Friday, January 4, 2008

Pontiac Is Closing Up Shop In SL

The SLNN and the SL Herald are reporting that Pontiac is leaving SL and closing it's sim. Like I was saying the other day about the cement plant, companies are going to be coming and going until they figure out what SL is for, just like they had to find out what the Internet was for a decade ago. The article makes a couple of interesting points:

Motorati was one of the few corporate builds that seemed to get SL right -- offering not a ghost island, but regular events and races and offering free land for people who were making contributions to Second Life car culture.
Sad but probably true. Until corporations stop thinking of SL as an advertising billboard and start actually building something of lasting value the metaverse is is going to be in Neutral and the gauges are going to read Fail.

[Updated since I accidentally hit the 'publish' button instead of the 'save'.]
What do you want in a corporate sim? What do you want in a corporate website? Well, if I ever thought of buying a Pontiac car, I might go to the Pontiac website to learn more about their cars, their company, and their service plans, all of which can be presented very nicely in a website. What can't I find on their website that can be provided in SL? Live help and advice? A 3D view of what their car's look like (although really good photos would possibly be just as good).

I don't know anything about car culture really, so this is all conjecture, but one thing that SL can provide is live interaction - and I don't mean by driving the cars. Perhaps they could have live help, but that could be provided by phone or taking your car to the service station. Perhaps they could provide a 'build options' thingie where you could put together your own car and see what all of the options/colors/etc look like. (Although a flash based picture on a website is still pretty good.) Most of these things can easily be done on a website or over phone as well.

The real advantage SL may have is in providing a place for a Pontiac community, where people who like and drive Pontiac cars can go to be steeped in all things Pontiac. Club meetings, shows, and public question and answer sessions with Pontiac engineers and experts are all possibilities. Anything where a group would like to interact. To build that community, they'd need Pontiac info, cars, events, etc. it sounds pretty much like what they had - although I don't think I was ever there and can't tell from personal experience.

A website can provide information readily, but it can't provide good, live interaction, especially with a group. Pontiac could have used their sim as a public face for the company to communicate with their customers. Not as advertising, but as public relations. For example, if Apple wanted to build a sim, they could put all sorts of nice displays and give away free objects modeled after their computers. But that would only be the surface, the real value would be in providing a Genius bar, learning sessions, Mac group meetings, and, basically, a place for Mac-heads to hang out and be Mac geeks together and talk all about Macs. Also, public announcements that don't warrant a full stage show like MacWorld or that you want to interact with people who can't make it to a big stage show like MacWorld.

SL is good at group interaction at a level of the proletariat, not at the level of reporters and insiders.

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