Jul 152008
 
XBox Live avatars

XBox Live avatars and new dashboard

From here, it sure like the virtual world-ish convergence that has long been predicted is hitting the consoles in earnest.

  • XBox Live is adding avatars, akin to the Nintendo Miis, but it looks like they’ll have a bit more spatiality and multiplayer interaction to them — and will be the basic interface for XBL from now on. Oh, and remember when I commented that consoles were turning into PCs? They announced the ability to install games to the hard drive as a major advance. Heh.
  • Nintendo’s next Animal Crossing game is also drifting towards online-world land, though still not truly massive in scale.
  • Club Penguin is jumping to the Nintendo DS, and don’t underestimate Disney’s new DGamer service, which is intended to network all the Disney online properties.
  • Sony has a 256-player action game coming, which qualifies as “massive,” certainly, though perhaps not as presistent. They’re also adding more real-world integration, with stuff like movie and TV downloads, weather service, news, etc.

The multi-head world

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May 222008
 

It’s nice to finally see real movement towards a very old idea, the world that surfaces radically different experiences on different client platforms. With the announcement that Disney Fairies will have a Nintendo DS version, we see this finally coming to fruition.

Making clients that work on more than one platform or device is a tricky challenge, and one thing that has been talked about forever it seems is the notion of having a separate client that accesses a different portion of the world than the main client. For example, every MMO I have ever been involved with has discussed the notion of a cell phone client just for auctions, trading, checking your shops, and other sorts of low-rendering-requirements tasks.  And yet, the movement towards this stuff always seems sort of tentative.

Disney’s jumping in with both feet, with the notion from the get-go being that Fairies is a property you interact with on many levels, and the DS version and the web version are just two ways (with perhaps “central authority” existing in the web version). For that matter, the toys are also just another way.

When you are engaged in the process of building alternate realities, this is the right way to think about it. The client is just a window into a larger world. Creators should be thinking of their worlds as properties and entities that exist independent of rendering method, interaction method, and so on. And the strongest properties will be those which are not rendering dependent and yet retain a strong central creative identity, designed for everywhere.

Universal client will come — but there are always going to be different real life situations that demand different levels of engagement, and you want your players to be able to engage in every way they might want. Forcing them to sit at a desk is to force them to interact with your brand your way, not their way.

Apr 092008
 

Disney is shuttering Virtual Magic Kingdom. Nobody knows how many active users it has these days, and Disney is of course moving aggressively into more virtual worlds, encouraging users to switch to Toontown, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, and Club Penguin. But as longtime virtual worlders know, that’s not acceptable to the current community, who not only have a lengthy thread on the discussion boards, but have also started threads even on the new coverage elsewhere begging for their world to remain open.

Generally, a virtual world with any momentum at all will not die unless it is actively killed. And the result is always heartrending posts like this one: Continue reading »

Webkinz & kin: yet more mammals

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Jan 222007
 

Continuing on the theme of massively multiplayer worlds that people don’t pay attention to, here’s a nice Boston Globe article about Webkinz. The gimmick here is that you buy a plush toy, and it comes with a login code for your virtual apartment, complete with a virtual pet version of the toy you bought. In fact, the toy is actually your subscription fee: each one you buy gives you access for a year.

Enough with the hype, you say. How about figures? Try 2.5m uniques in December.

Continue reading »