposal ideas [UPDATE: now postponed, oddly] for the development of a massively multiplayer online game that is intended to be “the front-end of a larger synthetic environment.” The program is funded to the tune of $1 million a year for fiscal years 2007, 2008 and 2009. [UPDATE: I’ve changed the headline from “earmarks” to “budgets” per Daniel Laughlin’s comment below.] While the call for proposals is internal only, “Each proposing team must include a partner with commercial-quality game development experience. It is expected that this requirement will necessitate partnering with external organizations and that the majority of funding will be used for game development.” [Emphasis added. And thanks to Troy McLuhan of the International Spaceflight Museum in Second Life for sending over the news.]

While the Web page doesn’t say so specifically, NASA is apparently compiling its own list of potential outside developers for the project, and Daniel Laughlin, the contact for the project, is also looking at Second Life as a possible platform. For more information, you can download a PDF of the 16-page CFP. It describes the MMO as an educational project “with the primary goal of engaging young people in NASA’s mission. It also mentions that several projects will be taken on in the first year, and then a single project will be chosen from among those to receive the balance of the funding. So whether you’re an SL developer, a Multiverse world-maker or some other kind of MMOist, strap on your oxygen tanks, and email your space credentials to Daniel.D.Laughlin [at] nasa [dot] gov. Zero-gravity virtual world here we come! What a fantastic project. I love when I get to use the “space” tag on 3pointD. Go, NASA!

FlowPlay Flows Into Virtual World Arena in April

FlowPlay is an upcoming virtual world being developed by Derrick Morton, an alum of RealNetworks, which also produced Second Life founder Philip Rosedale. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a good piece on the new world from venture capital reporter John Cook. Pitched at older teenagers, FlowPlay plans to hook people by giving them casual games to play that will earn them virtual currency, much in the manner of Club Penguin. The service will launch this summer, according to the bare-bones FlowPlay Web site, after what sounds like a private alpha that opens in April, according to the article. Morton’s idea to hook members with games is similar to the ideas of Raph Koster, who often speaks about virtual worlds needing more engaging introductions (though little is known about just how his new Areae platform will work. Sounds like things are still in flux at FlowPlay, with decisions as to subscription fees yet to be made, but we look forward to seeing what develops. So add one to the growing list of virtual spaces. It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out, and how all these places differentiate themselves. (A 3pointD aside: The only thing that will save most of these places from going bust is some kind of interoperable identity system. And even that might not be enough.)

SXSW Xcript: Avatar-Based Marketing

Overheard at the panel on Avatar-based marketing: “It’s fun, you can sit down, make out with people.” I got most of this panel, including a couple of the audience questions.

Moderator, Tony Walsh of the Clickable Culture blog
Panelists:
Paul Hemp, senior editor Harvard Business Review
Linda Zimmer, CEO of MarCom:Interactive
Eric Gruber of MTV, helped launch Virtual Laguna Beach and vHills
Lauren Wheeler of Three Rings

Hemp posed a question: How does a marketing message aimed at a consumer get refracted when it passes through the intermediary of that user’s avatar? Does the avatar act as a prism that changes in some way a real-world marketer’s messge. While a little conceptual, the question is pretty important. Some would say it’s really a meaningless question because the user behind the avatar has the real-world wallet. What’s the avatar have to do with it? My thought is that the avatar represents something about that consumer that is important. Advertising has always targetted consumers’ alter egos, the smiling happy terrifically popular person just waiting to emerge from the consumer’s psyhce with the help of the consoumnres’s product. Here the marketer doesn’t have to hunt for that, it’s on display in the form of the avatar, and can be segmented, terageted, and help understand the consumer behind it. Continue reading

SXSW: From the Games and Brands Panel

I looked in at the Games + Entertainment Brands panel for a few minutes before I started feeling too rumpled and had to duck out. Here’s what I heard while I was there (some of it was even interesting):

Moderator: Robert Nashak of Yahoo! Games
Panelists:
Charles Merrin, VP NA Games at RealNetworks
Brian Ring, GM Interactive Content at Scope Sevem
Chris Charla, director of business development at Foundation 9 Network

As I arrived, Nashak was mentioning the importance of user-created content in building a brand around a game. Merrin, on the other hand, warned that brands were often wary of user-created content out of fear that it would hurt the image of the brand, and that this would be true for some time.

Charla talked about procedural safeguards. Sony has apparently done a lot of work on their new PS3 home service toward preventing untoward uses of user-generated content. Their Little Big World platform [which introduces something Sony seems to be calling “user-definable gaming”] allows users to create and upload levels, and to vote on other people’s levels. “Butit’s difficult to get swear words in there,” Charla said.

Ring related an experience he’d had recently when moderating a panel with someone from Whyville, who have spent years creating sophisticated technology, including nine proprietary algorithms, to filter all the chat sessions that run through the service.

Nashak: “Whyville is one of my favorite things. It’s basically a tween site for girls pretty much, and for the first time they seeded a product into the world, a Toyota car. It was the first time you could have a car in Whyville. Whyville counted on the nag factor, that girls would talk about it so much that parents would want to buy one for themselves.” He didn’t know whether the initiative had been a success.

Ring also mentioned virtual worlds like Second Life. “What we’re seeing is a lot of these things calling themselves ‘social games.’ That’s where I see a big thing happening. That’s where user-generated content has a big role to play.”

Merrin also spoke about Second Life. “It’s incredible what this tapestry allows you to do. It’s almost the brand within the user-generated content, rather than the other way around.”

Nashak: “What you’re going to start seeing is brands taking very seriously that their passionate users want to co-create the brand with them.” He advised brands to “think about creating engines for people to express themselves around brands,” and mentioned Bix.com, a Yahoo! property where users do things like create content for each other. “It’s infinitely scalable because users are creating it, you don’t have to keep feeding in content.”

LEGO MMO For Kids Coming in 2008 [+]

LEGO MMO for kids due in 2008LEGO.com has a press release flagging a new MMO for kids it has in development with NetDevil (who worked on the mediocre Auto Assault, among other things). Due out in 2008, according to NetDevil, there aren’t any details available about what gameplay will be like, but you can bet it will involve some very cool snapping together of virtual plastic blocks. If this works well, it could be awesome. I’ve blogged before about how much I’d like to see a fully functional virtual LEGOlike in some place like Second Life (especially if it incorporated Mindstorms-like qualities, but I’d be more than happy to see it come to pass in LEGO’s own virtual world. It’s just the kind of thing that could make a world of world-builders out of the next generation, which is quite an amazing prospect, when you consider it. [Thanks, Micah!] Continue reading

Kaneva Aims For Social Media Consumption [+]

The virtual world of Kaneva resembles a 3D MySpace

I’m not saying Kaneva is the future; I’m just saying it could well capture a lot of little clicking fingers. [Now with further details.] I met with Kaneva CEO Christopher Klaus, COO Rob Frasca and marketing director Michelle Norwood yesterday at a Starbucks on the Upper West Side to hear what they’re up to, and I was surprised to find a lot of it dovetailed with some of the things I like to blah on about here on 3pointD. They won’t let me into the beta until next week because they’re moving some servers around at the moment — as well as barnstorming various bloggers and media outlets — but the demo reel I saw showed a system that seemed to combine the expressive power of MySpace with the social power of There.com, and which was a nice way to bridge the 2D and 3D online worlds without worrying too much about things like “immersion.” If it turns out people are starting to push the limits of what they can do on MySpace, this could be the natural next step for a lot of them. What it allows you to do, which MySpace doesn’t, is to engage in the kind of “social media consumption” (I just made that term up — I think) that has been one of the more powerful features of existing 3D social worlds, and which will increasingly come to mark our media habits in the future, if you ask me. Continue reading

GameDevs Sought For $100 Laptop

Game developers sought to put United Nations Millennium Development Goals on One Laptop Per Child's $100 laptopThis is not exactly 3pointD, but it’s definitely worthy of note: Amil Husain at the United Nations’ Millennium Campaign against poverty is looking for help in developing educational games to run on the $100 laptop in development by One Laptop Per Child, a group founded by MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte that wants to put a laptop in the hands of children in poorer nations around the world. Husain wants to produce “entertaining game modules” that cover the eight Millennium Development Goals, and is looking for assistance finding “game developers who have experience translating difficult development issues into entertaining games.” If you think you can help, or you know someone who can, get in touch with Amil at amilhusain [AT] gmail.com.

Uffie at Hiro Ballroom, Metaverse at Planet Thai

Uffie at the Hiro Ballroom, 15 February 2007Let’s dispense with the news straight off: The metaverse meetup that’s slated for 23 February now has a location: Planet Thailand in Williamsburg, which is letting us take over their back room for the event, so you’ll be able to munch Pad Thai and eggplant and wander around and chat to whoever you want to. More importantly, though, a bunch of us checked out Uffie at the Hiro Ballroom last night, and she was awesome — at least, in her way. And in fact, the show was a really interesting look at how deeply the idea of lifelogging and recording one’s raw experience has infected the choices entertainers are making and how that’s affecting the kinds of media that are being created these days. (Pics at the end of it all as well.) Continue reading

Tyra Banks Launches Virtual World

Tyra's Virtual Studio, the virtual world of Tyra Banks

Well, it’s official: celebrity scents are over. As of tonight, you’re nobody if you don’t have your own 3D virtual world. Just ask supermodel-cum-talk show host Tyra Banks, who opened Tyra’s Virtual Studio this evening with a grammy party. “The studio is a free virtual world where you can listen to music, chat with your friends, get insider info about what’s happening at the Tyra Banks Show and just hang out,” according to the site. But you knew that already. In Tyra’s Virtual Studio, however (which is available for both Windows and Mac), “Your avatar can drop it like it’s hot.” Whew. We knew there was some added value here. Continue reading

Roomba Cleans Up In Second Life

Mooba Sienkiewicz's Roomba for the virtual world of Second Life

It must be South by Southwest season. How do I know? Because there are Roombas in the air. Second Life resident Mooba Sienkiewicz (aka Greg, the myRoomBud crew’s dad) sends along news that he’s created a virtual Roomba for use in Second Life: “My kids have a business that sells costume covers for the Roomba and they have been pretty successful at it over the last year. So that they don’t have all the fun, I have been hacking and programming the Roomba in RL and recently built a SL Roomba.”

While it doesn’t actually clean anything, you can catch a video of the virtual Roomba in action on the myRoomBud SL page. Now all Mooba needs to do is make it as hackable as the real thing is, and we’re in business. Just remember, as Tyler, Niles, Isabelle and Griffin of The myRoomBud crew warn, “If you don’t dress up your Roomba, it’s just a naked vacuum.” Words to live by. (Although interestingly, dad’s SL Roomba doesn’t have any clothes on. Have a word with this guy, kids.) Continue reading

Nickelodeon Launching Virtual World For Kids

The MTV Networks channel Nickelodeon is launching a virtual world for kids today, according to a press release. Known as Nicktropolis, the world will be in isometric 3D, and feature games and video content, branded Nickelodeon environments and characters, and the ability to interact with other users and construct one’s own 3D home. The site isn’t quite live yet, but the world looks to be browser-based, though I’m not entirely sure. Nicktropolis will launch with four main areas, described after the jump. These include the kind of gaming elements that arguably make getting into such a world easier than it often is in places like Second Life or There.com. Continue reading

3pointD Covers Virtual Laguna Beach in Wired

I didn’t think the link was going live until later today, but del.icio.us user mzn apparently found a way to drill down to it (which I just spotted on the excellent SL aggregator site, World of SL). What is it? It’s my story on MTV’s Virtual Laguna Beach in the February issue of Wired magazine, on newsstands now. It covers VLB and a couple of other virtual worlds MTV has in the works, and notes that the highest levels of the company, including Viacom execs, are ready to throw more money at virtual worlds. This is the new kind of media convergence that’s only going to gather speed in coming years. With Les Moonves of CBS all excited about virtual worlds, as well as the other broadcast networks and people like Disney jumping into the pool, it seems only a matter of time before virtual world integrations are the norm. Of course, it could still all go south, but there aren’t many signs of that happening, while there are a lot of indications of two important things: that companies want to be in these spaces, and to offer them in entertaining ways; and that audiences enjoy them and will only flock to them in increasing numbers. Tune in, or — just keep watching your boring old flat TV, I guess.

BBC’s Virtual World For Kids: Single-Player Only

Turns out that the BBC’s virtual world for children is not in fact a virtual world, 3pointD hears, as was widely mis-reported (including by me) this week. Seems the service will be strictly single-player, with no direct interactions between users, although it may have some limited interaction with the Web in some form. So not as 3pointD as it might have been. Sorry, kids.

BBC To Launch Virtual World For Kids

Second Life resident FlipperPA Peregrine sends news that the BBC‘s kids’ channel, CBBC, will launch a virtual world for children that’s due to go live as soon as this summer. Details are few at the moment, but for safety’s sake the world will not feature an SL-like economy, nor “facilities for building new parts of the virtual world.” The BBC story does say, however, that users will “have an opportunity to make that world a more fascinating place with their own imaginations.” Just how they’ll split that difference and make the world more than a simple 3D chat room remains to be seen. Successful social networking sites fly not merely on the strength of social networking, but because they incorporate tools for self-expression. There’s no reason to think a 3D social space wouldn’t need to offer similar functionality.

MTV’s Virtual Hills Pushes 3D Social Networking

As noted here, MTV is expanding its virtual world, Virtual Laguna Beach, to incorporate Laguna Beach spinoff show The Hills. (Read more about MTV’s virtual world initiative and how it came together in my piece in the February issue of Wired, which has just come out.) MTV’s vHills apparently launched last Monday, while I was away, but it’s now kicking off what could be a nice experiment in user-generated content: a fashion challenge (to be announced in vHills on Tuesday, 23 January, at 8pm EST) that looks like it will allow users to become either models or fashion designers. It’s also something that could help push adoption of virtual worlds as 3D social networking sites, if you ask me. Continue reading

3pointD Goes Overseas For A Few Days

A last-minute trip sees 3pointD out of the country this week. Given the limited Internet access I have here in Amman, Jordan, posting looks like it will drop down to anywhere from slow to non-existent until at least the weekend, when I fly back. Since slow posting always earns me inquiries from kindly readers concerned that I may have broken my posting finger, I thought I’d drop a line here to let you know I’m on an unexpected hiatus. What am I doing here in Jordan? Well, it’s nothing very 3pointD, in fact, but I’ll give you the short version of what’s a much longer story after the jump in case you’re curious. Continue reading

Wells Fargo Expands ActiveWorlds Site

Wells Fargo, which launched a 3D online financial education site for young people on the ActiveWorlds platform about a year ago (after a failed attempt to do so in the virtual world of Second Life), is now expanding their offerings there, according to a press release. This could be a sign that Wells Fargo is trying to fix something that’s broke, but my sense of it is that it means the project has been a success for the bank; I imagine they would simply have pulled the plug on such an experiment if it wasn’t working. The Web site for the project, known as Stagecoach Island, indicates there are 85 Stagecoach Island “millionaires,” and that $168 million in “interest” has been earned in the last 24 hours, so there’s something going on there. The news is a nice shot in the arm for ActiveWorlds, which has a number of devoted communities, but which doesn’t seem to have the reach of Second Life. That said, ActiveWorlds seems easier to customize than SL (see, for instance, the dedicated Wells Fargo client, which you can download for free. This may soon change, however, with the recent open-sourcing of the SL client. Continue reading

Mia Farrow Rescheduled in Second Life

As readers may recall, Mia Farrow’s appearance in the virtual world of Second Life to discuss the crisis in Darfur, originally slated for last month, had to be rescheduled due to a fire in the office building that houses Lichtenstein Creative Media, which is helping produce the event. The new date is Tuesday, 9 January, at 11am SL time (2pm Eastern). The event will also feature John Heffernan, who serves as Director of the Genocide Prevention Initiative for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Committee on Conscience, the sponsor of the program; award-winning photojournalist Ron Haviv; and Ronan Farrow, who has served as a UNICEF Spokesperson for Youth in Sudan, as a representative of the Genocide Intervention Network, and has written extensively about the situation in Darfur. One interesting aspect of the event is that while it take place in The Infinite Mind sim in Second Life, streaming audio will also be available at Camp Darfur, and at Global Kids, on the Second Life Teen Grid. (Is this the first time an event has been audio simulcast into the Teen Grid?) Visit the Lichtenstein site for more information.