Posted in Animal Jam, Club Penguin, Disney, gaming, kids, online community, Safety/Privacy, tween, virtual worlds, Webkinz

Virtual Worlds Mgmt 101

Izzy Neis and I worked on a primer of kids virtual worlds that we could share with people.  Kind of a what’s good about them, what difficult about them, what they are and are not. Enjoy.

And as I was uploading this one, I saw this fantastically designed on on Slideshare as well.  Guess which one of us has access to graphic designers 😛

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Posted in Club Penguin, Disney, gaming, kids, marketing, online advertising, online community, television, trends, tween, virtual worlds, web business, Webkinz

My talk at Pratt

Hi All,

I was asked to do a short talk at Pratt Institute, so I decided to share my slides.  Basically I wanted to have a short visual aid to a myriad of mainstream, large and successful properties and brands that did/do well interacting and connecting with their audience through online community and fan engagement .

Let me know if you would like more info or examples or if you have any questions.

Posted in Club Penguin, Disney, gaming, marketing, online community, Safety/Privacy, virtual worlds, Webkinz

KIDS AND PARENTS PLAYING TOGETHER ONLINE: THE NEXT FRONTIER OF CASUAL GAMING

http://www.edge-online.com/features/gdc-bringing-families-together-with-video-games

Jessee Schell
– toy story mania ride
– pixie hollow
– toon town
– pirates

10 things to try to achieve:

1. You have to decide to design for both kids and parents

2. Find themes that both kids and parents care about

– Toon Town’s executives takeover theme – work/play tension
– Last child in the woods – nature – offline tasks
– Nostaligia bridges generation gap – children want to learn about their parent’s childhoods

3. Understand what family wants and provide it

– Families want shared experiences and shared accomplishments
– Parents want to feel that they provided meaningful and useful experiences
– Parents also just want to feel like they provided
– Kids want to be more emotionally connected to their families
– Both kids nad parents want to connect to distant relatives

4. Parents want to teach & kids want to learn

– Adult jokes are teaching/learning opportunities
– Need situations where kids are in over their head where the parents can save them
– Opportunities for kids to brag/show off

5. Co-opt existing roles for quick immersion

– Parent’s understand how to buy a doll, that’s why Webkinz had a big jump off

6. Reverse roles to delight everyone

– Everyone wants a break
– when child’s skills surpasses parent’s – it’s a landmark moment

7. Consider Gender Issues

– There are 12 POV in a 4 person household (Dad, Mom, Sis, Bro)
– Make play patterns to facilitate

8. Deciding to pay is collaborative

– Club Penguin – elastic Velvet rope – effectively teasing enough in a free-to-play situation
– Mailers in Toontown gave the impression of value add

9. Safety is paramount

This is where Mr Schell’s up-to-this-point wonderful talk went off the rails for me.  Instead, he decided to perpetuate the culture of fear mongering that is so popular to do nowadays when discussing children in the online space.  Instead of going off on the rant that this point caused from me, I will just leave this point as the title, and move on. grumble…

10. Design for the family as well as for the individual
– Design to let them connect with one another
– Families are busy now
– Connection btwn parents and kids is a stoong emotional bond.  Leverage it.

Posted in Club Penguin, kids, marketing, online advertising, virtual worlds, web business, Webkinz

Marketing & Commercialism in Virtual Worlds « Izzy Neis

Or at least this is often the sentiment I find online from awesome people willing to speak their mind about things that bother them. I respect those peeps and I understand their mentality. I do. But I am not on that bandwagon of anti-brand-immersion. Forgive me, but I’m not. Knowing that these environments cost a LOT of money (not just at first, but continuously– they’re living/thriving environments that need constant attention, supervision, and care), I understand the need for ulterior methods that do NOT cast higher fees onto the user.

To me, it’s the responsibility of the individual in CHARGE of the youngling minor to teach them the difference between idolizing brands, and recognizing brands. And really– to me, the important things to look for in virtual worlds are safety & quality of content/environment– is it fun? Do they get to play and explore? Are they free to be themselves in whatever storyline/epic adventure the virtual world/MMO has to offer? Those are the important things.

Marketing & Commercialism in Virtual Worlds « Izzy Neis

Yeah, yeah, I a bit behind in my feeds.  But I read them all, so it takes awhile.

GREAT post by Izzy with great dialog in the comments.  This is such a big topic and I am on Izzy’s side here on pretty much every point, especially in that taking the extremist view on anything gives you a pretty good chance of losing the battle.  Not always, but more often than not.

That is to say, “no ads – ever” is a bit of a pipe dream, especially in no subscription communities.  These virtual worlds are expensive to produce and run, as Izzy said and as I have said about communities in general for years now.   Maybe sponsored clothing/areas/games isn’t the answer.  But rather than flipping out and lambasting the virtual worlds for being creative in how they keep their doors open, why don’t these groups help figure out a way for the world to pay their employees and stay on the ok side of marketing.  There are solutions that will sit well with everyone that just haven’t been figured out yet.  It’s great to point of problem areas, but let’s take the next step and help determine solution sets as well.

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Posted in Club Penguin, Disney, gaming, kids, online community, tween, virtual worlds

GREAT video on the value of kids virtual worlds

Go now and watch the Fast Company video from these posts. No, I’ll wait. The whole thing too, it’s all good.

http://www.virtualworldsnews.com/2008/04/video-disney-on.html
OR here
http://redcouch.typepad.com/weblog/2008/04/ive-said-it-bef.html

Well done Disney. Slow hard clap. I virtually shake your hand.

There are some days when I am so proud of what I do. These sorts of videos are the ones I have to watch when I am not having one of those days. 😉 I just wish I saw it when it was originally posted…

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Posted in Club Penguin, Disney, gaming, kids, marketing, mobile, MySpace, Nick, online advertising, online community, television, trends, tween, virtual worlds, web business, Webkinz, z friends

Proactive online content for kids

Those of us who understand the positive aspects of online play need to help shape the climate online in the next couple years. Gone are the days of bragging about how your child knows so much more about technology/computers/internet than you do. More and more of our lives are being spent online. Let’s treat that sea change with a bit more respect than simple awe/wonder.

If we don’t want EVERY brand space online to be blatant consumerism with no message or goal, we have to be proactive about preventing that from happening. We must work toward not just calling out the bad sites, but creating and commending the good sites. And not just ones that give lip-service to more holistic goals – ones that actually step up and do it.

I ducked out of the Kids and Teens talk at the Virtual Worlds conference last week in order to see a young girl doll brand case study. Oy vey, was that a hard one to sit through. The developer giving the talk continually talked sarcastically about the girly brand that he developed, which showed me that he didn’t respect the audience and community the site was trying to develop. How can you create a great community if you don’t care about them?

Through his talk, he talked a couple times about the core values of “Empowerment” etc that the site’s founders wanted to convey in the virtual world. But almost in the same breath, he would reiterate multiple times that the only purpose for the site was to “sell more dolls.” Makes you wonder if the brand managers of those dolls know and care how their brand is being conveyed to conference audiences and their online community.

If “to sell more dolls” is truly the reason that the parent company wanted to launch this world, fine. They certainly are not alone. But that doesn’t mean all the other sites that will be developed in this category have to be like that.

Sesame Street’s Panwapa world is a cool approach to get into a space that is bound to be crowded in the next 2 years – preschool to early readers, 4-7 year olds. Kudos to them for being there before anyone else with a solid idea for a world (and not just the mindless wandering and silly games that make up almost every world in this space).

Whether we like it or not, a child is assimilated into the tech space earlier and earlier as the years go by. To pretend that this isn’t happening or block the kids from sites on a micro level is not the way to improve the situation. It’s the ostrich effect and doesn’t improve anything for anyone, especially the kids.

People who grew up with technology are now having kids. These younger generation parents have less or no aversion to introducing their kids to the online/tech coolness that they have grown up with. As producers of content (be it for a marketing purpose or pure creative), we have to develop for the parents AND the kids. These younger parents will still want the educational aspects that the past decade of attentive parents wanted, but the younger parents understand all of this on another level. Many of them understand that you can have fun, build relationships, and develop as a human online. They also understand the importance of design, navigation and user interface in your online experience. AND they will, directly or indirectly, teach these concepts to their kids.

Hopefully the content will start to catch up with paradigm shift that is happening world-wide as I type. Is your content up to the task?

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Posted in Club Penguin, kids, marketing, online community, tween, virtual worlds, Webkinz

Virtual wrolds 2007: TyGirlz.com case study

Case Study: TyGirlz.com – Building the First Virtual World for Girls
What does it take to develop a kids virtual world from the ground up? From concept, to design to ongoing updates and user community issues: come find out how to develop a highly scaleable web-based virtual world. Animax Entertainment, the developers of the TyGirlz.com virtual world for toy company Ty, Inc.’s Ty Girlz brand will share best practices established during the development of the TyGirlz.com web site and virtual world.
– Michael Bellavia, Managing Director, Animax Entertainment

– creates character driven content and experiences for all screens
– founded in 2001
– hq: LA/Toronto & Kiev
– staff of 95
– 2005 winner of first ever broadband emmy
– 2006 nominated for another family
– webbys, web awards, LA Ad club

– lean back – broadcast animation
– lean forward – websites, games, vws, interatcive learning
– clients: ty, film roman, kodak, abc family, bet,
– white label apprach to vw developemnt

producers guild new media council
american film institue new media

Were charged to produce a kid safe, girl focused vw for a new product intro in a crowded competitive makrtet…
– they took it as simply “sell more dolls”

rfp was recieved in january
– finished in 2 months
– partnered with tokenzo (?)

others in space (that I haven’t explored yet)
– maple story
– horseland
– shinging stars
– kookeys
– t-works

rather inappropriate presenter
– dissed some of his competitor and had very sarcastic tone with client
– said that when users ask about boys in the world it “gets the girls all titilated” (?!)
– said 3D avs are creepy in this space/demo

must haves:
– focus on kids and specifically girls
– focus on safety – clised-end, controlled, moderated environment
– no ads
– simple
– lo-fi vs hi-fi
– browser based, no downloads
– virtual economy
– virtual rewards
– no subscription fees
– tiers

– pure flash front end
– as2 transitioning to as3
– mult development teams in mutl time zones

topics he think are still not resolved:
– can you launch a toy without web presence
– does a toy have value?
– is there value in being the indoctrinator of virtual world play patterns?
– can you transition kids to more age appropriate worlds as they grow older? can you “own” them?
– how many profiles will kids maintian? is there an opportunity for cooperation across species?
– does kid fickle factor ovrcome switching costs
– do kids get as jazzed as adults by new technologies wll they prefer smart toys or even playful devices over toys are toys dead?
– will parents get fed up?

question: size of support team?
– initally had moderators that were visible
– now moderators are not visible
– moderation is contracted out. didn’t say who by

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