No Brainer: Build-a-Bear VW; But are Toy Worlds Great?
Build-a-Bear Workshop Prepping Another Toy-Based World
Filed in the too-many-to-count category of new toy-based kid’s worlds, Build-a-Bear Workshop is working on Build-a-Bearville for customers to play by themselves or use a code from the bear’s birth certificate to play online. The world is still under development and available for pre-registration now, but the key codes are only applicable to bears bought/built after October 2007, so this is definitely a world in progress. According to the FAQ, it will be available for play “this winter.”
There are no membership fees, but it seems to work on a premium model similar to BarbieGirls.com. Children can interact with the world, but they only receive a Cub Condo® if they’ve logged on with their purchased toys
The world will incorporate Bear Bills as the virtual currency, which can be earned by playing games and going on adventures and then used to buy outfits and condo decorations. Users can also trade with each other for both items and bills, adding more of an economy than some other children’s worlds.
Also, the trailer, FAQ, and website always refer to the bears as–in a possibly poorly chosen label for children’s virtual worlds– “furry friends.” Expect Gawker to have a field day when they find out about this one.
Sigh. Me too. Me too. Me too. Oh bless those “me too’s.”
Competition grows tight for the pet-based/animal virtual worlds. It’s almost crazy how many single brand virtual worlds based on pet care play. At least this one is based around the stuffed animal set… where you are encouraged to play as much dress up with your stuffy IRL as Virtual.
Virtual Worlds for the toy/product arena are becoming almost standard. Extension of play patterns, sure. But MAN. They’re going to all null themselves out sooner or later. I’m almost over it myself and I LOVE virtual worlds.
I guess overall– it’s easier for a parent’s conscious to BUY a physical toy, knowing it would act as a ticket to those “CRAZY, NEW FANGLED ONLINE THEME PARKS” then say– offer up a credit card number, etc. There’s something comforting in buying a sweet lil stuffy bear. Would a stuffy take advantage of you? Heck no! Memories and child-like security wrapped in a marketing project.
It’s all well and nice, but I’m still on the “credit card” angle if I REALLY wanted safety for my child. It’s hard to hold a stuffed animal accountable for the safety & ongoings of virtual actions. At least you know there’s an adult involved when offering up credit card information. It feels more like a day care business and less like that sweet wrinkled old lady babysitter who dabbles in babysitting.
It’s almost where I want to ask: “What are you? A toy product company? Or a social community for children?” …just try answering “both” because I’ll shoot back with the question “where do your loyalties lie at the end of the day: with the product or with the community?” Because sooner or later, one has got to give.
Perhaps it’s the bitter side of me speaking, having dealt a bit with that ever thriving marketing machine that changes fun, organic concepts into more marketable, less unique assets. Ah-ha. The creative side of me pipes in today, and less of the business side. I guess that’s MY choice at the end of the day. Can’t always be both. I will always, ALWAYS side with the creative/emotional side: the one that supports the kids and the community. And that’s that.
I’m on a thinking roll here… so, places like Webkinz… kids don’t even really need to notify the parent. Sure the place is locked down safe, awesome! But both places are for the younger set of tweens… almost the pre-tweens (ooo, i smell new buzz word brewin! Perhaps Twids?). And it’s awesome they’re so safe and sound. But really- if a kid uses the cashola they receive from chores, and buy themselves a fuzzy ticket into the virtual space (albeit safe)… where’s the parent? I grumble quite often about parent involvement & kid empowerment (kid’s ability to have responsibility) quite often, and sometimes almost seem to be walking that line of contradiction. But really… I am ALL ABOUT kids having a certain amount of freedom to stretch and explore in a playground (created with safe boundaries, etc). But I am also about the parent at least having some sort of CLUE about the kid’s webwanderings, yeah? The credit card opt in for virtual worlds automatically MAKES the parent pay attention to the child’s interactions. The stuffy? Not so much. Aside from initial opening of the wallet at say… Toys’R’Us or wherever, parents are kindly removed from the child’s interactions of the world. I’m not saying there needs to be hand holding, but shouldn’t there be some sort of flag-o-awareness? That’s kind of removed from the whole product meets virtual world.
This mental roll of mine has nothing really to do with rules or laws or COPPA legislation as much as the constant awareness that parents (en masse, mind you, I know there are rockstar P’s out there, doing the right thing) are poked into paying attention to their U13 child online. There is a lack of information & education… it’s bubbling below the surface by people like me that ramble on such subjects often… but really, I’ll lay off when I stop hearing parents talking about their 11 year old hanging out in youtube or gaia. Gaia is great– but it’s NOT for U13.
Once the U13 web-understandings become a bit more common place, etc, I’ll hush up a bit more, and let the kids rock it out.
Anyway… I’m getting carried away. Did I nudge a roll of your own? Feel free to ramble with me. More the merrier.
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