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 virtual worlds, Webkinz

Good questions re: kids toy + VWs

However, one concern bubbling at the back of my mind is this: children don’t stick to one kind of toy. So it’s likely that many of them will end up with access to multiple virtual worlds through their toy collection. Are there enough kids with enough time to keep dozens of toyworlds in business? I’m guessing not.

It’s also interesting to wonder whether these worlds will focus on individual toy ranges, or widen out a bit. For example, could Disney run one single virtual world, and whenever you buy any Disney-related toy, you get the right to use that character as an avatar – but in the same world. It would solve that problem of fragmentation, but only a few brands (Hasbro and Mattel included) would have the scale to pull it off.

Disney to launch Clickables connected toys on Monday | VWF blog | Virtual Economic Forum Content Library

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Posted in gaming, kids, marketing, online advertising, trends, tween, virtual worlds, web business, Webkinz

Thinking Outside Virtual Worlds

The big category is Webkinz. The company is already launching different models, but it’s also selling figurines, lip gloss, and more to monetize the interest in the brand. Lots of companies are following suit. [ed: it seems like a new one at least every week]

Barbie Girls and Be-Bratz target an older market. Barbie Girls, though, offers some free content and as taken an early lead in users Collectible cards, like Bella Sara, Chaotic, Maple Story, World of Warcraft, have also spread across the environment. In the other direction, companies like Moo.com (with Habbo), Stardoll, Zazzle, and FigurePrints.com allow users to take elements from the virtual world to the real. Sometimes that’s as simple as printing your avatar on a tshirt, sometimes it’s designing clothes for your avatar that can then be fabricated for you, and sometimes it’s the creation of your avatar itself.

TestTubeAliens.com is an alien in a tube of water, when held up to the screen, it detects screen patterns and changes the mood of the physical alien. UbFunKeys comes from Mattel and operates in the similar fashion as Webkinz, but with plastic instead of plush. Tamagotchi recently updated its online world. Me2 from IrwinToy.com is a motion sensor that records your physical activity and then points to your virtual character at home, potentially promoting activity away from the sedentary lifestyle.

Other products like iBuddy or Ambient Devices’ gadgets interface with your computer or environment to provide you more information, creating more of an augmented reality than a straight up virtual world, but creating possibilities, said Smith, for giving feedback to users away from their avatars.

Other items, like Tshirts from Thinkgeek, Firebox, eLaundry.com, and Tqualizer imprint electronics that are tied to other tshirts or products, giving feedback through interwoven screens.

Virtual Worlds News: Liveblogging Worlds in Motion: MindCandy’s Michael Acton Smith on “Thinking Outside Virtual Worlds”

Interesting post on how to extend the virtual world brand to products.

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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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