Talkin’ Tyra

 Posted by (Visited 6908 times)  Game talk
Feb 132007

The whole “media companies are going to invade” thing that i was talking about months ago now seems like old hat. Now Tyra Banks has her own MMO, built on the Doppelganger platform that also powers PCD Lounge.

Of course, like PCD Lounge and other such 3d social-space-only worlds, there doesn’t seem to be a ton of stuff to do. These spaces are frequently disposable, history has shown. This may not matter right now, in what are effectively media world gold rush days, but it will take on increasing importance as time goes on. What’s the Tyra feature list? Dance, wear clothes, listen to music, and chat. In other (marketing-speak) words, there’s no USP — nothing that makes it functionally different, really, from the other worlds that offer the same Indeed, as csven says over at ReBang,

Not only the same developer, but obviously Doppelganger was using the same client code they were using for the PCD Lounge. No surprise; it’s more efficient. Besides, this is what I expected based on some early thoughts about how they might use their platform to create outpost “sims”; kind of like islands in Second Life. While I don’t expect the Doppelganger projects to allow teleporting from one to another at this point, that’s what I’ve assumed they might do… and I still expect that’s on their “To Do” list. Anyway, the likelihood of that assumption – that these stand alone sims might be connected – increased when I tried to create a new account. Turns out that Tyra’s Virtual Studio uses my PCD Lounge account login. That will certainly make connecting outposts easier to do down the road. There’s only one thing: the PCD Lounge and Tyra’s Lounge look the same so why bother?

It’s somewhat ironic that it’s media companies, which make their living entertaining people, that are missing this point. All these worlds might as well be themed rooms in a larger chat space. But in general, chat spaces have a long history of devolving into niches; without regular influxes of content, activities, and so on, they tend to shed users who grow bored. Watercoolers are no fun unless there’s a new show to talk about.

As that Hollywood Reporter article says,

Gartner research vp Mike McGuire questions whether virtual worlds really have anything distinctive to offer media companies. “Are they bringing something truly differentiating, or are they just putting something in a 3-D wrapper?” he says. “I don’t think they will help grow the audience. It will take creative thinking on the (part of the) media companies to make sure they’re not part of scenery.”

These days, it’s far easier for kids to replicate the scenery of their favorite media than it is to go to the media-themed space. It doesn’t matter how popular the show or music is, kids can always just rip some tunes, grab some Googled images, and throw up a MySpace rather than go to the hassle of downloading a custom client and logging into a static space they cannot modify. In a lot of ways, it’s more important that it be theirs that it matters whether it’s about Justin Timberlake.

This echoes discussions that we’ve long had in the community management field about the value of having a billion fansites out there. There’s many virtues to having an official forum (and I have written about them before), but there’s also a lot to be said for encouraging a diverse ecosystem of sites. More Google hits for your brand, for one.

From a more mathematical perspective, it also helps create a large scale-free network. One of the traits of these networks is that they are next to impossible to kill. In other words, not only lots of Google hits, but Google hits forever, rather than fading away.

It seems logical that for media companies, the right move is to have the same diversity of fan-made virtual spaces as they have for fan-made webpages. None of the platforms right now are oriented around this, of course — and frankly, neither are the media companies, which are likely still thinking in terms of centralized control of their IP. But the real power of IP these days is in letting it out, not holding it in: far better to have twenty or a hundred takes on Tyra Banks’ show out there than just one. In a world of constant media yammering, ubiquity is key.

  16 Responses to “Talkin’ Tyra”

  1. ” — I think we are about to get caught up in a swell of stupid. Somebody hold me? — As seen at Raph’s site . Tyra Banks has a ‘MMO ‘ The above is my gut-level reaction and post on his comments thread. I’d love to analyze things for you and tell you what I really think… but it’s a bit rough. Tyra has fans that have never heard of MMO

  2. provide tools for those not technically minded enough to do it themselves. The latest news I’ve encountered of old media trying on the shoes of new media is a ‘virtual world’ based on Tyra Banks’ chat show! Unsurprisingly responses have been rather cynical, and no doubt it will live or die by the quality of its features, as content sounds fairly low, but at least it’s a start!

  3. So who is going to run the intervention for Tyra?

  4. ROFL nice catch Cosmik…

  5. Oh I somehow missed a portion of the article, but it since loaded up.

    Your right insofar as the peer network effects, and bottom up open world/content, but what worries me is that the media companies wont “get it” until its too late, paranoia about IP and having your brand co-oped in unknown ways is already almost to much to ask.

    It’ll take companies proactively engaging in and allowing for internal evangalists to homestead in this area. Unfortunately I’m afraid the corporate culture of some stodgy old MSM/Media/Entertianment companies wont allow this. Plenty here for a book 10-15 years from now….death of out moded corporate giants in a changing sector, co-optation, aquisition and beheading of potential rivals in a vain attempt to stop the floodgates….high drama 🙂

    WTG on connecting the dots Raph

  6. The media strategy, while cautious, is business prudent in that they are stepping their toes into the water and feel the shallow waters. The investment cost is little and the ROI may be worth the effort.

    The USP will be the integration of Tyra Bank’s show on the TV with the show on the NET. The integration of lean forward (computer) and lean back (TV) will be slow. The major players will not likely to be the first mover in this area.

    But, putting their toes in the water is a good first step.

  7. These quickie licensed VWs seem to me to be the equivalent of “official” web sites for TV shows and films: they’re attention-grabbing, strongly branded, and provide a bit of extra content, but they’re not really prepared — or even intended — to provide the long-term stickiness that grassroots communities (fansites, message boards, etc.) do.

    However, official and fan sites aren’t necessarily in opposition to each other; they create a feedback loop of content that serves to strengthen the brand, which is good for the brand owner (more eyeballs, more revenues) and for the audience (more friends, more fun). So while I agree that fan VWs are going to be a lot more numerous, diverse, and interesting than official ones, I don’t think it’s actually going to lead to the “death of out moded corporate giants.” (Unless, of course, the brands suck too much to inspire any fan-generated content.)

  8. “They are coming!” the words shot out urgently through the whisper. “The media companies, they are coming!” Knees clutched high to the chin his eyes darted about like a cat high on nip looking anxiously for mice from any corner.

    He was surrounded by the litter of a few dozen game boxes, plastic beverage containers, and an open tub of three day old cottage cheese. The Grimwell definitely looked like he belonged on an episode of the X-Files as the ‘Freak of the Week.’

    “They think they know our secrets, but they don’t. They don’t!” he giggled and bit at his thumbnail. “Learn damn it! Learn!” spittle, expelled by paranoia, shot around the thumb and at the monitor before him. “Remember E-Commerce? Remember ‘Virtual Reality?’ These things were your ideas, your inventions. You don’t learn, you don’t understand, you don’t even TRY!”

    I think we are about to get caught up in a swell of stupid. Somebody hold me?

  9. I think it is ironic that Tyra Banks has a woman on her show that’s so depressed over her husband playing WoW and then turns around and creates a 3D chat space. What was she thinking while interviewing this woman and her husband… Something tells me it is along the lines of, “WoW is that addicting.. I never would have thought it could capture an audience that way…. Hey why not make one for my show… Eat your heart out Oprah…”

    Just a bit too hypocritical if you ask me. Besides, the thing is going to fail and then the execs will wonder why it failed. Do you think they will figure out that without a USP their in over their heads?

    YouTube for Tyra Banks and World of Warcraft and you can find the two piece episode. Sounds like she’s talking out both sides of her mouth.

  10. […] Raph’s Website » Talkin’ Tyra […]

  11. It’s much more likely that her marketing/branding/pr team thought this up and either didn’t ask for permission, asked when Tyra wasn’t listening, or got approval from the people paying for the show. Or pitched it in a non-MMO framework.

    “People can chat and make little internet versions of themselves? Let’s do that!”

    Getting something approved in certain circles is often more about who you ask, what you say, and how you say it. I could never work like that, but I’d imagine that Tyra is surrounded by a bunch of sycophants who would. 🙂

  12. WOW is a game. This is a 3D chat. The distinction is significant to us as gamers, and, probably, to whoever greenlighted this. I don’t think you can really call this hypocrisy. Dull, now, that might fit.

  13. I completely agree that the entertainment companies are about to hit a wall with the current state of 3D web opportunities. While The Illusion Factory was one of the first big developers in Second Life, we intentionally did not start selling our clients an installation until we had really tested the waters ourselves. Sadly, SL has begun to stand for Steady Limitations….especially for entertainment properties. However, we are huge fans of Second Life, and There and all of the other emerging platforms and the brave people who ventured to make Tyra a virtual experience.

    All creativity has to start somewhere. As with any technology that emerges, there are those who will experiment and others who follow and better those first experiments and so on. No doubt when the Zoetrope was unveiled, someone was there to criticize it too. And you can count on the fact that it was not someone who had put their neck on the line to manifest a new artform into being. That takes courage, spirit and vision and while we had nothing to do with the Tyra experiment, we applaud that it was created in the first place. Even if the armchair quarterbacks turn a nose up at it, they will still benefit from the successors who have studied what these pioneers have done and work to make the next one even more cool.

    At The Illusion Factory, we see Multiverse as the solution to the platform issue. It will soon be ubiquitous and it will be versatile enough to carry the really intense interaction that the entertainment companies will soon find lacking in Second Life. Second Life has many, many exciting features, that is why we built the first virtual theme park in the metaverse in Second Life…. and called it Illusion Factory. Others are already copying it and working to create their versions of improving what we pioneered. It is cyclical….and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

    We do not look at the world as it currently is. Instead we are projecting our business models four and seven years out when the world has converged and television and the internet are the same thing. At that point, the relevance of these user experiences in the 3D web environment will be ten times more apparent.

    In the meantime, we are one of the forerunning companies to lead the entertainment industry into the metaverse. I have read all of your ideas and will present them to clients… because i think the user generated content is a key component to the new success of the web. Our clients are coming around faster than all of you might think.



    [email protected]

    I really look forward to your suggestions. Do not send any proprietary material or ideas as we cannot protect it or accept it. Only send me ideas you wish to share with our entertainment clients and I will make sure they hear it…. and hopefully include it with the next wave of coming platforms and installations.

    Brian Weiner
    The Illusion Factory

  14. FYI, Tyra’s Virtual Studio and The Lounge look the same because it is one and the same program.

  15. Raph, don’t you feel like your chosen art form is being cheapened a little when it starts being used as IMVU with “a few more features”? In fact, when it’s used in this way, do you even feel that it deserves recognition as being related to the MMO world?

    Of course I know it does, especially now since these things are unusual. But at some point are we going to have to draw a line of saying “this is an MMO” and “this is a chat program that happens to feature an avatar, a mock-physical world, and a few token things to do”? Or will that line disappear? And if so, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

  16. For me, the distinction is trivial. The core of a virtual world is the space, the avatars… whether there’s games in there or not is essentially an issue of features. When I played, which is arguably the same sort of social world you describe, I played the economics game and made a lot of Therebucks as a clothing designer; I played hoverboarding races and trivia games. So games pop up even in social worlds.

    I don’t think it trivializes things at all. But there is little doubt that from a design perspective, a “talker” is far far simpler than a full-blown game world.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.