"OurWorld:" A virtual world for teens
April 7, 2008
At the age of 50,
FlowPlay Chief Executive Derrick Morton admits that he's
the "old man" of his 2-year-old Seattle startup.
After all, when you are attempting to build the next big online entertainment property for teenagers, staffing tends to skew a little young.
But Morton, a veteran of the online games business who previously founded RealNetworks mobile games group, believes he can use some of his past experience to create one of the most compelling virtual world experiences for kids between the ages of 11 and 15. As he sees it, that market represents an untapped opportunity -- too old for the hit destinations such as Club Penguin and Webkinz and too young for Second Life or World of Warcraft.
With the official launch today of "OurWorld," Morton is hoping to fill that gap.
It is doing that with a Flash-based Web site where players choose an avatar and then play casual games in order to win "Flow" or online currency that can be redeemed for virtual clothes, accessories, special dance moves and more. About 60 games are available at launch, with players able to navigate through 50 different levels.
(Morton estimates that it would take eight months at 20 hours a day to complete the game.)
In addition to playing games, kids can interact with one another in separate districts, popping into the Buzz Cafe for virtual coffee, entering Threads clothing store to purchase a new outfit or visiting Starlight night club to do some dancing. Friends also can gather in a virtual theater where they can watch pre-selected YouTube videos together. On average, he said some of the early "Our World" users are spending 30 minutes per session on the site.
Backed with $3.7 million from Intel Capital and Ambient Sound Investments, FlowPlay is free to join. But, like other virtual worlds, it plans to make money by charging $5.99 per month once players reach level 10. At that point, game players can obtain premium clothing, a condo and -- some time in the near future -- a virtual pet.
The company also is just starting to initiate discussions with real world consumer product companies who might be interested in having their products marketed in the virtual world.
In order to break even, Morton said the site needs to attract about 50,000 players, a goal that he thinks is easily obtainable this year.
Possible competitors include Habbo Hotel, Zwinky and Gaia Online. VentureBeat also recently reported on ZooKazoo, which is targeting kids between the ages of 6 to 12 with a new virtual world. Like FlowPlay, ZooKazoo charges about $6 per month and offers kids the chance to win a virtual currency by playing games.