Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Game Guts - Inside Virtual World Gaming

There's no getting around it, I'm in the virtual worlds business now. It's my job, it's what I do in my spare time (besides playing Wii, building robots, and HL2 for the umpteenth time), and it's what I think about as I'm dozing off to sleep at night.

This shift in my life has ground this blog to a halt, as I'm just not thinking and reading about hobby gaming (cardboard games) nearly enough to comment about them. Rather than kill GG, I've decided to simply shift to the entertainment type that dominates my current life. Virtual Worlds. I'll still pepper this blog with misc. stuff, including the occasional shot at Hasbro (I can't help it.) Since starting work at Flowplay I've had an opportunity to experience the following virtual world/gaming sites, and I have opinions on all of them:

ourWorld - My employer, so don't look for objective commentary here. =-)
dizzywood - Fantastic 3d site aimed for younger kids. My favorite kids site.
Club Penquin - Disney paid huge bank for this, which is why virtual worlds are suddenly the rage. It does a lot of things right!
Whirled - Gaming site that focuses on user generated content. Buggy as hell, but very interesting. More suited to teens and adults.
Urbaniacs - Hip-Hop Superhero themed site. Great concept. Flawed execution. YMMV.
Dinosaur Junction - Club Penguin rip-off, with educational spin. Not bad, just painfully unoriginal.
Faketown - Venerable 2d site with a lot of user generated content. From what I saw, not for kids!
Neopets - Another tenured site. Neopets has a lot to offer, but is far from perfect.
Gaia Online - I have to admit I haven't looked at this one too closely, though there are a couple of big fans in the office here.
Bella Sara - My old gig. Horse themed world aimed squarely at pre-teen girls. I have no idea what they're doing now, but I wish them well (I own stock.)

That's most of the major ones I've checked out. There's also client based virtual worlds like 2nd life (which I've played with, but not recently) and online multiplayer games like MapleStory. I sort of put those types of games in a different category, though it's all one big virtual world family.

I will say this. As far as I'm concerned, everything I've written for this site regarding games, gaming, and game marketing applies to virtual worlds. The product has a different format, but games are games and people are people. To succeed, a virtual world needs to bring something special to the table, and it has to appeal to a specific audience above all others.



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