Scion, Whyville and virtual loans
Scion, Whyville and virtual loans. In April of this year, Toyota with its Scion brand entered the tween virtual world of Whyville. And, whilst the majority of brands that have entered the metaverse space decided to choose the older demographics of Second Life, this initiative of targeting younger segments appears to have worked well.
Accordingly to this New York Times article, the term ‘Scion’ had been used over 78,000 times in (obviously monitored) online chats. The overall traffic to the Scion venue in Whyville was also encouraging, with over 33,000 visits. Compare this to reasonably comparitive metrics for automobile brands in Second Life and the business case for younger virtual worlds starts to look compelling.
Whyville is positioned as a ‘Social Learning’ environment for the 8 – 15 age group and along these lines, Toyota Financial Services (TFS) recently announced the launch of ‘Scion Solutions’ in Whyville.
So what does this mean? It means that Whyvillians can now take out virtual loans with Toyota if they have insufficient clam balances (the in-world currency) to purchase the virtual cars outright. Scions in Whyville start from 15,000 clams, increasing up to 35,000 for a fully-loaded version.
The process works by visiting the Scion Solutions Office and meeting Eric, the loan officer. Eric then explains the loan process to interested Whyvillians. Furthermore, Whyvillians even get a virtual credit rating (a WhyCO score) based on factors such as virtual income, lifespan in-world and land ownership.
President of Numedeon (Whyville’s parent company), Dr Jen Sun commented:
“Whyville Scion Solutions is a perfect example of motivated, engaged learning. The Scions are a huge hit with our kids. They want cars! But most citizens just don’t have enough clams. We’ve set up the motivation for them to learn what it means to take out a loan. They’ll learn about interest rates, down payment, credit history, and, perhaps most important of all, being responsible. If you default on your loan, you’ll lose your car, and your credit history will be ruined so that you can’t take out another loan. Educators and researchers know that students learn best when they really care about the topic. That’s exactly what we try to do in Whyville.”
Maria Tirado, Toyota Financial Services’ interactive marketing manager added:
“We’d like to have educated customers down the road, and this program is a terrific opportunity to help tweens understand the process of financing a vehicle, everything from interest rates to FICO scores to repaying the loan.”
Personally, I’m just not sure about this project. Whilst having a virtual world positioned for learning is clearly a good idea, I don’t think I agree with introducing the concept of borrowing at such an early stage. Couple this with a potential for comparing WhyCo scores and you start to get quite a capitalist culture going on.