Thursday, June 05, 2008


Virtual Worlds will reach one billion users in 10 years.

OK, I'll buy that, but why?

In most measurable ways, virtual worlds are simply a new wrapper for chat and game rooms that have existed on the web for years? Sure, the new 3d interfaces look more like traditional video games (Sims, World of Warcraft, etc.) but those games aren't anything new, either. What's so new and interesting that somebody would predict a billion people will check them out?

Marketing - Virtual Worlds provide unique marketing opportunities. Smaller (or less aggressive) firms can buy sections or ads in existing independent worlds. They can sponsor games and memberships so users feel like the company is giving them something. More ambitious firms can build their own Virtual Worlds, and aggressively promote them. If going to means going to, that's a lot of people right there. Imagine Budweiser World...

Transformation of the Internet - There's a lot of talk regarding standards for virtual worlds so users can bounce from one to the other much like they bounce from one website to another now. If that happens, VW's will start to take over the role traditional websites have now, and that really would be a virtual world.

Getting It Right - There's a lot of VW's on the right track already. Once best practices are sorted out, the door will be wide open for anyone with a great idea to build a VW based on those practices plus established technology. I expect there to be at least some sort of standardized virtual world design tools before too long. It'll never be easy to build a VW, but if a designer doesn't have to reinvent the many wheels that make up a VW, what's left is manageable.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Virtual World Retail - Toppstown

I don't mean virtual retail. I mean heading down to your local store retail. Retail, retail.

Toppstown is the latest VW in my bookmark list. Like Bella Sara, it's centered around trading cards. Despite my history with trading card games, I'm quite ignorant of sports trading cards. I may be learning about them soon. Now, new Topps trading cards come with codes that unlock virtual trading cards in Toppstown.

Not micro payments.
Not subscriptions.

No, purchase items at retail that increase functionality on the site. Conversely, the site directly adds value to the items purchased at retail. In Topps' case, items that they were ALREADY SELLING. Honestly, I think it's friggin' brilliant and I expect we'll be seeing a lot more VW's with revenue streams based on real world products. I mean, if you're going to be selling the product anyway, and you're going to have a website anyway, you might as well have the two working together. This is particularly true of collectible and entertainment products.

My clubhouse is pretty sad. I can play games to buy cooler stuff.

Codes come with packs of regular Topps baseball cards. These codes unlock packs of virtual baseball cards that can be played with and traded on the site. You get a free code when you sign up, so everyone has a few cards. Also, the cards provide updated stats for the players featured on them. How cool is that?

Toppstown looks to be a pretty modest site. Good for them. Keep costs down, make the thing do what it needs to do, and don't sabotage a good thing by breaking the bank. It's got some modest games, a super simple customizable avatar, a simple clubhouse (room decorating activity), and what appears to be a very robust virtual card trading tool. Assuming it works as intended, the trading tool is what makes the site shine for me.

You can always see your avatar, the code entry box, and the big button for the Virtual Binder. The designers made clear choices about what was really important and focused on those things.

I'm lukewarm about baseball, but Toppstown Football launches in July. That's what *I'm* talkin' about!