Saturday, 24 February 2007

Phase 4, BMW and the Geneva Motor Show

Back on the 12 January I blogged an entry about BMW, and referenced the island next door, Phase 4, the SL home of the creative team behind the BMW SL presence. At that time their island was closed- not surprising really, as it was just a rough assembly of builder's bits and experiments. However, I went back there last night to (a) see if BMW had got anything new to show and (b) see if Phase 4 was open.

As regards (a) - the basic answer is "No". There's a new private meeting area - highlighted in the piccy below(taken from Phase 4). Despite the note, I've been back and can confirm it actually is outside chat range.

but apart from that, nothing. It was as cold and arid as when I first went there. I really fail to see what BMW are getting out of this. Also, it is only a little over a week to the start of the Geneva Motor Show. Other companies - well perhaps only Mazda - have aligned their SL strategy with their RL presentations planned for Geneva. However, I can't see anything on the BMW island that would suggest they are even aware of it. Actually, I'd level the same criticism at Mercedes Benz, who launched in SL earlier this week. They apparently plan to unveil their new 'C' Class in SL on 16th March, which is very near the end of the Geneva Show. It seems like a missed opportunity to me. Mazda have already launched their Hakaze virtual concept car in SL (and pumped some headlines as a result) and will be launching in RL in Geneva.

Anyway, if you've been attentive, you will already know the answer to question (b) above - "Yes", Phase 4 is now open for receiving visitors. Most of the site takes place over water - although there is only one small, and relatively undeveloped tropical island if you want to touch down on virtual terra firma... (thinks: "Terra Virtua" perhaps?). Work seems to be progressing to transform this, but it's not clear what it will be yet. The rest of the business of the site happens in the air. There are 2 floating platforms. The main platform offers a number of screens, displaying Phase 4's market proposition and showing off some of their work. It also houses a large meeting room, with seating for about a dozen people.

The other platform is there to provide the requisite "SL fun & frolics". As you can see, it features a truly monster-sized (OK, Wimbledon-sized) game of Pong. I didn't get a chance to try it out - but I think this is a nice, fun idea. They also have a giant Connect 4 game too.

Oddly, I think I rather like the Phase 4 build. It is quirky without being odd; it gives you direct, simple access to info about the company without actually pushing it down your throat and it has an engaging game element to it. Unfortunately for them, their branding is very stripped down green and white. They have brought the branding into SL (how could they do otherwise) and it does lead to an oddly flat, 2D feel, with little "grittiness" to the texture. Which, in turn, makes it feel a little too cartoony for my tastes. I would make the same observation of BMW - only there, the colours are mainly white and.. ummm... white.

Oh... before I forget, they also have a cluster of virtual wind turbines, on their border with BMW. I have no idea whether these do anything other than look pretty... decapitate virtual seagulls maybe? Just a thought... no... forget it... no... really... forget it.

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