Saturday, January 15, 2011

Blue Mars as a Virtual World is dead. What does this say about our future?

My Blue Mars Avatar, Roger, Choosing Clothing on the Profile Page

Blue Mars is all but dead.  And I am disappointed. 

I loved Blue Mars simply because it looked so great, and allowed me to take gorgeous photographic images and do some interesting machinima.  I am leaving my blog  the Blue Mars Times up if you want to check out my work -- it is all over there. 

I was afraid to come out and say so in my first take yesterday on the situation, but I will say so now.  Blue Mars as a next-generation virtual world is finished. 

Despite the announcement yesterday that Avatar Reality would continue development of Blue Mars Mobile for portable devices (with an avatar rating system of all things!), everyone involved needs to face reality -- the gorgeous, graphically rich large-scale virtual world that I and other were saying was a next-generation Second Life is on life support at best.   An iPhone application designed to hook into Facebook that shows a "hot" avatar with a 1 - 10 rating system with a palm tree in the background  is NOT a serious "virtual world".    It is not even "Farmville".  It is a step above a hand-held game at best. 

As I said yesterday, when you stop offering technical support to potential developers like the U.S. Smithsonian Institution which was serioulsy considering an entry, they are not going to invest in the platform. And when your own  CEO  (Jim Sink) announce the departure of himself  and much of the staff  on his last day,  no major organization  is going to invest funds in developing content for it. 

I will probably surprise readers here by urging them to consider building on the existing Blue Mars right now. There is no monthly "rent". The entrance charges are low.  The graphics are still stunning.  Google Sketch-up is the primary way to port in content (I have not used it yet but Desmond Shang developer of  Calendonia and others have told me that it is not hard to use), and free is free. I plan to write more about this later once I get some information.
The condo in New Venice Blue Mars -- The could have rented hundreds of these. 

I have a confession to make now. Although I have never received any money from Avatar Reality (aside from taking home three cash prizes in their first photography contest), I was hoping to work for them in Business Development, and had good reason to think I would be. 

I was  close to several of the Blue Mars people, and was close to an offer.  My guess is that if they received more investment funding in the second half of 2010, I would be on the staff right now as a contractor. We started talking in July about having myself do some contract work initially, but things never went anywhere -- which is definitely to my advantage  I decided to concentrate on real estate and get my broker's license in the red-hot South Florida real estate market instead., and started taking classes last November to earn this. A good move in retrospect for me.
Now what does the death of Blue Mars say about the future of virtual worlds?

Blue Mars is not the only virtual world to bite the dust last year. "There" closed their doors in April 2010.  Kaneva, like Blue Mars (but without the sophisticated graphics), announced that future development would focus on portable apps.  And as we Second Life users know, Linden Labs is shifting resources to their browser-based application which, hopefully, will be optimized for a PC and not for an I-phone.  A daily reading of the news could put virtual world denizens on real-life Prozac if taken too seriously.

What is missing from first-generation virtual worlds, and the main reason why venture capital funding is not there,  is the lack of anything but niche consumer enthusiasm. I am not sure why this is -- I have my theories on why over 98% of the 700 million or more people around the world who use a personal computer or laptop with a broadband connection every day show no interest whatsoever in even looking at a virtual world ( these are my own numbers). Perhaps this technology is too ahead of its time, or perhaps it will never go anywhere. But until more mainstream consumer interest is generated, the concept of virtual worlds will be on life support at best.

There is one caveat.   A giant like Facebook or Microsoft could decide that there is enough serious potential in virtual worlds to make a quick move in owning this market space and spending enough marketing and development to make a real go of it. Stranger things have happened before.

Article from Yesterday:


  1. Sorry Eddi, there's no shining knight going to save VWs. They're lumbering, expensive monolithic creatures that few want or need. Make a game. Make them cheaper and more accessible. Fill a very specific niche. Then they may have a future. However, as they are now they have a very limited lifespan. Which is sad because I like them and I've made some great friends.

  2. I have to agree with you. However, as the old saying goes, never underestimate the power of denial.


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