A few years back, I had a proposal for an MMO project called “Stages.” It was the idea of using virtual worlds as essentially communal audience spaces. If you could get a live act or a video going in a virtual world, you could then offer virtual stages where the audience could actually mingle and chat with one another while watching the performance.
Of course, this is not really anything new — on a small scale, it’s happened for a while. But what I was envisioning was a platform basically built for the purpose, stripping away all the other stuff that comes with a virtual world by having the showing happening within an instance.
Well, although various worlds are now doing similar things to various extents, few do it today as well as Gaia Online, which offers movie theaters where you and your friends can get together to watch movie trailers.
Apparently, my opinion that they do it well isn’t only mine, because Sony Pictures is taking an equity stake in Gaia, and both it and Warner are planning on streaming movies, some even for a fee:
Netco started its virtual screenings earlier this year with public domain pics such as “Night of the Living Dead.” Sony content will include “Spider-Man,” “Ghost Rider” and TV clips it is already putting on the Web, like the offerings of its Minisode Network. WB is providing films including “The Matrix” and “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.”
PPV films will cost $1.99 each to watch.
Why does this make a hell of a lot of sense? Because the key premise of virtual worlds is the other people, and movies and music are more fun when you’re with your friends. Among other things, Gaia lets you toss popcorn on your friends, point laser pointers, and even throw tomatoes at the screen.
Now you can do that with your buddies who moved away. All that’s missing is sneaking from theater to theater when the first movie sucks (something I recall doing with some Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor movie… alas, we ended up in “Pet Sematary” instead. Oh well, you win some, you lose some). It’s like YouTube in real-time.
It’s interesting, of course, that once again this comes as an initiative from outside the games biz. Sony Pictures does, of course, own Sony Pictures Digital, which in turns owns SOE. Perhaps SOE was involved in this deal — but the bottom line is, neither Gaia nor Sony Pictures are game companies. The question for the game industry is, when will initiatives like this emerge out of an EA or a THQ?