At Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco last week, one of the exhibitors who caught my attention was Twinity – the virtual world from Berlin-based Metaversum. On occasion of their appearance at Web 2.0, the company issued a press release with the entertaining title, “Metaversum Takes 16 Square Miles of the German Capital to San Francisco with Twinty.” I stopped by the Twinity booth (which, interestingly, was part of a larger presence from the city of Berlin) and received a demo of Virtual Berlin from Twinity’s CMO, Mirko Caspar.
Twinity is not unlike other virtual worlds businesses – but their unique angle is in the creation of real-life representations of cities, with each block, each building, each sidewalk recreated down to a pixel by pixel level of detail. In fact, the Twinity motto is “powered by real life”. I find their approach to virtual worlds interesting:
- Real world cities – with generic virtual worlds, any given resident has only a certain likelihood of visiting the land or island you create. What Twinity does is start with world famous cities (e.g. Berlin, London [coming soon]) – places that everyone on Earth has heard of and might want to visit (virtually). Whether I’ve visited Berlin or not, I might like to visit its virtual represetation – to explore a new city (if I’ve never been there) or to recall spots from my past visit – and, see how the current city has changed from the last time I visited.
- Land scarcity – unlike a generic virtual world, where land development is only limited by the dollars invested in new land sales, Twinity’s approach is a methodical launch schedule of selected cities. This creates a certain level of demand and pricing power (in the cities that do exist) compared to a virtual land grab where hundreds of islands are developed over the course of a few months. I compare it to a baseball park that consistently sells out its 30,000 seats (at a premium) vs. a McStadium of 70,000 seats that may never sell out a game.
The Twinity business model is based on four pillars:
- Dynamic in-world advertising (via partnership with JOGO Media)
- Product placement and sponsorship – with sponsorship, one can host events, in-world, for instance
- V-commerce and E-commerce – generate sales in-world – or, generate an e-commerce transaction that occurs outside of Twinity
- Virtual real estate market
In addition, Twinity has a freemium model, where basic membership is free, with premium membershp benefits available at additional cost.
I asked Caspar about the potential for cybersquatting of land assets in Virtual Berlin – for instance, what if I purchased the virtual office of a Fortune 500 company, but they come in later to claim the rights to it? Caspar responded that certain real estate is reserved by Twinity (e.g. a national musuem, a government facility, etc.). For business-related land, however, it’s all fair game and “first come, first served” with regard to virtual land purchase.
Twinity, however, enforces certain rules in its user agreement – if Adidas purchased the virtual land of Niketown, then Adidas would not be permitted to use their logo on virtual land associated with Nike (as an example).
Twinity is currently in public beta with Virtual Berlin the first available city. Virtual London is on tap – and, Twinity was awarded a grant from the Singapore government to build a Virtual Singapore. Given Twinity’s recent visit to the Bay Area, one has to wonder whether San Francisco is up next.