They’ve been tried
They didn’t catch on
They will remain a niche
I don’t think so, but why haven’t they caught on yet?
The problem isn’t “cartoon class” visuals. Heck, there are iPhone and Android games that aren’t even 3d, let alone providing cinema class visuals. That hasn’t stopped them from becoming insanely popular among millions of people. People are willing to overlook visual fidelity when something is fun and engaging. Shoveling the same boring experiences with fresh graphics might help the situation for a while, but in the end, people still need reason to want to be inside a virtual environment.
The problem isn’t technical. Though there are a fair share of technical issues in the MMO/3d space, people are still willing to keep trying and keep coming back as long as the platform is fun and engaging. We should do our best to remove the technical hurdles, continue to fix problems, and try to provide a high quality product. But we must also realize that more importantly, the product must continue to offer new and compelling reasons for people to come back to really make an impact on the world.
In a long run of virtual world platforms, most companies have never really tried to answer the question “what can we use this for?”. Rather they’ve always left the actual activities of the world completely up to the users. This is great to a point, and we want to remain hands off as much as possible, but people also look to those running the virtual worlds for leadership and ideas. They want to know ways they can develop compelling environments that will bring in visitors. They want to show off the awesome stuff they’re building.
I think there has been too much hands off, and too little direction given to people to say “Hey, we have this really cool platform, and now we want to try this idea, will you help us?”
That is the direction we’re moving in now.
An example of this is InShape. This smartphone software combined with virtual worlds will allow people from all over the globe to start having fun during their boring exercise routines. We’re hooking your treadmill, elliptical, and exercise bike motions up to a virtual environment and making your avatar run and bike her way around long beautiful trails inside the InWorldz virtual world. On those really crappy snowy winter days when you cant even get out of the house, InShape will let you run along familiar beaches with your friends from all over the planet.
But what about the current residents and customers of InWorldz? What about the people in the virtual world that aren’t keen on exercising?
Perhaps this can be a motivator to get residents moving, but more importantly, they can still be a huge part of making InShape a success! We need people who are dreamers to create the best running and biking trails in any world. We need dreamers to create the fitness accessories that people are going to want to put on their avatars while they’re working out. We need dreamers to create exercise equipment that uses the InShape data to provide new and exciting experiences and virtual exercise equipment that hasn’t even been invented yet!
The more we utilize the virtual to enhance the real, the more that the power of virtual worlds becomes clear. I can’t wait to start attending regular exercises classes with all my real, and virtually real friends!
This is only the beginning. Let’s work hard to show people all the awesome things that can be done with virtual worlds!
See more on the InShape beta test forum.