When MTV first launched in the 1970s, it blazed a trail of exploring the possibilities of multimedia. A channel dedicated to music videos such as Video Killed the Radio Star was such a novel idea that it immediately caught the fancy of the up-and-coming generation of its time. Now will that same foresight be beneficial for MTV now that they are exploring the realm of commercial and free virtual worlds?
MTV has been intent on staying consistent to its brand of being a hip and cool choice for teenagers and yuppies alike by exploring the potential of virtual worlds in multimedia entertainment. For the past year, MTV have been launching virtual world counterparts of their signature shows such as a Virtual Laguna Beach, a Virtual Pimp My Ride, a Virtual Newport Harbor, and a Virtual Hills. Even Mariah Carey - the iconic diva of reinvention from her time in the 80s as a sultry belter to an RnB crossover regular in the 21st century - has entered the fray by instituting the Virtual Ford Model Search. This is a virtual platform where wannabe superstars can enter.
This is an interesting possibility for the field of entertainment. With these developments even television is joining the Web 2.0 phenomenon where virtual worlds are a part of. This opens up many interesting implications for end-users. If shows can have a virtual world of their own, then its fans can try to appear in its milieu and participate in its workings. Moreover, it may spell good things for television shows because a show must be popular at first to have a virtual world of its own - prompting end-users to support a show if they truly want to add this virtual world capability.
However, on the other hand, once this business model gains even the slightest hint of success, competing companies will try to jump at each other - confusing foresight with desperation - and diluting the industry in the process. There might be instances where a recently-launched show will be given its own virtual world immediately. Without a solid fan base, such decisions can prove to be detrimental to the overall growth of the show. It can also lead to lots of money lost in bankruptcy.
So how beneficial will this interactivity be for a television network? In the case study of MTV, the thrust of course has some financial and economic roots. It endeavors to level up the advertisement exposure to simple viewing of the ad in television screens to interaction with the brand itself.
MTV has a nice head start with this marketing move because their brand has come to be associated with quality content powered by Hollywood stars. If all goes wrong, then the television network company can rely back on their original television roots. This is why it is worth watching the developments of their virtual world television programs.
Recently, they established the Virtual Lower East Side which is the closest thing that MTV has to an interactive 3D environment virtual worlds with avatars, social networking and even some online games. There is an emphasis on the social interaction side here with dance clubs and high-end (virtual dining). But as it is, viewers will be able to gauge the quality of such virtual world. Similar to the real world, virtual worlds - whether they are branded by a powerful television network such as MTV - have to serve the users well with high-quality content in order to reach sustainable development.
Right now, the verdict is out on this virtual world experiment. Will it just be a fad or will it be the future of the World Wide Web?