Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Globalization and the next dimension: Multinationals enter Second Life

As the forces of globalisation continue to exert themselves as powerfully as ever, the forces of global competition appear to be entering the final dimension - massive online multiplayer universes known simply as MOGS. One of the most well known MOGS is Second Life.

There have been numerous posts on Econblogs about the virtual economy that has sprung up with items being bought and sold for hard cash on ebay and elsewhere. For example Second Life gold has a value as do fully formed characters. Brings a whole new meaning to the term "selling your granny".

Now though the multinationals are coming - will they take over the virtual world? Can any government stop them?

Can we get housing price booms and busts?

What about the environment? Will second lifers use up all the natural resources and land available to bring about their own destruction? Such a question deserves its own post when I have done a little more research.

Firstly Vodafone plan to open their own island (from 3pointD.com)
Mobile telecomms company Vodafone plans to open its own Vodafone Island in the virtual world of Second Life later this year or early next, according to virtual world services company Rivers Run Red, which is building out the project for them. The company is being brought in as part of a campaign designed by ad agency BBH, which Rivers brought to Second Life in September. Vodafone content should start appearing on the Grid in coming months. Besides activities like sports, music, film and events that are planned for Vodafone Island, the company will also try to give SL residents new ways to interact with each other and with the real world. Vodafone will apparently be working up applications that allow instant messaging and/or other forms of communication between SL and other online and mobile locations. While these won’t be the first such apps, they will have the weight and marketing power of a real-world telecomms company behind them. It will be interesting to see whether they gain broader adoption as a result. If they add to the functionality available in-world, so much the better.

Reuters have also recently announced that they are to open up a virtual news bureau in Second Life. See here. To quote:
SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Reuters Group Plc is opening a news bureau in the simulation game Second Life this week, joining a race by corporate name brands to take part in the hottest virtual world on the Internet.

Starting on Wednesday, Reuters plans to begin publishing text, photo and video news from the outside world for Second Life members and news of Second Life for real world readers who visit a Reuters news site at: http://secondlife.reuters.com/

Created by Linden Lab in San Francisco, Second Life is the closest thing to a parallel universe existing on the Internet. Akin to the original city-building game SimCity, Second Life is a virtual, three-dimensional world where users create and dress up characters, buy property and interact with other players.

Other multinational mentioned in the same article include:
Car maker Toyota, music label Sony BMG, computer maker Sun Microsystems, and technology news company Cnet are among the companies taking part in Second Life. Adidas and American Apparel sell clothes and accessories for people to dress their avatars. Starwood Hotels has built a virtual version of "aloft," a new hotel chain it plans to open in the real world in 2008.

Now it appears Amazon are entering the battle. From The Stalwart comes the following article:
Amazon in Second Life
Did anyone realize that Amazon (NSDQ:AMZN) pitched its new web services within the virtual gaming world of Second Life?

On Tuesday, October 10, Jeff Barr (Jeff Batra in Second Life), Web Services Evangelist at Amazon.com, will discuss the full line of Amazon’s web services from a technical and business perspective at 5 pm sl. The presentation will include a review of developer activity within Second Life and there will be ample time for discussion and Q&A. Open air auditorium, Info island, 141, 81, 33. This author is contemplating becoming the first virtual hedge fund manager within Second Life.

This innovative advertising comes in addition to the company's Web Services Blog which uses a hired product evangelist. At the site, we noted some exercised subtlety in that the blog is hosted on Typepad, rather than amazon.com. The company seems to be implementing a grassroots internet strategy as implied by their following post.

Nowadays, Anything and everything that has a high "coolness-factor" gets immediate attention from the crowd. This is indeed leveling the playing field. With services like Amazon S3 and Amazon EC2, I believe there will be no difference between the student in the dorm room and the executive in the board room. The one with the best idea or coolest idea will win the game. And the one who gets there fast will be rich ;-)

As we've said before when referring to a viral-style video from IBM (NYSE:IBM), we see innovative web-based marketing strategies as cheap ways to potentially hit marketing home runs. It will be interesting to see how the Amazon's web services develop and heck who knows we could end up being a customer one day.

Talking of which we have put some of the books that we have mentioned on this blog in an "astore" that we have called the "globalisation and the environment bookstore". This seems to be a neat way of allowing people to see our reviews and comments on a book without cluttering up the sidebar (even more).

Does anyone think Second Life needs some economists? Surely there must be room for at least one environmental economist even if there is no actual environment.

1 comment:

Taran Rampersad said...

There is an environment, just not an environment you can recognize as one. The metaphors are there, though.

The globalization aspects transcend the obvious multinationals, of course. There are many people from around the world taking part in a global economy. Tracking multinational trends is pretty easy compared to global businesses of atomic proportions. :-)