Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Japan and Second Life - an Update

Maybe it's the lure of the exotic East, but I am keen to explore the work being done in Asia on Second Life. If you are a regular reader you will know that I have reported in the past on a number of Japanese builds. So I make no excuses for ripping off this news report in its entirety from Daily Yomiuri Online, from 23rd July:

The efforts by Japanese firms to make their presence felt in the virtual world of the online game "Second Life" is expected to accelerate following the release of the Japanese version of the software on July 13.

Mitsukoshi, Ltd. established its virtual outlet in "Second Life" at 10 a.m. Thursday, becoming the first Japanese department store to do so. The outlet features the Echigo-ya Gofukuten kimono shop, the forerunner of Mitsukoshi, which was established in 1673. A robot clerk welcomes visitors. No items are sold in the virtual store, but traditional Japanese costumes such as happi coats, hats made from bamboo and paper fans are distributed for free to players. Mitsukoshi hopes for 120,000 visitors in the first year.

The company hopes the move online will enhance its brand, and encourage users to visit Mitsukoshi's regular Internet store. It believes its presence on "Second Life" could generate as much as 40 million yen in additional sales. A company spokesman said: "By boosting our contact with customers, we're looking forward to steering visitors toward our actual department stores as well as the shopping Web site."

The travel firm H.I.S. Co. provides a service allowing avatars to move instantly to various interesting locations in "Second Life" with one touch of a panel. The company also directs users to their travel booking Web site.

Keiji Mitsubuchi, a professor at the Graduate School of Digital Content that specializes on preparing students for careers in information technology, said, "Companies can earn a reputation for being strong in Internet services by appearing in 'Second Life.'"

TV stations that were once reluctant to utilize the Internet due to copyright concerns, have also begun entering the virtual world. Fuji TV has introduced nine characters in "Second Life" resembling real life teen idols who appear on one of its TV shows. The company hopes users will become more familiar with the program by staging events in the virtual world, such as the idols meeting fans and signing autographs.

TV Tokyo is hosting a summer festival in "Second Life" until Aug. 31. It created a townscape resembling a Japanese city from the 1950s and '60s, and will hold a fireworks display and Bon festival dance event.

Linden Lab began distributing the Japanese version of the game on July 13, with instructions displayed in Japanese. According to the company, there are 490,000 heavy users of the software globally as of June, who play the game for more than an hour each month. The number of heavy Japanese users are estimated at about 27,000, with the number rising from ninth overall by nationality in May to sixth in June. The number is expected to rise further in the future.

According to an estimate by Mizuho Corporate Bank, Ltd., there will likely be 50 million users of "Second Life" worldwide by the end of 2007, rising to 240 million by the end of 2008. The value of the virtual market is expected to grow from 135 billion yen in 2007 to 1.25 trillion yen in 2008, the company says.

However, Linden Lab. says the number of heavy users overall fell 2.5 percent in June from May.

Masayoshi Sakai, a visiting associate professor at Waseda University Graduate School, warns there are limits to the benefits companies can expect to reap with a "Second Life" presence. "There are many companies that can't accumulate visitors in 'Second Life,' so companies need to offer something that visitors can only experience in the virtual world," he said. "Otherwise there's no guarantee the companies will get the benefits they're hoping for."

I think the 50 million is a tad optimistic!

No comments: