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  ‘Virtual Laguna Beach’ First of MTV’s Online Worlds  
Posted 2006-09-20 by Tony Walsh
MTV Networks' Music, Films and Logo Group announced today that its Virtual Laguna Beach online world, based on the Laguna Beach TV series, has entered its beta phase. According to an emailed press-release, "The company is working hand-in-hand with Pepsi, Mediavest Worldwide and OMD" on the virtual world, which will allow participants to "interact with sponsors' content and also purchase virtual as well as physical goods." Marketers and media buyers are apparently already lined up to support Virtual Laguna Beach. Users of the extension to the TV series "can hang out at the beach or shop at the local surf store and interact with one another in ways that mirror the on-air program. Just as the cast gears up for the Winter Formal, so too can viewers within Virtual Laguna Beach prepare for the big night, find a date online and select the tux or prom dress for their on-screen identity."

Virtual Laguna Beach, which was built on Makena's There platform, will debut episodes a day in advance of the TV broadcast. MTV Networks plans to launch "other virtual worlds for the broader music community and for viewers of LOGO" later in the year. In combination with Virtual Laguna Beach, MTV's new worlds have the potential to draw users (and media attention) away from competing space Second Life. It remains to be seen if users prefer themed virtual worlds over open-ended ones, but I'm guessing there will be greater interest in the former.
  MTV Expands Game Interest  
Posted 2006-08-10 by Tony Walsh
MTV Networks announced yesterday that it will acquire Atom Entertainment for $200M USD. The purchase adds major gaming power to MTV Networks, bringing Atom's and in line with MTV's recent acquisition of Xfire--social software for gamers. Previous related purchases include as well as Neopets.

MTV's Laguna Beach TV series has even made the leap to gamespace. As Mark Wallace of 3pointD reports, virtual world will be hosting a multiuser social environment based on Laguna Beach. The virtual expansion to the series will allow users to create their own characters, socialize, explore the environment, watch Laguna Beach episodes, listen to music, and play games.
  Who Owns 3D Avatar Chat Methods?  
Posted 2005-11-09 by Tony Walsh
Forterra Systems has filed a patent infringement suit against Avatar Factory and Will Harvey (makers of 3D chatroom "IMVU"). According to Forterra's law firm, "The suit charges Avatar and Will Harvey with infringing a patent pertaining to instant messaging in a 3D virtual environment. Harvey was the founder of a company called There, which pioneered software offering virtual reality chat rooms over the Internet. San Mateo- based There changed its name to Forterra Systems, which owns the patent asserted in the lawsuit."

Harvey was interviewed here at Clickable Culture earlier this year about his IMVU project, which, as I noted prior to knowing about Harvey's involvement, "bears a striking resemblance to the look and commercial aspects of virtual world There, so much so that it wouldn't surprise me if There's developers were involved." As it turns out, the resemblance is too close for Forterra's comfort.

Continue reading: Who Owns 3D Avatar Chat Methods?
  I See IMVU  
Posted 2005-09-01 by Tony Walsh
While I'm waiting to see if the operators of will afford me a look at their press kit, I feel compelled to at least introduce you to their 3D avatar-based chat environment. IMVU bears a striking resemblance to the look and commercial aspects of virtual world There, so much so that it wouldn't surprise me if There's developers were involved. The IMVU software seems to operate as a layer on top of existing IM applications, such as MSN, and uses small browser windows for much of its interface. Signing up is free, and involves customizing your avatar via the web. First-time users are given 1000 credits (play-money) to buy additional content. More credits can be purchased for real-world money.

Continue reading: I See IMVU
  ‘There’ Co-Founder Joins ‘Second Life’ Team  
Posted 2005-07-27 by Tony Walsh
Linden Lab, developer of virtual world Second Life, has added There co-founder Jeffrey Ventrella to its team, according to Linden VP of Product Development Cory Ondrejka. Ventrella worked with Will Harvey in 1997 to develop There, a commercially-oriented world that has enjoyed substantial success and eventually formed the basis of a military training environment. Although Linden Lab hasn't yet publicly announced what Ventrella's role will be, the company would be hard-pressed to find someone better-suited for developing virtual worlds. Thanks to reader Neal Stewart for the tip.
  There Throws in the Towel  
Posted 2004-05-23 by Tony Walsh
Terra Nova tips us off to the decline of the multiplayer virtual universe There. Has There's contract with the US Army proven more lucrative than consumer ventures? Seems so.

According to Michael Wilson, VP of Community at There, Inc.: "We will no longer be making regular updates to the software, and we will not be fixing bugs...We will no longer be sponsoring the Mentor or Event Host Credit (EHC) programs, nor will we be paying Refer a Friend bonuses." [source]

Obviously any company that merely maintains the status quo of their online world rather than nurturing it is snubbing subscribers. Understandably, the natives are restless.
  There, Second Life, IP  
Posted 2003-12-05 by Tony Walsh
There is a white-bread community of online consumers. Second Life is an online community built primarily by the community. Both "worlds" deal with intellectual property in different ways, but only Second Life has allowed its users to retain property rights and even make a profit off their creations. Author James Grimmelmann dissects both There and Second Life with an eye on IP issues. Lengthy article, but an easy read.
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Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... Hope it helps someone... Dino...
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