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23 Jun

And speaking of Mirror Worlds, here’s Moondus

Mirror Worlds / ARG's

Moondus is a mirror world platform created by the folks behind Virtual Italian Themeparks. Seems they’ve switched focus a little away from Second Life. FAQ’s are always a good way to understand how company’s view their proposition…….

1. What is Moondus?

Moondus is the new Virtual Reality platform from Virtual Italian Parks.

With Moondus, you can create realistic worlds that your users can visit connecting to them using the Internet.

2. How will Moondus help me with my business?

Virtual Worlds represent the new frontier of media advertising and content publishing.

It will bring your customers beyond the simple internet web page, inside an immersive world created and customized to your individual needs.

You can use a Virtual World to import a CAD model of a house you are building to show it to your customers, or organize training sessions, medical simulations, recreate mirror worlds of a tourist or archeological site and much more.

The limit is your imagination.

3. How is Moondus different from other Virtual Reality platforms already present on the market?

We developed our solution with a few key features in mind: state of the art graphics, secured networking, easy importing of most CAD and 3D formats, and extreme flexibility to suit our individual clients’ needs.

This space is hotting up, as this post explains, from a tourism marketing perspective. Shame they chose Times Square for the demo video though, as it’s been done before by Multiverse.

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23 Jun

Near intro video and background

Targeting an older audience than most virtual worlds at present, London-based Near is prepping for launch. Near can be classified as a mirror world – a digital space modeled on real world places, in the first instance, surprise surprise, London.

Near is being positioning as a ‘social entertainment platform’ and importantly is more about managed content than UGC. On this basis it will be interesting to see how Near resonates with older dems – most existing evidence from other virtual worlds suggests that ‘creation propensity’ increases with age.

From a busines model perspective, the company is looking at using Near worlds to generate advertising revenue from the company/brand shops/locations featured in-world. Another interesting aspect to keep an eye on.

Another different take on the virtual world experience is how Near handles avatars. The company is of the opinion that for this application, avatar visualisation (in the form of human-like characters) is not a fundamental requirement. Instead, they feel it’s more important to get a sense of who else is in-world as opposed to what they look like – you’ll see what I mean in the video.

Here’s the official intro move:

14 Jun

Beg, Borrow or Steal? What can brands do in virtual worlds?

To the casual observer, during 2007, there was only one option for brands wanting to move into virtual worlds – Second Life. It still amazes me today how many totally unsuitable companies (based on product/service offering and target markets) actually set-up there.

To the more informed individual however, of course there’s other options for marketers – there’s a lot of different worlds out there….and even more to follow. And encouragingly several brands have virtual footprints in these spaces.

What I’m getting at here is the evolving environment and therefore decisions open to brands when developing a strategy for virtual world marketing (and let’s just hope they do actually have a strategy). Maybe one way to look at the strategic options is using the Beg, Borrow or Steal analogy.


Second Life is a generalist virtual world, catering to everyone and no-one. It allows endless capabilities for creativity or alternatively just an interestingly chaotic mash-up. But for brands, generalist worlds such as SL can be harsh places to do ‘stuff’. You just need to take a look at the traffic levels for many of the global brand venues (even right after the fanfare launches) to realise how little impact they actually had in-world. Not too many people cared.

However, the majority of SL marketing campaigns that actually did have an effect in-world were the ones that actively went looking for residents. They didn’t sit back in the comfort of their branded island and wait for the floodgates to open (if only). Instead a more direct approach meant the brands came down from their real-world pedestals and got their hands dirty with the locals.

The communication approach that this instance is one of kindly asking for the attention of residents and appreciating/realising that the main reason for these residents to be in-world is definitely not to look at real world brands.

Does this approach world for all brands? Definitely not. But for some, especially in the clothing, fashion, appearance and accessory categories, there’s real demand for real-world brands.


Some companies, mainly American, have taken a different approach for the virtual antics and instead have taken their brands into more controlled environments – they’ve borrowed the land and the attention of the members for tactically short bursts of activity.

Is Borrowing good? For some brands for sure. The degree of brand control in this type of environment is much higher than in a generalist world, basically because the virtual world owner is getting paid by the brand to create and manage the marketing effort and typically these worlds don’t allow too much UGC in-world.

Example of these types of platforms…..vSide, Stardoll, There, Kaneva, Whyville and a few more.

Typical user profiles for the users in these worlds……teens and young adults.

Are there downsides to Borrowing?

One issue is the constraints of the virtual world where the campaign takes place. Different worlds have different design values, styles, functionality and cultures. And, although the target market of the world may be a great fit for the brand, limitations on what’s actually possible (mainly technical reasons) may dillute the overall concept. All the more reason for virtual world operators relying on brand marketing revenue streams to pay closer attention to the real-world activities and drivers of their potential clients.

A lower amount of marketing data available is another potential downside for brands considering Borrowing. Different worlds have different levels of user and interaction data available pre, during and post campaign. Perhaps another area for virtual world operators to focus on.


The most recent development in the virtual worlds space from a brand perspective is the concept of these companies creating their own worlds. Doing this means they’re stealing attention (in the form of registered accounts and time) away from other virtual worlds.

Of the three options outlined in this post, stealing is the most expensive and time-consuming option. In fact, a real-world brand creating their own virtual world has to take a dedicated business-unit approach to the operation due to the sheer volume and wide array of elements required to launch a world.

But does this investment pay-off? We have early examples of successful brand-worlds, such as Barbie Girls and vMTV to look at. More interestingly though here is the high number of worlds in development from brands. Many companies are brave enough to put their money where their mouths are and go for it. Why? Because the benefits in theory are clear…

Total brand control in a world built specifically for that brand can only be a good thing. ‘Owning’ the member is another good reason as is the opportunity to create dedicated virtual revenue streams from activities in-world.

Understanding the wants and needs from the target market in a virtual space is the key for success with this option.

Are there any other options?

Oh yes. There’s some really unique new business models coming downstream built in some cases specifically for virtual world brand marketing. Some relate to virtual goods and services, some to cross-world experiences and even some taking a more augmented reality approach. So, great news for brands – they have a choice. What does this mean for the various types of virtual world operators and propositions? It means competition. And we all know who benefits from competition.

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Luxury Interactive Conference, NYC

I’ll be in NYC at the Luxury Interactive 2008 conference this coming week (Jun 16 – 19). Speaker companies at this event include Facebook, Cartier, Sony, Bloomingdales, Estee Lauder and Lacoste. Ping me if you’d like to meet up whilst I’m there.

Related info: K Zero Luxury Brands in virtual worlds case study.?جø¬?

12 Jun

Adweek: Movie Studios Expand Into Virtual Web Worlds


The pennies are starting to drop…..

With fewer bodies in movie theaters and consumers migrating en masse to digital formats, Hollywood studios are understandably keen to reach their market in new, hopefully more effective ways. Although virtual worlds have a spotty record so far, some studios clearly see great potential in these environments for both promotion and distribution of their output.

In April, Viacom’s Paramount Digital Entertainment signed a partnership agreement with Makena Technologies, making thousands of movie clips from the Paramount movie library available on, an online virtual world. Visitors who purchase the clips can use them to communicate with others by having their avatar “speak” lines from movies while the actual clip plays in a small window. Links allow users to purchase DVDs of the featured movies.

Sony and Warner Bros. have both struck deals with Gaia Online, a hybrid virtual world and social network. The deals make available selected television programs from Sony’s library and films from the Warner Bros. archive. The agreements also saw Sony and Warner Bros. put some money into Gaia. A representative from Time Warner, the parent of Warner Bros., said the move falls in line with company strategy: to invest in companies with “great potential.”..

Full article over on Adweek, here.

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Sports sector intel

Sports virtual worlds (examples of ‘Vertical Worlds‘) are a niche I believe will become increasingly popular. Why? Two main reasons – relevance and gaming. Here’s the latest intel in this sector.

This week we’ve seen another soccer-based VW announced to join Football Superstars. Interzone Futebol will be a ‘soccer-focused virtual world with matches and athletic gameplay as well as social spaces.’ Sounds pretty similar to FS in terms of basic proposition. However, Interzone Entertainment, the company behind the project are targeting the Brazilian marketplace as their primary focus…..

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Virtual Goods in Virtual Worlds with Virtual Greats


The virtual goods sector is primed for major growth due to the increased attention given by real world brands and of course the uplift in virtual world populations. – recent estimates value the virtual goods sector at $1.5bn. The Luxury Brands case study explains the virtual goods opportunity in this sector.

Millions Of Us released news today about Virtual Greats – their commercial vehicle to gain market share in the virtual goods space.

From the press release:

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6 Jun

Lesson 3: No brand is an island

KZero Clients

No brand is an island. In metaphoric terms in the real world, of course, no brand or organisation can afford to be an island.

In other words, almost by definition, brands in any market place have to have an outward personality in tune with their customers and prospects as opposed to having an isolationist character. Why? Because companies want relationships with their customers and to have a relationship, the attitude and tone of a brand combined with the levels of service and touchpoint experiences combine together to form an opinion and perception in the minds of their stakeholders.

So how does this translate into a metaverse environment?

On a literal basis, 84.3% of the real world brands in Second Life decided to start their virtual world existence on a dedicated island as opposed to locating on the mainland or third-party venue.

Continue reading →

5 Jun

Lesson 2: Some things are better left 2D


Or in other words, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

One thing I learned pretty quickly by observing some of the marketing and tech-led tactics in Second Life was that some things are better left on websites rather than put into virtual worlds.

There was an assumption that taking an image created initially for a webpage and placing it into a 3D space would magically create an engaging feature, a 2 plus 2 equals 5 scenario. Unfortunately not.

Forays into virtual shopping have proved this point. What’s easier? Navigated an avatar down a narrow shopping aisle and then attempting to zoom into a book cover on a shelf and get the right angle and perspective to actually read it OR viewing a tiled arrangement of the same book covers on a webpage?

Why put Twitter feeds into an object in SL when it’s quicker and easier just to go to Twitter?

Don’t build a virtual showroom for your products and then import the pages of your supporting brochure. If someone really wants to read more then give them the option to go to the webpage.

Some things just don’t translate from 2D into 3D.

Lesson 3: No brand is an island

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Lesson 1: The World is Not Enough

I’ve been to Niagara Falls. It was great for about 20 minutes. Then I left.

I left because I got it – I took in and admired the scenery and then left because there was nothing else to do.

I think this applies to a lot of the virtual worlds I’ve visited. Sure, they might have looked great but once I’d got a handle on the visual elements of the environment I got bored and left. And this probably explained why there were not many other people there whilst I was – because they thought the same thing.

This may be an explanation why Playstation Home has been in beta so long – it looks great but there’s nothing to do. And this probably explains why Sony is working hard to add in more experience and functionality.

But what sorts of things keep people retained and engaged in virtual worlds?

Well, people tend to attract people (crowd effect) but that’s more of an output than an input. Stimulation is important I think – things to do in-world that interest or stimulate people. This might be games for certain demographics, entertainment for some and even education for others. But fundamentally there needs to be relevance and a shared interest. This relevance comes from defining the wants and needs from the target market that world is going after – no single world can appeal to everyone.

Lesson 2: Some things are better left 2D

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