Over a year ago I wrote a post about Zwinky, and people still read it and leave comments on it – most of them either demanding some kind of cheat code, or offering up some kind of cheat code which others later comment back saying they don’t work. *sigh*
But I’ve been thinking about this latest development in online social networking and online worlds, and monetizing the Internet, and i think I see a pattern emerging, which will form a bubble, which will eventually pop, leaving many people devastated and a few companies stronger and wealthier for it.
So, Webkinz is one that I’m familiar with – it seems to be the MySpace of kids gaming networks, in that it really took off, and integrated realworld product placement in an effective way, etc. Basically, kids get stuffed animals called Webkinz. They can be any shape and type – think beanie babies. With each purchase, you get a code, which you take to the Webkinz site. You set up an account there, put in your codes, and get access to games, areas of the world, and new and interesting objects, which you use to populate your house. More than stuffed animals, there are clothes for your pets, charms, and cards. Each one has a code, and each code unlocks more stuff. So kids have a big incentive to want to buy these things that are already things that they might have wanted just for the cuteness factor, but which now have added value.
There are other familiar real-world orgs that are following suit, hoping to sell more product to our impressionable youth – Build-a-bear and Beanie Babies, Barbie and Disney all have online worlds where kids can play games and spend their valuable attention.
I keep waiting for a really valid adult model of the same type of system to pop up – us grownups spend our time on facebook and stuff like that, but there’s no tie-in to real world stuff.
So I was thinking that this might be a way for the recording industry to adapt a bit – make a virtual world populated by their bands and artists. You buy cds, dvds, gear, cards, stickers, and assorted schwag, which have unique unlock codes in them. Fans plug in the codes to get free song downloads, more schwag, chances at tickets, autographed garbage, drawings for back stage passes, and all that jazz. Plus, they could play games and populate their virtual pad with virtual furniture and do all the things that adults already do on Webkinz, signed in as children. Oh, and whatever up and coming executive of musical mumbo jumbo who takes this idea and runs with it, I’ll take that first million in cash, thanks.