Bold New Opportunities in Virtual Worlds by Joyce Schwarz, www.joycecom.com
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? : . Interactive marketers are discovering the wonder of creating virtual worlds like Coke Studios, Mokitown (Motorola), Stagecoach Island (Wells Fargo), Virtual Magic Kingdom (Disney), Digital Deadwood (tourism destination Deadwood, South Dakota) 3D Plaza (What the Bleep movie)
Stagecoach Island by Swivel Media.
*Wikipedia.com defines a virtual world as a "computer-simulated environment intended for its users to inhabit and interact with via avatars."
*Tech features: Most of the virtual worlds today allow for multiple users and feature chat, texting and even audio messaging and ecommerce apps, enabling marketers to "sell" virtual or real world objects and apparel.
*The greatest opportunity for brand expression may just be in the 'solo-branded' Virtual Worlds
Coke studios lets users create their own V-egos (virtual characters)(www.mycoke.com)
*Sometimes called "adverworlds" by tech pundits, these worlds seldom use advertising in the traditional sense of pushing banners or commercials at the users.
What's the appeal for the user?
*Users get to shed their identities and escape RL (real life) if they wish.
*Other users can choose to simulate real life (RL) environments and control their destinies --something they may not be able to do in RL.
*Import buddy lists and chat (make new pals and keep in touch with current ones).
*Discover and build a 'third-space" -- home away from home --that fits their niche interests from fantasy to gaming to horror films to sci-fi & others.
*Because the brand underwrites the world, the entry fee is right -- free most of the time courtesy of the advertisers.
TIPS FOR VIRTUAL WORLD CREATORS:
*Hire the right developers that understand Virtual World social environments and design.
*Make sure your game creators are savvy with what virtual world users (residents) want in terms of communication vehicles ie chat, IM, avatar customization, building tools etc.
*Encourage user involvement and customization. Let them mod (modify) the world.
*Continue to upgrade and organize events and promotions that increase loyalty and return visits.
*Consider offline merchandising opportunities from the start. But be careful so that you don't alienate members/visitors (users) so that they see the world as 'too commercial".
*Social capitalism /social entrepreneurism is coming to Virtual Worlds to benefit nonprofit tie-ins.
*Use of Virtual Worlds and/or MMORG's by Hollywood Networks & studios to promote upcoming film and television franchises such as Imagine's Xquest.
*Using gamer apps such as Xfire (www.xfire.com) to connect Virtual World residents of similar interests.
*SMS (mobile text messaging) interaction in Virtual Worlds to add mobile connectivity and enable ecommerce and in-world upgrades as incentives to RL (real life brands) Such as text messaging opps to get coupons or order products/services ie tickets to concerts etc.
. Link to full story on imediaconnection.com calledd " Bold New Opportunities in Virtual Worlds .