Virtual reality sites catch on with users in India.
Last year, Sameer, aka Sandy Dickens, spent about Rs 2,500 to buy himself a piece of land and build a green home on the virtual reality site, SecondLife. Today, he earns 1,500 linden dollars or L$ (virtual currency on SecondLife) every month, renting his land and house to other virtual players. But that’s not just play money — the site has its own economy that maintains a currency peg of about L$265=US$1. “It’s not the money I can make on SecondLife that counts but the pleasure I get from being on the site. I can fly, teleport and create anything that can be built with my Linden dollars,” says Sameer.
But when he got a promotional text message from GoJiyo, India’s first 3D virtual world, urging him to join the site and earn ‘Mios’ (virtual currency on the site), he could not resist. “It’s a good attempt to Indianise SecondLife, but what I liked is that adding friends and earning points on GoJiyo could win me IPL tickets. Now that’s a real treat from the virtual world,” he says.
The initial response to GoJiyo looks encouraging. “GoJiyo has over 500,000 visits and has already crossed 100,000 registered users in less than a month,” says Tanya Dubash, executive director and president (marketing), Godrej Industries. Although the company did not launch GoJiyo to become a gaming zone, it hopes to create a strong connect with its young audiences. “GoJiyo complements Godrej’s products and services. But it does not confuse the audience, as it is not a product but a platform to experience products in a non-intrusive way. It will also allow us to create greater awareness about Godrej and its various product brands,” she explains. As for GoJiyo, the next frontier is mobile phone users. “GoJiyo aims to go after the mobile platform in the next few months,” reveals Dubash.
Like SecondLife, where players get to exchange L$ for real money, GoJiyo users will eventually be allowed to convert their virtual money, or Mios, to buy Godrej products in the real world. “We do have plans to allow the exchange of Mios for Godrej products, but, as of now, we are running contests that encourage users to build networks online,” says Dubash.
GoJiyo users will soon have a reward system where they can choose from online or offline rewards. Online rewards will include wallpapers and other items for their avatars and, in offline mode, users could be given discount coupons for Godrej products.
Vizisense, which tracks website traffic, reports there were about 16,500 unique users from cities like Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai, who logged on to SecondLife last month. On the other hand, GoJiyo – that allows users to live within different worlds in the realm of virtual world — attracted 256,000 unique users last month, when the average visitor spent nearly 10 minutes on each visit.
The numbers are tiny, and Dubash is well aware of the fact that, with just 10 million broadband subscribers, growth will trickle in only when broadband’s reach widens. So, GoJiyo does away with the need to download huge installation files (a prerequisite in SecondLife). “We have built GoJiyo in such a manner that it remains browser-integrated and, hence, easy to access and launch,” she adds.
The revival of interest among brands in augmented reality portals bears roots in the fact that people are willing to live an alternative life in the virtual world — like James Cameron’s Avatar. Or that’s what Alok Kejriwal, CEO, Games2Win.com, says when talking about Chimpoo.com, a virtual world targeted at kids. “A virtual world can be the answer to realise your fantasies in a super creative format.”
In Chimpoo.com, kids play games and use coins (or points) that they earn to ‘buy’ clothes to dress up Chimpoo. They also get a free sandcastle that they can decorate. The virtual world keeps adding new play areas, homes, clothes and decorative items so that the fantasy remains fresh and constantly evolving. GoJiyo promises to have a slew of online campaigns, and create user-participated events like music contests, fashion shows and surfing competitions in the virtual world.
Just as existence on SecondLife doesn’t come for cheap, sites like Chimpoo, which also attract thousands of visitors, require parents to fork out Rs 250 (or more) to buy virtual luxuries for their kids. Having seen a registered user base of 43,000 within days of the site’s launch, Kejriwal is confident that the concept will take off.
According to him, the target audience for Chimpoo is parents. He further explains that a three-pronged strategy is in the offing for the kid’s virtual world. The first stage will include added frills like newer clothes and accessories, while the second stage will see Chimpoo get into an edutainment mode. “We intend to have virtual classrooms where kids can learn newer things in a fun way,” he adds.
Meanwhile, players like Sameer, who have been earning Linden dollars that get converted to US dollars and are distributed via PayPal, are beginning to take baby steps towards Indian virtual reality sites. Last week, Sameer logged on to GoJiyo for about three hours and intends to go back to earn more ‘Mios’.
How to survive ‘second life’...
To survive on SecondLife, you need to stuff your pockets with some Linden dollars or L$ (the site’s virtual currency). Here are some of the ways we earned our dollars:
Once you sign up, go through the tutorials and complete the tasks on the orientation island. The sign-up bonus and the money earned from completing the initial tasks should give you some Linden dollars (L$) to begin your second life.
If you understand stock market movements or have a shrewd sense while buying and selling things, SecondLife gives you a chance to mint some virtual money buying and selling L$. Just remember, buy low and sell high. Follow this mantra and you will soon make enough to buy a virtual house, yachts and private sea beaches, or even launch a company. But watch out, there are fees involved in each transaction (payable to the site owners).
Since this is a virtual world we are talking about, nothing is impossible and that’s why money can grow on trees too. As you start out on this virtual life, you are likely to land near a money tree. These trees are set up to help new people gain more L$. Why? Simple: People come to these trees and begin to hang around, and may even come back regularly. This way, the land owner makes money.
Get a job in any virtual company, shop or become an estate agent to earn your salaries in L$.
There are also many places that will pay you for favours. One such paid favour is the picks reward system (PPRS). With this system, you get paid for adding a place to your profile picks. How much and how often is totally up to the land owner.