Is Google’s Lively A Second Life-Killer?

It’s almost a year to the date since I decided not to move forward with my virtual world startup Yoick. We were building what many fervently hoped would be a Second Life killer.

But our approach had been more focused on creating cosy spaces that were interoperable between 2 and 3d. The vision also involved an open-architectured platform with a closed commerce engine so users could buy and sell virtual and other digital goods through our system (Facebook‘s F8 Platform launched some months after we had constructed the blue print for this architecture and has become a great proof of principle for this model).

It was a hard decision to make, but considering the trends and the trajectory we were on I knew we would intersect the timeline at a point that wasn’t sufficiently ahead of the market to be a winner.

You see, many of the big corporates were diving into the virtual world arena, many with the wrong approach, but a few, the few that really mattered were chasing the same space we were.

Today we would have been venture backed, have built up a head of steam and burn rate that required refuelling and yet still have been too early to have released enough of a product to ensure sufficient traction to see us through a true gorilla entering the market moment.

Stage right: enter Google with their cosy spaces,
virtual world product – Lively.

The LA Times has a good write up:

Unlike popular virtual worlds such as Second Life, Lively doesn’t require you to download new software. All you need is a browser plug-in. The service is also more distributed than Second Life: Its rooms will live on Web pages on Facebook and other sites, so you might stumble across them when browsing the Internet. Rooms can be private spaces, with entry by invitation only, or open-topic rooms, where you can meet people interested in discussing topics you love, like Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston or Google. It also ties into other Google services. You can stream YouTube videos into your virtual living room or post your Picasa pictures on your walls.

It’s definitely not a Second Life-killer. Sorry Michael Arrington, I totally disagree that this sucks for Second Life. It is a completely different genre — for one this is not a single, charded or otherwise, virtual world and for two it is targeted more at a mass market audience.

It does suck however for the other startups who were targeting this space. Many of them will have to totally rethink their go to market strategy. The glass half full view is that Google’s entry legitimizes the genre, but this will not be sufficient to assuage follow on investors…

Announcing MySpace devJams across Australia

Following on from an awesome devJam in Sydney on June 5th, I’m pleased to announce that I’m going to be hosting a further three events in Australia in July.

These events are a must attend for everyone who codes and has an interest in building social media apps.

There will be door prizes and the opportunity to head over to San Francisco and/or Tokyo – read more about these opportunities and each of the events from the following links:

We are working on rolling out similar events in other major cities across Australia.

I’d like to thank the guys from Mitchellake for providing us with their uber cool offices for these events.

Spore’s Primordial Soup

Since Spore’s highly anticipated Creature Creator launch a few days ago there has been a veritable stirring of the pot of creation — emerging from this is a primordial soup of hundreds of thousands of creatures all ready and waiting for the main game.

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User Generated Games: Group Intelligence Rocks

One of the key points to come out of the User Generated Games Panel at the Social Gaming Summit in San Francisco is that users never cease to amaze. Core to this space is the concept of group intelligence: users watch what others are doing and then build upon it to create and do things that the game designers would not have thought of themselves.

Forums are a key enabler for this group intelligence. The panel pointed to Gaia Online’s successful growth of a 5 million strong user base – growth that can be attributed to having robust forums.

It’s also worth noting that this group intelligence does not necessarily mean a compounding of complication. As Daniel James from Three Rings pointed out it is often the simpler things that people enjoy the most. Constrained environments trounce multiple features.

Cary Rosenzweig of IMVU noted that they have 1.6 million items in their virtual goods catalogue. This is leading to real monetization with the top developer making $1M in revenue last year.

Cary did make one total non compute for me. He mentioned that IMVU has been in stealth mode for the past four years. When questioned on this he said that they hadn’t issued a press release, in like…eva.

OK cool, but this does not equate to being in stealth mode. Anyone not seen an IMVU ad on the web? If we follow his logic every social media company that has moved beyond the press release is in perpetual stealth!

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Spore Gets More Social

Will Wright’s much anticipated game, Spore, has already had a Web 2.0 makeover even before its release.

As Wagner James Au points out, this re-tooling was designed to create a phenomenon that extends far beyond the normal game boundaries.

Take for example the Creature Creator, which as I’ve mentioned before, is being released next week – months ahead of the actual game. This advance guard approach will ensure that an ecology of user-created content (this is a simulated evolution game) is ready for sharing via each player’s MySpore page, and that there will be a critical mass of Spore Creatures keen to friend one another.

YouTube video creation is seamlessly embedded into the Creature Creator software. There will also be an embeddable Spore widget, comment tracking and RSS feeds.

In a move beyond pure Web 2.0, and more of a melding with the growing funware genre, content-sharing will be integrated into the gameplay. Players will be able to import their friends’ creatures through a “Sporepedia” buddy list.

Wagner notes:

The game tracks creatures’ meta data, and deposits them where appropriate in the game’s evolutionary timeline. You can even set preferences for the kind of creatures you prefer in your game, and Spore will search the player-made database for appropriate species and send them to your computer. (Sort of a TiVo for monsters.) Bradshaw [Lucy Bradshaw, Executive Producer] told me Maxis is hoping to publish aggregated creature data on its site, showing which species are most popular and successful. It’ll be fun to see what creatures thrive in a kind of crowd-sourced simulation of Darwinian selection.

The Science Behind Spore

It’s only a few weeks until the Spore Creature Creator is released, so to whet your appetite for this highly anticipated game, creator Will Wright shares with us his thoughts on the science behind it.

We’ll have to wait until September for the release of the full “personal universe in a box” Spore game.