RL Branding in SL

•October 16, 2007 • Leave a Comment

“What a perfect idea – let’s market our real world products in Second Life to the residents. That way, it brings more business in than we could have received before!”

A hypothetical question probably made by a marketing director for a company.

In an earlier post, I went around to different companies and saw what they had put as their SL presence. Although every location looked amazing in architectural design and structure, and each had a lot of interactive materials, they didn’t persuade me at all to buy their products. The Dell Computer Island, for example, had a lot of interesting things to see and do, but once everything was done, the only thing left to do was to either buy an expensive, customized computer, or… leave the island. At least the Playboy Island had some interactivity amongst its community.

With a program about making an online community like SL, any company trying to make a presence in-world should understand that just simply trying to brand or sell a product won’t do well at all. An article written at Gigaom mentions these numbers:

“The early results from Komjuniti, as it turns out, are not encouraging: 72% of their 200 respondents said they were disappointed with real world company activities in Second Life; just over 40% considered these efforts a one-off not likely to last.”

I too agree that things won’t last for advertisers in SL, just like how you won’t see advertisers within World of Warcraft – it just doesn’t fit.

Resource:

Wagner James Au, Marketing in Second Life doesn’t work. Gigaom.com article. April 4th, 2007. http://gigaom.com/2007/04/04/3-reasons-why-marketing-in-second-life-doesnt-work/

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Machiniminimum

•October 9, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Machinema (machine/cinema) is a great way to express visual art in a video-based medium, because little budget can be involved for actors, sets, and props. A machinema creator can use the game they are in to produce the final product. Getting others to help in the creation process is a great way to get a quality product completed.

Getting everyone together, however, is still the same in RL as it is in SL.

Our group had the idea to create a Mission Impossible themed machinema. Ingredients: City area set, car for the actor to drive, a tape recorder for the playback message, and… a phone booth. My job was to create the phone booth.

After a preliminary meeting (in which I finally discovered why my voice chat wasn’t working) we decided on meeting again after class on October 4th to showcase what we’ve made. My phone booth, at the time, resembled a gray box that an avatar can walk inside. There were some changes that needed to be made to it, and I was making edits to it while our group was in SL. However, they were working on the storyboard in the classroom as a group. Needless to say, my communication with them (as they’re all away from the keyboard) was limited to one individual keeping me up-to-date.

I was relieved to know that they had a plan set out a date to record the piece, which wouldn’t be that afternoon. “Awesome,” I thought. That would give me time to finish up my phone booth. I ended up finishing it, and awaited hearing from the rest of the group via e-mail as to when this date would be.

So, when I started getting e-mails with the rough edit of the final product, I was concerned about how my booth would be implemented if the rest of the group didn’t have it. After a few e-mails were sent out, I found out the video was completed days earlier, Saturday to be precise, by two members of the group… without my booth. That’s all well and good, and quite frankly, their booth was better. Less work for me to do. But, I did do work for the project, and it didn’t make it in.  Even if they had used the booth, I was left out of the process for the filming. Yes, I’m aware very little help was needed in filming, but I still would have wanted to be there to watch (and veto my phone booth as a group).

Well, if anyone’s interested, below are screenshots of my phone booth:

Phone Booth 3 Phone Booth 2 Phone Booth 1

And a link to the final video (again, I like the final phone booth far better than mine):

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2954360283020593913&hl=en

Maybe the other group could use a hand on their filming…

Economics, Shmeconomics

•September 25, 2007 • 1 Comment

As cool as SL may be to play around in, I still stand by my beliefs that the program acts more like a video game than an actual community connection program.  Although the concept, the idea, of being able to exchange money from US Dollars into Linden Dollars and back is something to take notice for future technologies, I would not take it too seriously for SL. 

What I mean is, if I made a couple hundred dollars off of SL, I would be thrilled.  I would consider it kind of like a virtual-world eBay.  I would have products to sell, people buy them, then I would cash out.  Granted in SL, I would wait a while before cashing out completely, but I wouldn’t wait too long, because of how SL is still treated like a game than an e-commerce program.

With that being said, I found the article on Marc Bragg to be hilarious.  Of all people, a lawyer using SL should have known there would be some risk investing money into it.  For clarification (because in this case it’s obviously needed), SL is not eBay, and is not protected by PayPal or other payment companies.  When a user runs SL for the first time, and whenever SL changes their terms of service, users get a chance to read what the Linden group is offering at what risks they agree to waive.  This is what people usually read:

TERMS OF SER… *user clicks “I Agree.”*

Here’s something interesting that I found from their terms of service:

5.6 You will indemnify Linden lab from claims arising from breach of this Agreement by you, from your use of Second Life, from loss of Content due to your actions, or from alleged infringement by you.At Linden Lab’s request, you agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless Linden Lab, its shareholders, partners, affiliates, directors, officers, subsidiaries, employees, agents, suppliers, licensees, distributors, Content Providers, and other users of the Service, from all damages, liabilities, claims and expenses, including without limitation attorneys’ fees and costs, arising from any breach of this Agreement by you, or from your use of the Service. You agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless Linden Lab, its shareholders, partners, affiliates, directors, officers, subsidiaries, employees, agents, suppliers, licensees, and distributors, from all damages, liabilities, claims and expenses, including without limitation attorneys’ fees and costs, arising from: (a) any action or inaction by you in connection with the deletion, alteration, transfer or other loss of Content, status or other data held in connection with your Account, and (b) any claims by third parties that your activity or Content in the Service infringes upon, violates or misappropriates any of their intellectual property or proprietary rights.

Agreeing to Linden Labs Terms of Service is like agreeing to Blizzard’s for World of Warcraft.  They are not responsible for anything a user does with their money, and no refunds are to be given in the event that something goes wrong or if a user breaks the rules.  With Bragg, he not only didn’t think about the agreement that he had virtually signed to, but he allegedly worked around the system to get what he wanted.  Granted, it should be shame on Linden for not thinking about loopholes in their site coding, however, as part of the terms of service, Linden can choose what they want to do.  If a user tried to cheat the system and lost $3,200 in the process, that user should consider the loss a fine.  There is a policing system set up in place for individuals who think they can get away with anything.  If someone tried to rip off a user on eBay, eBay would be jumping down their throats and asking for more than just cash, including legal prosecution.  Shouldn’t this lawyer be expecting the same thing? 

Also, if I had all that money in my account, I’d be freaking out about what could happen to it.  I’ve had my eBay account hacked before (and thanks to my new security measures, and now that I use a Mac, it will never happen again), which had bots setting up random auctions for me without my permission.  What if someone logged into SL, and started to sell off all of the Linden Dollars in an account?  I would never keep that much money in something that’s so insecure… unless their name changed to “Second Life: sponsored by Bank of America.”

What I’m trying to get at is that SL does have some advantages to making money.  However, I wouldn’t trust it as a reliable source of economic growth, and certainly not something to be calling Wall Street about.  According to “Second Life: The Official Guide,” the best paying job available in game are either builders (and they have to be good and well known) or real estate, which depends on the properties a user would have to own (which still doesn’t bring in as much as builders do).1  If anyone looks at SL and thinks it’s going to be a new frontier for online economy, they probably should think again.  The ideas of SL’s exchanges could potentially be used practically in a different format and is going in an interesting direction, but I still don’t see it going far now nor in the near future. 

In the end, though, making money is just a feature in an extensively developed online “game” for other users… and who knows if/when Linden will pull the plug on distributing U.S. Dollars to users through SL. 

 

Rynaszewski, Micheal. “Second Life: the official guide.” Wiley Publishing, 2007.

Building is Fun!

•September 18, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Chair Sit

My first experience in SL building, and I made… a chair!!

The process wasn’t relatively hard. Using the tools, to me, was like using a dubbed-down version of the tools found in Lightwave 3D.  Since I’ve had some (very minor) experiences in Lightwave 3D, I figured SL’s controls would make the process much easier.  The most difficult thing to do with object creation is getting the camera to cooperate with modeling.  I finally figured out the camera after I created the chair, and I feel more like an idiot for not knowing how to use the camera controls from the beginning (but I’m relieved to know them now).

Yes, I know that I pretty much made the exact chair from the “How to build a chair” video, but there are a few distinct differences.  My chair is a little less wide, has different sized legs, and I only watched the video once to get an idea of how to create things instead of following the video step-by-step.

The biggest difference… my chair is 100% real mahogany!!  😀

Chair Stand

An SL Welcome by Nox Deigan

•September 18, 2007 • 3 Comments

As interesting as SL can be to use, I still ask myself, “Why do I use SL at all?”  The obvious answer:

I use it for my Virtual Worlds class.

There are other reasons for going on to SL besides just for a class.  The reasons are different from person to person.  I, however, am still looking for my reasons to want to be on SL.  I then bring the question, “Why do others use SL?”  Is it because SL has a nice social environment?  Or is it because World of Warcraft is too violent for some (or it costs too much)?  Why should anyone be interested in what SL does?

Trying to ask people why they use SL turned out to be a difficult task.  Starting with a simple greeting resulted in a “Hi,” then the user running away.  If I tried to start without a greeting and go straight into the question, I was ignored… then the user ran away.  Maybe my avatar smells.

While flying around in the sandbox, I came across a giant sphere that was similar looking to the Disney Epcot Center, only more basic looking.  Since it had some openings in it, I flew in and discovered a user creating the structure around her. Her name was Nox Deigan.  Probably the first socially friendly user I’ve met on SL (besides the dancers on Playboy Island), Nox was very welcoming and helpful with my question.  She told me that she uses SL, because it gives her freedom to control any aspect of the world around her and lets her be creative with building objects and homes.

As we chatted, I learned a great deal about Nox, what she does in SL, and a bit of SL knowledge to help me through my time online.  Nox, in real life, lives in the “dead center of the U.S.”  She is also a journalism major, which fit perfectly with this program at Quinnipiac (and she will probably tear this blog entry apart when she reads it).  On SL, she constructs objects and houses with her boyfriend.  Her boyfriend (who I did not meet) is the one who does more advanced building, such as complex houses, which they sell to make Linden dollars.  However, because they don’t own their own island and instead rent one off another user, the houses and products they make are bartered, in exchange for having the island space.  They sell some things on the side too, but it all goes towards the experience of being in SL.  Nox mentioned that she would never put actual U.S. dollars into SL (other than one initial instance in the beginning, which she admits was a mistake).

The topic of outfits came up, and since I’m inexperienced in SL, she took me to two different areas.  I was able to check out Indigo and Thinktank, both of which are areas that give a user free (or close to free) clothing, objects, and actions to keep.  I still go back there to find stuff for myself.  Very fun and very cheap! Nox explained some more interesting aspects of the SL world, mentioning that anything goes in some areas.  For example, it’s not uncommon to find sexually explicit actions and avatars available and in use while going around SL.  Also, Nox mentioned about the possibility of “slave trading” in SL, in which a user can be trapped in an area, unable to leave, and then be controlled by other users.  I didn’t think this could happen, but it is SL and I’m learning more as I go on.  It almost makes me afraid to use SL much further, but I’m interested in finding out more.

After chatting with Nox, I can see why some users would want to continue to use SL – The experience is very interesting and unlike anything anyone has ever seen before.  Thanks to Nox for showing me so much in one visit!

As for me, I need to stop my Mac version from crashing with voice chat, then I will find a reason for being in SL…

But we would eat virtual Kraft dinner!

•September 18, 2007 • Leave a Comment

“What if you won a million Lindens?”

Depends.

If it’s non-transferrable, I’d go around SL and buy out all the land I could, making sure to stake claim into all of the great real estate spots.  Once I had made enough purchases of land, I would resell the land at a higher cost, and make all my Lindens back and more, only this time, they would be able to be transferred into US Dollars to my bank account.  Maybe I’d set up an automated store too for extra income.

The quickest solution I can think of would be to see if I could set up another account with someone I know, “buy” something from them at the price of one million Lindens, then… convert that to US Dollars.  Probably wouldn’t happen, but who knows?

Otherwise, I’d just cash out.

SL Business Tourguide: NBC, Dell, and… Playboy?!

•September 11, 2007 • Leave a Comment

The last blog entry I wrote mentioned short-term vs. long-term profit growth via an SL company. But what about businesses that exist in the real world which choose to be in SL? I decided to visit some random locations to see what they’ve done. All three of the following locations can be found by using the Search function within the Map in SL:

NBC

dell_007.jpg

Although NBC Island wasn’t my first choice for browsing, I made it the first business to write about, because of how confused I was by it. When I entered, I was faced with a giant office building, which I figured would have been the entirety of the experience. I was only able to find ads for NBC shows and a walkway to an elevator. The elevator brought me to the Peacock Room. Very… shiny, but empty. I found a lot of ads for Joan Osborne, and even a small ad for “Avatar’s Got Talent.”

Other than that though, there was very little to see in this area. Since I could not find an easy way to transport between sections of the island without using the map, I decided to leave. I know there’s more to NBC than that, but I quickly lost interest.

Dell Computers

dell_001.jpg

Dell Island was a little more fun to explore. The main entrance and the city were very well designed. Right away, their architecture told me they are looking for a futuristic look to attract people in. Dell had a few more options for locations to visit, and they even supplied a special “pod” to transport me from one area to another!

For their advertising, besides the special conference room and their giant walk-though computer, Dell had their computer factory in SL. Inside the factory, I could browse computer models that were pre-built or customize my own PC. I like how they set up the factory, as well as the entire island, but I’m not too sure if it’s enough to get me to go out and buy a Dell in real life. I’ll have to come back to this island again soon.

Playboy Magazine

playboy_025.jpg

Honestly, I entered in this through the SL map search as a joke, and surprisingly the joke was on me. The search resulted an island in the shape of the famous bunny head logo from Playboy Magazine. They really went all out with making the Playboy Island to be an online social gathering location. The island had many swimming areas, a tiki-themed bar with Corona Extra branding, lounges, and even a yacht! The sky lounge that was available had beds to lay down in, and TVs to watch their programming with. Not quite the programming you’d expect out of Playboy, but why would they honestly give you anything decent (or in this case, indecent) for free?

That being said, Playboy even has a store on their island. Instantly, they have the ability to make money in SL or out of SL just from their store there. They have different sections of the store, just like any store, to fit a shopper’s needs, serving clothes and accessories. What’s unique about this store is that every product has an image of a real human wearing the product, and next to them is an image of an SL model wearing the same product. A shopper can either purchase the real product through the Playboy online store, or they can purchase an SL version of the product for their avatar to wear using Linden dollars. This was the only location of the three islands I found that actually makes money in SL.

I’d like to also add that the Playboy Island was the only location of my three choices to have actual users logged in.

With these three choices, I believe that the Playboy Island has done the most effective job in giving the SL audience an experience and giving themselves profit and advertising. While NBC and Dell both have different ways of offering an experience to the visitor, they both don’t really compare to that of the Playboy Island. NBC’s interactive activities only occur during specific events, so going at off times doesn’t seem worth it. Dell has some selling advantages with the computer factory, but it seems like the experiences a visitor could have there are limited to what activities are available and doesn’t really encourage social activity.

The Playboy Island gives visitors a reason to interact with other people, and encourage having a good time being social, which increases activity and can lead to purchasing items for avatars. That can also lead to online store purchases of the same products, generating more revenue. Plus, throughout the island, there are freebie sample products to wear, encouraging sales in the store for better products. They cover advertising and marketing, while giving visitors an entertaining experience. Not a bad strategy at all.

As for other brands trying to start up something in SL, they should really know who their audience is. People log into SL for different reasons, but the main reason in my opinion is to socialize and interact with other users. Any business going into SL, or starting in SL from scratch, should easily make money by taking advantage of that interactivity. Even with the Playboy example, a user may not be a fan of Playboy at all, but it still is an interesting location to meet up with people. I’m not necessarily saying that Dell should have a love bed available for people to shop for computers on, but utilize that attraction to socialization and give users a reason to want to go, stay, and return at a later time. At the bare minimum, it will at least give a company name some needed attention.

playboy_024.jpg