[Update 2 : a very intelligent post by Virtual World News with lots of good info ]
Ah, finally, we get to see the long rumored Google Virtual World, or one of them anyway. There’s also rumored to be another one with a remarkably similar aesthetic that’s only 2D and doesn’t require a plugin and install. [I imagine they could use this 3D technology on the server side to flatten their avatars into isometric sprites that could be rendered in Flash or AJAX, ala google maps on the client. Any bets?]
Well, I have to say, I like the cartoony look a lot. I think that aspect is a winner, if not entirely new. Kudos to the art directors and modelers. Interaction still needs some work though. And, as with most avatar chat worlds, I quickly got bored.
Alas, that’s going to be the big test of all of the new web-based 3D worlds (and for some reason, many of them decided to go open beta today).
I never quite got into Second Life on a personal-time-spending level. But you have to admit, being a long-lived virtual theme park/carnival has afforded it a few solid years to build up a wealth of dynamic content.
Whether any one of these new 3D worlds will do the same or better will depend on penetration among the target audience (I imagine: people who grew too cool for Club Penguin or Habbo) — whether they can attract the numbers of people that will in turn attract the talent they need to make the community vibrant.
It’s the same problem as with any night club, I suppose, and a surprisingly similar experience (minus the alcohol). Expect a lot of the same solutions: Mass Marketing (or the opposite, Hidden Doorways for the really cool kids), Celebrity Gravity, Product Tie-ins, Special Events, ad nauseum.
And don’t forget ye old Happy Hour. Ladies drink free. Or perhaps not.
P.S. I wonder if the name Lively will rile Microsoft’s trademark ire. It’s not like we’d ever see a Lively.Live.com moniker due to the sheer awkwardness (or maybe we would? — just kidding). Strange too that competitors like Vivaty are all riffing on the same "alive" or "vibrant" sounding names when their products are not quite as "alive" or "vibrant" or "lively" as one would hope. Perhaps it’s just premature, or perhaps it’s just wishful thinking.