Investigating IMVU

Founded in 2004 by Will Harvey, founder of There, IMVU is a 3D chat environment that doesn’t get a great deal of attention from the media. This series of posts examines the business model, functionality and experience of joining the IMVU world – chat 2.0.

According to the IMVU website, the service is currently in beta with over 1m accounts created. Concurrency levels appear to be in the range of 40,000 – 60,000 range, so a ratio of approx. 20 – 1 (from reg accounts to online now), compared to a ratio of about 240 – 1 for Second Life. So, account retention appears to be heathy. The minimum age to use IMU is 13.

In essence, IMVU is a graphical messenger client – you chat with friends (or in public rooms) and can customise your avatar appearance. And it’s the appearance of avatars and the environment that I think makes IMVU a strong competitor to There or Kaneva (in fact, Terra Nova refers to it as There Lite). The owners of IMVU clearly think so too, as they compete for the search term ‘virtual world‘ using Google Adwords (guess who’s top of the natural listing?)

IMVU focusses hard on bring avatars together, almost in a speed-dating fashion. The chat-now button searches for other available avatars and places them with you in a room.

What’s also interesting with IMVU is the high amount of avatar clothing and customisation available, for a fee. And it’s the fee side of it that’s clearly behind the business model. Lots and lots of different apparel and destinations (to chat in) are available for purchase.

And, it’s this focus on ‘upgrading’ your avatar or having the latest chat environment that dovetails nicely into the IMVU brand name. I Envy You. A clever naming play incorporating both instant messaging and the reference to ‘one-up manship’.

Very commercial, but at the same time, fun – helped massively by the graphics quality and view control.

Time to delve into the branding and marketing aspects…….