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A new study released by Jupiter Research suggests that digital music sales will offset physical cd sales losses by 2010. Here are the main conclusions and forecast provided by the study from paidcontent.org:

EU/US/UK: Jupiter reckons only eight percent of online Europeans buy music on the net compared to 15 percent in the US. While digital makes up five percent of EU sales, it’s 13 percent in the US. But the UK will lead Europe, contributing 44 percent of all digital music revenue. In Europe, some 285 online stores are chasing 1.4 million euro ($2 million) annual revenues, but are getting far less thanks to iTunes Store’s dominance.

Projection: A fifth of online Europeans will buy their music online by 2012, Jupiter reckons, making a quarter of all music sold digital.

US digital music sales growth has slowed while UK has almost doubled, but that’s after two years where the US digital music sales market has grown about 100% and 50% in 2006 and 2007, respectively. Digital music sales now represent about 10% of the overall music market in the US, but you have to keep in mind the strong presence of illegal file sharing.

You may ask yourself, where am I going with all this news and stat reporting? For lack of a better segue, the study gives more credence to the continued growth of virtual goods as a viable market. In my industry, virtual goods are essentially the backbone of most revenue models and without them the sites wouldn’t exist.

Obligatory graph of virtual goods growth that essentially means nothing

Obligatory graph of virtual goods growth that essentially means nothing

Still, many remain skeptical about virtual goods as something to invest in for the long run. Before I continue this discussion I’d like to establish a definition for “virtual good” :

A virtual good is an intangible good bought and sold over the internet that either provides a service, entertainment value, or enhances the experience of the purchaser in whatever interactive environment they’re operating in.

If anything, music is the ultimate virtual good. Music not only provides entertainment value but will enhance the user experience no matter what someone is doing. Essentially, music has always been a virtual good. Only the instruments and discs used to play it are tangible, the product itself isn’t.

With iPods, we have music at our fingertips in just about any situation. With the advent of smartphones, we have just about every thing at our fingertips. Email, maps, instant messenger are all available to us. It’s this idea of the Culture of Connectivity that explains why virtual goods are important and will continue to be more important. The more services that move into the intangible virtual world of the internet creates more room for the need of virtual goods.

The growth of digital music sales is just one arena where this marketplace continues to grow.

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This was an interesting find, a song from a real life rock band about the virtual world Second Life. A new band backing a karoake competition winning singer is banking their superstardom on “I found paradise in my Second Life.” Tarsha is a newly formed rock band based around the singing capabilities of vocalist Sheldon Tarsha.

I think Tateru Nino from Massively was just as surprised by this find as I was. In her post about the video, she says she doesn’t think the song will appeal to the 45+ demographic that constitutes a lot of the Second Life user group.

On a personal note, I think without the virtual world theme of the song I’d probably hate it. The video also has nothing to do with what he’s singing about. Either way, it’s a real life production of something to do with Second Life and I have to give some props for that.

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.

I was hoping I would never have to give the obligatory “sorry I haven’t posted” blog apology but here it is. I’ve been busy blogging for another project I’m currently working on and it’s cut into my time to post here. With that out of the way, let’s get on to the post.

On some levels, Second Life has always been a mirror of the real world. So when an entertainment icon like Michael Jackson passes away, you know avatars are going to pay tribute. I came across an article on Second Life Update posting a tribute video done by eeka Batz and ssmariner Flossberg, two notable names in the indie music scene. Honestly, this is the best one. Turns out most of SL’s Michael Jackson fans are blingtards, if you see where I’m going with this.

This next video is pretty blingtardy, but worthy of post for all the effort put into it. It’s a near-complete replication of the Thriller music video. Although I’m pretty sure MJ never had a buzzcut.

This isn’t the first time Thriller has made it’s way into Second Life. The following video is one of the older SL videos that has been going around the net. The dance animations are tops when it comes to the SL Thriller vids.

And there you go. I’ve been fighting the urge to do a Michael Jackson post since he died. After my little Electric Panda Blog siesta I certainly didn’t want to come back on this note but the opportunity was there. Viva la MJ!

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!

For about the last month, Koinup has been sponsoring the Rocking the Metaverse tour, the 1st ever cross-world music tour. Fittingly, the tour ended today in Twinity, making it the first ever live music event to hit the somewhat new virtual world. Twinity has a realistic take on virtual worlds, modeling its spaces after real world locations with the first being a replica of Berlin. A virtual Singapore and London are also on the way.

Dizzy Banjo rocks out in Berlin

Dizzy Banjo rocks out in Berlin

Second Life music stars Dizzy Banjo, Grace Mcdunnough, Slim Warrior and DoubleDown Tandino have been traversing the metaverse, bringing live music to Second Life, OpenSim, Metaplace and now Twinity. It’s been a groundbreaking tour, bringing fans of the musicians in Second Life across several virtual world platforms and now introducing the live music event to Twinity.

Folks in the virtual world business that I’ve talked to in the past sometimes speak of a future where there are no individual virtual worlds, just one main interface that all users connect to and interact. While this virtual “new world” will likely never come into existence as it is envisioned, Rocking the Metaverse is a good demonstration of a way that seperate clients can link and share content.

And as for Twinity, there is no news yet but I suspect the tour stop today will lead in to more live music events for the platform. Live music has been such a big part of the virtual world landscape that it seems only natural it should be brought into a fledgling one, especially one that is realistically modeled after real world locations. Imagine seeing your favorite band playing a concert in Singapore and you don’t even have to leave your laptop. While this may be the final stop for Rocking the Metaverse, it certainly isn’t the final stop in expanding the live music experience in virtual worlds.

Ever had those times where you’re sitting around with friends, talking to new people, and you realize that you and your conversation partner went to the same concert a while ago? Boom – instant connection. There is something about live music that has a magical quality to it. Sometimes the music doesn’t even have to be that good (on stereo at least), but the memory of the show will last forever. A website that’s been around since 2007 is beefing up their services to make the live show a way for people to connect. Songkick is taking social networking and music recommendation to a new level, letting users connect with past events and find others interested in the same things.

"What a coincidence! I was acid tripping at the Dead show too!"

"What a coincidence! I was acid tripping at the Dead show too!"

A friend forwarded me an article from Tech Crunch and I immediately started salivating over the idea. Songkick is essentially the IMDB of live shows, catalouging over 1 million shows thus far and continuing to grow their database. For each show, users can add photos, videos and comments on the show. You can also click “I was there” to add the show to your user profile. You can find other users who have gone to some of the same shows you have, as well as “follow” other concert goers whose taste you respect.

What if you can’t find the show you were looking for? Songkick lets users add it to the site, letting the community take an active part in buildingin it’s database. So, even though it came from the mouth of founder Ian Hogarth, calling Songkick the IMDB of live shows is a little unfair because the depth of the site is so much broader than that. For audiophiles, connecting over music tastes is important, and Songkick lets you seek out and connect with other people who share your style. In the end, it saves you the trouble of dragging your lame ass roomate to an indie show he’s never heard of because everyone else you know is saving their money for the next time Nickleback is in town (reference based on a true story).

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.

Earthmine, a 3-dimensional mapping company, recently unveiled a new virtual graffiti application called Wild Style City. It’s modeled in the same fashion as Google’s street view, allowing artists to roam the streets of San Francisco and throw up a tag wherever they see fit.

“Wild Style City is an exploration into what people create when given the ability to freely express themselves and their ideas in specific places,” said Anthony Fassero, co-founder and co-CEO of earthmine. “Viewers can enjoy the images, add to them, erase them or even start over. It’s as close as you can get to the graffiti experience without the obvious real world consequences. But just like in the real world, no piece of graffiti is permanent and can be removed or replaced by the community.”

I spent some time exploring earthmine’s San Francisco and was pretty impressed with what I saw. It would appear that some serious graffiti enthusiasts have found their way into the world to bomb some sick spots. Unfortunately, for every good piece of graffiti art there’s a picture of a penis politely asking passerby’s to touch it innapropriately.

Touché...

Touché...

Earthmine’s innovation is an interesting take on socializing the street view product, letting it’s users “interact” through pieces of art with the rest of the community. Other wanderers and vote on pieces of art, but even the most lauded of designs can be taken down by anyone that feels it necessary to paint over. Thankfully, you can still access past pieces of art on any particular canvas.

As far as pure entertainment value, it’s a fun way to get around, explore San Francisco, view other’s art and maybe throw up something yourself. The community is entirely run by the art since you can’t see other people roaming in browser and there is no official message board or way to send information. But in that sense, it stays true to the graffiti community in real life. You’re just walking by, looking up at a great piece of art thinking “I wonder who did that?”

When I started this blog, one of the first things I mentioned was how amazing music has become in the way that we share it, listen to it and play with it. The internet has revolutionized the music industry, propelling the role of music in our lives to incredible heights. Ben Parr, a writer for Mashable, recently posted an article about the internet and its role in the rise of social music. He writes about its humble beginnings, the growth of MP3’s, illegal sharing, legitimized applications like iTunes, and the use of music social networks like Last.fm.

The last few years has also seen innovations in music-themed entertainment, namely the popularization of games like Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution. The idea has been around since about 1996 when PaRappa the Rapper was one of the first rhythm based video games of its time, but has since become a major force in the video game industry.

So what happens when you introduce a social aspect into the world of music based video gaming? You get Loudcrowd, a “music community for people who want to do more than just listen.” Loudcrowd is a DDR type gaming site where users complete dances and challenges to unlock clothes, music tracks (that come with additional challenges) and more.

Players have two options for building up their battery meter to unlock items, either sending dances to other users or completing solo challenges. It can be pretty addicting, and I’m not the only one who has spent quite some time playing around with the dance challenges. Loudcrowd has made a good attempt and mixing social networking, video gaming and music discovery. Although I’m a fan of what the site is trying to do I’d like to offer my observations and a few suggestions as to how the site can improve and fulfill its objective.

Social Networking

Loudcrowd has taken rhythm based video gaming and infused a social aspect to it. Players hang out in a lobby together where they perform dances for one another and complete challenges. Dances can be sent to other user along with a short message after the DDR-type minigame is completed.

For some reason there is no local chat feature, communication is limited to one on one conversations with other players. In order for there to be a healthy music community, there has to be an open discourse where users can share information with each other and contribute to the dialogue as a whole. Even if they didn’t want to have open chat, at least make forums available. Especially since the site is in beta, users should be able to look at each other’s ideas and be able to expound off of them.

It’s also slightly frustrating that the messages are limited to 60 characters (And you thought Twitter forced you to be concise!). I think it’s a brilliant idea that users can keep up a conversation by means of sending dances to each other, but it’s difficult to have any kind of meaningful discussion other than flat “Hey, what’s up – Not a whole lot, you?” kind of talking. Users can take the discussion to straight up instant messaging, but you have to choose between the two as the game can move pretty fast. Loudcrowd should up the character limit to dance messages, letting users engage in complex discussions without sacrificing the fun of doing it through video gaming.

I had asked a few regulars (all of whom had reached the level limit on the site) how many friends they had made in Loudcrowd and only one or two responded with a number more than 3. In a site that is trying to promote a community, users should be able to develop a bigger network.

Video Gaming

Player's complete challenges to send dances to other users

Player's complete challenges to send dances to other users

It appears that the primary function of Loudcrowd‘s site is video gaming, and for something that’s offered for free on the internet, its a lot of fun. Players can select up to four difficulty levels on different challenges in the game. There’s the rhythm based dancing mini game, a fill-in-the-blank survival minigame and a turntable mini game. The three different challenges help mix it up and give users options on what they want to participate in, but they can get stale after a while. Anyone I talked to on the site thats been there more than a week has said they’ve gotten bored with the gameplay.

This is fine if they’re trying to offer a casual gaming site for people to spend a few minutes on every day to kill some time, but fails if they are attempting to create a solid destination for players to immerse themselves in. The revenue model is based around buying upgrades for storage space on the items you can unlock, but when the site isn’t offering a continuously entertaining video game challenge, or items that affect and improve the experience, then it’s hard to see how people are going to stay on the site. Loudcrowd says they are introducing new games every two months, and I wonder if that’s too long a time span to keep players constantly engaged. It’s a great idea to keep expanding its gaming options, but it’s also important to build upon the mini games already in place.

Players can level up through accumulating points and ideally it’s supposed to unlock better items through the challenges, but players level out at 50 and most level 50 players I met said they did it in less than a week. I’m at level 10 after an estimated total of 5 hours on the site, and haven’t noticed any increase in the variety of options. The reason why a game like World of Warcraft is successful is because there is something to continoulsy strive for, the experience expands and improves with every challenge completed. Even though Loudcrowd is operating on a much smaller scale than WOW, it has to give players an incentive to keep playing. Expand the clothing options, offer items that actually affect the game play like power ups that can be used in challenges, and either up the level max or make it harder to level out. No game should be TOO easy.

Lastly, I’d like to see a larger focus on competition. With a DDR model in the dances, players need to be able to compete against one another and not just themselves. Some of the mini games and track challenges offer score charts where you can compete on the scoreboard, but players want to be able to compete directly against each other. The whole winner/loser dynamic may not be the biggest self esteem booster, but it’s usually why people play engage in multiplayer games in the first place.

Music Discovery

To start off, I have to say that the music on the site is great. It’s all mostly independent electro (a scene that has been really taking off the last couple years in the music community) bands from partnerships they’ve secured with record labels like Beggars Group, DFA, Domino, Downtown Records, and Modular. This makes sense with the type of gaming that’s offered, but it’s not the only genre of music that has a beat that works in the system. From the feedback I’ve gotten it seems that most of the users aren’t necessarily electro heads, and some have said they just turn off the music after a while. Targeting a specific genre is all well and good when you are appealing to one area of the music community, but when your audience has varied musical tastes I think it’s important to cater to that.

I would also like to see a larger selection of music offered, even if they stick with a pure electro theme. The playlist changes every week but the songs come from a selection of about 4 or 5 artists, and I’ve heard repeat songs during 30 minute gaming sessions. It would be cool to see a comprehensive playlist, one that emphasizes the new tracks that are debuting that week but still give attention to ones in the past. Over time, the site can offer a large music library that still introduces good music to those who may not have been lucky enough to be signed in when the track first came to the site.

Good start with a lot of potential

Despite some of my observations, Loudcrowd really is an innovative, refreshingly fun site and you can count me as a fan. The artistic side is very well done and very stylish. The site is a great example of taking a browser-based system and making the most out of it with the aesthetic quality. The art and music fit seamlessly together, complimenting each other and creating a solid, congruent environment.

One of the cool feature in Loudcrowd's player profiles

One of the cool features in Loudcrowd's player profiles (Not my profile)

I’m also a big fan of the user profiles, they’re unique to the site in a way I haven’t seen in other virtual worlds or social networking sites. Not only can they list their favorite bands, but there is a space for favorite lyrics, most influential band and things of that nature. There is also a bar graph on each user’s page detailing the times the user is usually on the site. I haven’t even been able to hit all of the features associated with player profiles and I think that speaks to the potential in depth of experience.

As a music lover, I’m very excited to see what else the creators have in store for Loudcrowd. The way the site blends music and video gaming only enhances each of those aspects. I spend a lot of time on the internet searching for new music, scouring sites like Hype Machine for new tunes. When you’re on the computer though, music usually serves as the background function. While I listen to new tracks on Hype Machine, I’m usually doing something else that takes away being able to fully appreciate and be a part of the music that’s playing. Loudcrowd offers a way to stay entertained and engaged with music, interacting with the beat while you discover new music.

I wouldn’t normally take the time to sit down and analyze the bits and pieces but the site really speaks to me, and I’d like to see them improve on the great features they already have in place. If Loudcrowd succeeds, we can be sure to see more innovations like this in the future.

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