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Yesterday, Conduit Labs announced they were shutting down their experimental music game and community known as Loudcrowd. For two years, Loudcrowd was an electronic hipster haven for fans of outfits like Chromeo, Justice and Van She. Even as they expanded their track offerings to bands like Foals and Yacht, Conduit Labs saw massive growth with their Facebook offerings Music Pets and Super Dance and ultimately decided to abandon the former.

Originally when considering writing this post, I wanted to focus on the functional reasons why Loudcrowd didn’t pan out. When I wrote about the game last May, I pointed to the limited social networking abilities and the niche demographic of electronic fans. Former Director of Marketing Josh Grossman actually stopped by my blog to comment and express that the company shared some of those same feelings.

But now, sitting down to write it, the closing of Loudcrowd is just a sign of the times. There was nothing inherently wrong with the game itself other than it wasn’t hosted on a popular social networking platform. Casual gaming has hit the market full stride and Facebook remains king. According to a recent Mashable survey, 83% of respondents claimed to have played games there. It seems that casual games can’t survive without a powerful portal to back it up.

Not only that, but I think it gives testament to another interesting finding from the Mashable survey (among others). Most online gamers prefer to play with people they know, and not strangers. While Loudcrowd was a place to meet and talk to other fans of the genre, most would rather play a quick round with their BFF on Facebook.

The good news is that Loudcrowd isn’t *really* dead. Conduit Labs’ Facebook game Super Dance runs off the same engine and artistic style. Thanks to a recent distribution deal with UMG, both Super Dance and Music Pets offer a wide range of music that can appeal to all fans. While a lot of Facebook game developers rely on cheap tricks for retention and engagement, Conduit Labs provides a unique product and I wish them continued success.

"D-O Double G takin' over. Best cop them Playspan goods, beeyotch!"

The Panda is a little late to the party on this one, but Snoop Dogg hitting up the virtual world is something that just can’t be ignored . From the Hip Hop Press to Virtual World News, the word has spread – Snoop Dogg exclusive items hitting IMVU through virtual goods monolith Playspan. From the mouf of the dogg –

“It’s a proud day for all Snoop Dogg fans in IMVU.  I always look for ways to reach out and touch my fans, wherever they may be online or on the streets.  My licensed items are off the chain and it’s a win-win situation for everyone, ya dig?!?” said Snoop Dogg .

Or, to paraphrase – “It’s a proud day for all Snoop Dogg fans in IMVU. I always look for new avenues for my fans to express their appreciation by sending me moneyy – whether they’re hustlin’ in the streets or keeping it real in the virtual world. My items have my likeness all over them and I’m really looking forward to the paycheck.”

Did I just say that? Blasphemy! Jokes aside, Snoop Dogg is the man and his brand is a multi-million dollar a year business. Much of which, to his credit, he spends on sponsoring and participating in football programs for inner-city youth. That’s reason enough to give the former gang banger some serious love. Snoop’s virtual good store will follow in the footsteps of Metric and Ice-T who also have a line of goods on IMVU.

His virtual items will start at $2 a pop and some will be limited edition items. The “Snoop Dogg Extreme DJ Sytem” for example, runs at $20 bucks with a limited number available. It comes with speakers, subwoofers, and animated turntables with DJ and vocalist animations. The set also includes a light mixer and animations. Pretty cool to see these branded virtual goods take on interactive items, beyond just t-shirts and other accessories.

Yet nothing will ever compare to be able to throw up the dub on Meez. Can I get a suuuuuuuu?

Pioneers of the Metaverse

I get very excited about musical elements in virtual worlds. Well duh, otherwise I wouldn’t blog about this stuff now would I? So the usual process is finding something musically related to virtual worlds and then telling you all how cool it is and why. Or sometimes just going into journalist mode and statin’ the facts.

So rare is it to come across something that earns an eye roll yet Rocktropia, the new music virtual world from NEVERDIE Studios, earns just that. Yes, this is the same Jon “Neverdie” Jacobs – famous for purchasing a virtual asteroid in Entropia for $100,000.

A minor profit and one crappy song later, he’s built a planet in the Entropia Universe and labeled it the “1st Virtual Music World” which, of course, is a ridiculous lie. The world is billed as a way for artists to share and listeners to discover but  it looks like an over-glossy romp in an 1980’s metal band album cover. Screenshots and video released about world show avatars with bad 90’s rock haircuts running around with guns and shooting virtual vixens in the crotch. What does any of that have to do with an immersive music discovery experience?

Motorhead signed on to the project with lead singer Lemmy Kilmister having his own dark castle in the Rocktropia planet. If a world is attempting to become a musical destination for discovering new music and for new artists to profit, there needs to be a focus on music that is relevant and um, new.

As a lover of music in virtual worlds, you’ll have to forgive me for being such a hater about it. Everyone should be entitled to their own place and voice in the Metaverse. Rocktropia will appeal to 35+ metaverse metal heads but the realm is far from revolutionary or original. Feel free to check it out and let me know if I’m just being an ass!

Apparently the Mayor likes The Smiths as much as I do

TechCrunch reported on a pretty cool little announcement yesterday:

Universal Music Group (UMG) has struck a deal with Conduit Labs, a startup that creates musical social games, to provide users with access to UMG’s library of licensed music from the record label’s artists such as Lady Gaga, Rihanna and others. The partnership will extend to all 1 million users of Conduit Labs’ games, including Music Pets, Super Dance and Loudcrowd, to access the tracks.

Forgive my lack of eloquence but… Conduit Labs FTW! The previously mentioned Loudcrowd is a very cool social gaming site where users could play DDR-esque dances for each other to an electro-heavy soundtrack featuring the likes of Justice and Chromeo. I posted about the game last year on this blog and was very excited about what they were offering. Still, with limited music distribution rights the game limits its demographic. Whether or not Conduit Labs will introduce their new tracks to Loudcrowd remains to be seen, as it might be a betrayal of the niche, but they’ve already made their way into the company’s latest project Music Pets.

This is where I digress for a moment and gush about Music Pets. It is a social game/virtual world Facebook app that lets users take care of a pet whose sole motivation in life is to jam out to tunes, eat food and then keep jamming out to more tunes. You can train your pet through an awesome mini-game to acquire your music taste, and then have it fetch new tracks for you to listen and share with your friends. Gaming, music discovery, sociability… it’s all there and it’s all awesome. The UMG deal has opened up a large plethora of options for Music Pets – my pet was able to jam to everything from The Smiths to Burt Bacharach to La Roux.

Thus far I’ve stayed far the hell away from most Facebook apps, including Farmville, but the attraction and playability of Music Pets is undeniable. The 1 million other users who signed up in the first month agree.

Is this the gamification of music discovery? Or is the musicification of social gaming? I kid, I kid… but this new deal with UMG makes a game like Music Pets a serious competitor to a music discovery platform like Pandora. The social game doesn’t have near the depth of selection offerings you’ll see in Pandora – but if this proves to be a success you can expect to see the spectrum widen immensely. We’ve seen major record labels partner with virtual worlds and social gaming before (Planet Cazmo) and UMG’s agreement shows a continued interest in pursuing these spheres as viable marketing tools.

Oh, and did you notice my Music Pets animal is an adorable freaking panda bear? Music, virtual worlds and pandas: there are few things better in this life.

I’m resurrecting this bad boy from the dead. You’ll notice my last post here came in August, shortly before I moved to Dallas for Webosaurs. Since then I’ve been busy with the day to day of work and all of my blogging attention focused on the Webosaurs blog, Metaverse Mod Squad company blog and now writing for Ypulse.

Still, my passion for Music and the Metaverse remains strong and I believe it’s important to maintain something personal and free. Do I have any clear-cut objectives for the resurrection of my blog? Not especially. I’m here to blog about music, the metaverse, pandas and anything that blends those elements. If you are a music loving tech-geek, virtual world enthusiast, whatever – this is your spot.

Now, in celebration of bringing the Electric Panda back to life I’d like to offer a couple tracks from the electrifying mashup duo The White Panda. These guys are mashup machines who are creating some of the best dance tracks out there on the web. I’m sure to do a dedicated post on them at some point in the future but they qualify under music and pandas so I feel this is more than appropriate.

The White Panda – “Sweetest Fascination”

The White Panda – “Intergalactic Spell”

ODB was right - Wu Tang is for the children

ODB was right - Wu Tang is for the children

One our Webosaurs member’s name is Kilabeez. Just as I had hoped, his name is based off the Wu-Tang Clan. Pretty awesome for what I’m guessing is a 10-year-old. Anyways, he submitted these song lyrics to us and I couldn’t help but put them on the Webosaurs blog. Here they are for you in all their unadulterated glory (I’m Rex, btw).

Sung to the tune of Wu-Tang Clan’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”

Shimmy Shimmy Rawr!

Hey dinos, i like to rawrr.
Yeah dinos, i like to rawrrrrr
ooh dinos, i like to rawrr.

Shimmy shimmy ya, shimmy rawr, shimmy yay.
Gimme the mouse so i can play all day.

Off on a natural charge, bon voyage.
Yeah from the cave of the dinos, protectors squad.

Webo-saurs players we on the hunt.
You best believe we dinos ain’t no runts.

So play nicely cause you can’t touch my skill.
Don’t mess with us cause Kilabeez and Rex we so ill.

Just remember this and have fun.
Cause we dinos like to rawrrr.
Yeah we dinos love to rawrrrr.

Go to www.webosaurs.com to learn more about this wonderful virtual world for kids.

Kids are starting to scare me.

I guess I should rephrase that to “kids are starting to amaze me.” The more I’ve been working with kid’s virtual world sites, the more I’m constantly amazed by their creativity and know how. Kids are even running their own blogs these days!

This came to mind when I came across this music video a Webosaurs user had created in-world. Flash wrote out the lyrics in-world, took screenshots and made a music video out of that. You have to check this out!

I’m impressed. He made the video in Webosaurs, a sick dinosaur virtual world for kids. Check it out!

Remember how much fun Addictinggames.com was back in the day? The site is still around and offers an impressive library of games to play, but companies are pushing the direction of casual gaming. In my industry, casual gaming is often incorporated into virtual worlds as things for people to do, but a new site (or at least new to me) offers a sizeable casual game portal as a way to advance ranking and increase currency.

Chat filter with hilarious results (If you have the mentality of a 13 year old)

Hilarious chat filter (If you have the mentality of a 13 year old)

Ourworld.com is a flash-based virtual world run by Flowplay that is pretty standard fare as far as those kinds of virtual worlds go. Avatars can explore different stylized sections of the world, express their fashion choices, go dancing, etc. What’s unique about the world is the way gamers progress, all by earning “Flow” which can then be used to play other games, resulting in more currency and advanced rankings.

Players can do this a number of ways from gaming to dancing and other social activities. The more interactive the activity is the more flow the players earn. What I’ve seen from the world is the gaming is probably the best part of the whole thing. I went to a couple fashion shows where attendees vote on avatars, but a lot of people in the crowd just kept asking when it was over.

One day I dream of owning a balloon-popping monkey

One day I dream of owning a balloon-popping monkey

The games though, are bad ass. I wasted way too much time throwing down on Bloons Tower Defense and Warlords, two of the new games being offered in the world. Beweled has also been recently introduced. The only problem with the games is that there isn’t a social aspect to them as there is no in-world multiplayer mode. Still, if you’re looking to pimp out your avatar, unlock furniture and other goods for your virtual apartment in this world, the gaming is a great way to do it. While a site like Addicting Games is still a lot of fun, at least in Ourworld it makes you feel like you’re “accomplishing” something.

Never say no to Chocobos

Never say no to Chocobos

Sony announced yesterday that the new MMO thats been whispered about is indeed a Final Fantasy game after all (w00t!), but aside from the trailer they offered little details about the new game. I’m letting out a big sigh of relief that they went with the Final Fantasy title. To be fair, Square Enix is great at making RPG’s, but nothing comes close to the Final Fantasy brand, arguably the best RPG titles ever created.

Luckily for Final Fantasy and MMO fans, Wired has reported on a Q&A at E3 today with Shinji Hashimoto, senior VP at Square Enix. The design for FFXIV will be the similar to FFXI but the gameplay is going to be reworked, allowing for a more creative style of gameplay. This means that whether you’re a lone ranger or like to team up with friends, you’re going to find a niche in the world that suits you. I think it’s a great move, both from a gameplay perspective and a business one. With franchises like Grand Theft Auto on the market, players are getting used to having freedom in their gameplay. Not only that, it will bring in more people who don’t necessarily have the time to schedule meet-ups with friends to complete challenges like in FFXI.

Lastly, I’m happy to hear that the new MMO will be back to a medievil motif unlike the highly anticipated single player FFXIII. Square Enix is great at sexing up knights and princesses in any kind of setting and I’m sure this one will be no different. Aside from those details, little else has been revealed about the gameplay. As always, Square Enix likes to keep us guessing.

You can check out the trailer below.

New Final Fantasy MMO coming from Square Enix?

New Final Fantasy MMO coming from Square Enix?

Accordingly to Massively, who got their information from Gameplayer, Square Enix is rumored to be announcing a new MMO for the Playstation 3 and PC  at E3 this week. It’s been known for a while that Square Enix is working on a new MMO, but the real question is whether or not it will be set in the Final Fantasy universe. From Massively:

While we’ve known of a new Square-Enix MMO that has been in the works for some time now, we’ve recently received information that Square might be showing off this unannounced title during a special press conference on Wednesday at E3.

The conference doesn’t have specific details as to what’s going to be presented, but fellow press site Gameplayer has made the claim that it will be this unannounced project, codenamed Rapture. Rapture will be a PC and PS3 only title, with Sony announcing the game during their own press conference, scheduled for Tuesday.

Square Enix, in my opinion, are the masters of the RPG. The Final Fantasy brand has had a long and very successful career in the gaming industry and with the rise of virtual worlds and MMOs, it’s about time they drop that universe into a multiplayer setting. Besides, who wouldn’t want to RP as a Moogle? At least they’re a step up from furries.

Moogles: still not cuter than baby pandas

Moogles: still not cuter than baby pandas

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