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  Starwood Hotels To Open ‘Second Life’ Accomodations  
 
 
Posted 2006-08-04 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Steve Rubel tipped me off to Starwood Hotels and its entry into the virtual world space. Starwood will open a hotel in the virtual world of Second Life this September--a preview of a real hotel project planned for launch in 2008. According to official blog VirtualLoft.com, the Second Life project is being produced by The Electric Sheep Company. Builder and lead graphicist Sara Van Gorden (a.k.a. Cory Edo), and VP of biz dev Giff Constable (a.k.a. Forseti Svarog) of the Sheep are contributing writers to the blog, which stealthily launched July 24, 2006.

While the project bears the hallmark virtual-world-gold-rush stamp "Starwood Hotels will become the first company in history to open a new hotel brand inside of a virtual world," the effort has a slim chance of offering lasting value to Second Life's resident users. Since not everyone in Second Life can afford, or wants to buy virtual real estate, user-created apartment complexes and other rental accomodations are plentiful. These are usually maintained very carefully by resident landlords, so I wonder how, who, and even if Starwood's virtual "Aloft" hotel will be managed. Will Starwood's real-life quality of service really be carried through to Second Life? I don't see how. Doesn't a real, large-scale hotel have hundreds of employees? Even if Starwood intends to hire full-time virtual-world hotel employees, a single Second Life "simulator" (giant plot of land, such as the one the hotel is built on) can only host about 40 avatars reliably. That doesn't leave a lot of room for guests.
 
     
 
   
 
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  3 Comments  
 
   
 
Comment posted by Giff-Forseti
August 4, 2006 @ 9:56 am
     
 
Tony, I'm dashing out the door so cannot respond in full right now, but we're not currently planning on going in some of the directions you warn against. We are trying to authentically represent and give people early access to the design of the hotel not actually existing yet in the real world (which comes with some interesting challenges since the design is continually evolving), but in terms of what people do can do once they get to the virtual aloft island, it is not going to be such a literal translation of what happens in real-life.

Just like in our previous blog discussion over snickers bars, trying to artificially plant real-world constraints/behavior onto a virtual world is not the way to go. Where things are a natural fit, great, but one has to be careful -- we completely agree.

The virtual aloft is not actually open in Second Life yet, but for those interested in watching a project like this unfold, there is a blog tracking everything at www.virtualaloft.com.

I'll try to follow up later.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
August 5, 2006 @ 2:49 pm
     
 
Tony, I'm fairly certain that externalized "RL in SL" businesses like ESC and their big-name clients will both displace indigenous business in SL. It's not a question of "if" but "when" or "under what terms". The process is underway. The costs of trying to develop expensive servers and put in the time-consuming and aggravating labour of serving individual avatars on any kind of mass basis are so great that only large companies with deep pockets are likely to take them on.

The irony is that customer service and knowledge of the local scene and capacities will still put local innkeepers at an advantage for awhile, anyway. And they'll still be needed as essentially the hard-working caretakers of the immersive world that externalized "augmentation" businesses will need to show off to their clients as a cool place.

As I blogged in "Hotel Second Life," I see a very grim picture shaping up here -- those of us in the inworld immersive content-creation and services sector will be going on and putting in grueling hours and low pay with heavy risk for our investment to keep up the semblance of the immersive, cool world filled with exotic flying avatars that companies like Forseti's ESC can then exploit as backdrop to make much more serious cash in the augmentation biz.

I keep trying to put in my website URL and it keeps giving me a message that it is a "blacklisted" item, I can't see why Tony would declare that secondthoughtsdottypepaddotcom is verboten.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
August 7, 2006 @ 4:32 pm
     
 
Prok, I just got back from a long weekend, will look into the blacklisting. I haven't knowingly blacklisted your URL.
 
     
 
     
   
 
 
     
 
     
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