Zwinktopia stomps into Tweenish Virtual Worlds

The timing couldn’t be much better for InterActiveCorp to launch Zwinktopia, a new virtual world for young teens. Other virtual worlds, such as Gaia, Habbo Hotel, Cyworld, Neopets, Club Penguin, Webkinz and others, are exploding in terms of unique monthly visitors and total time spent at the sites.Until today, IAC’s Zwinky was a site to make customized avatars, choosing from 10,000 different outfits, accesories and other items, and embed them onto other websites such as MySpace. Users could also become friends with other users and enage in basic social networking activities. See Stardoll as well in this space.

Most of the functionality at Zwinky is accessed via a non-mandatory browser toolbar that users install. Zwinky says that they have 20 million active toolbars that were used in March 2007. Part of Zwinky’s business model is to collect search advertising revenues from toolbar usage.

Today Zwinky will add a virtual world to the site called Zwinktopia – users can use their avatars to roam around the world, chat with other users and engage in activities to earn Zbucks, the virtual currency of Zwinktopia. Zbucks can be used to buy virtual clothing and other goods.

Thanks Joi Podgorny, for the heads up 😉

IAC Launches Zwinktopia At Peak of Virtual World Hype

If you’ve ever played on Neopets before– you know it’s a hugely popular, extremely expansive world that is able to sell plushies & toys IRL (not too many virtual brands can rock that).

Zwinktopia is going to BLOW THAT OUT OF THE WATER for the older tater tots. Check out the article, it’s worth the read!!

I’m looking forward to see how they handle safety & community elements. Fingers crossed that they rock it.  It’s a shame that it’s so tween-aesthetic.  There’s something in the design that could appeal to the U13.  “Want what you can’t have” online  tone (tweenish design, tweenish concept, but without allowing the tweenish set?) is just begging for tweenish problems.  Same thing  with Gaia (as uber-god Anastasia at ypulse pointed out).  What’s up with the target audience?

Which leads me to my youtube moment of the day (or of the weekend).  Friday there was a VERY informative 10 year old boy in the office.  He was rockin’ (rocking as a verb is apparently my word of the day) the Club Penguin (says he’s a member and even his little sister who is 6 plays).  One minute he’s giving me a tour of the CP, and the next he’s surfed right into youtube to show me some video he and his friends always talk about.  He has an account and subscribes to some of those youtube channels.  It seemed SO ODD to me that this kid was in a VIRTUAL LOCK BOX COMMUNITY, like Club Penguin, where his parents even shelled out money to keep him safe– and the next minute he was shamelessly showing me Comedy Central-esque programming on the sketchville that is youtube.  It was such an easy transition for him… he might as have just pointed to his shoes and said “check these out.”

I’m not so naive as to believe that kids don’t do this everyday, every minute, etc.  I was just momentarily shocked by this lock-box kid whose parents are uber-concerned with his safety mindlessly leaping into non U13 content.  It was Friday, today is Monday, apparently I’m on the slow track these days. Lol.  Anyway, thought I would share. I’m nice like that.

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