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4/30/2007
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NBA Goes Above The Rim In Second Life

Unlike many corporate areas in the virtual world, the NBA Headquarters incorporates capabilities designed to keep fans coming back, including real-time 3-D diagrams of games as they're played.

The NBA on Tuesday plans to launch NBA Headquarters, a Second Life area with games, interactivity, and community features designed to provide basketball fans with a place to get together and get involved.

NBA's area can potentially bring Second Life basketball fans back for repeat business. That's a contrast to many of the other corporate areas in Second Life, which are sterile places where visitors might come once, but never return. NBA Headquarters, by contrast, has multiplayer games and a variety of other features designed to draw repeat visitors.

The professional basketball organization is trying to recruit fans who are already in Second Life, as well as generate new fans, NBA commissioner David Stern said. NBA Headquarters in Second Life is part of the NBA's strategic drive to embrace new media, including Yahoo, Facebook, wireless communications, and online video including YouTube.

"This is an area we find to be very exciting," Stern said. "It's causing us to rethink overall the concept of how our fans consume NBA content." Stern spoke at a live announcement in two media: Second Life, and a conference call.

NBA recruited The Electric Sheep Co., a virtual worlds consultancy, to help build NBA Headquarters. Electric Sheep looks to help real-world businesses set up areas in Second Life and other virtual worlds. It occupies a position in the virtual world economy similar to the position occupied by Web marketing companies in the first years of the Web.

The simulation has the potential to capitalize on one of the strengths of Second Life. The virtual world is really a social medium, where people from all over the world come together for chat and activities in real-time, using a 3-D interface. Popular activities in Second Life today include listening to live and recorded music and participating in discussion groups. It's a natural step for people to gather in Second Life to watch a real-time diagram of a basketball game in progress, while chatting with each other about the play and watching the game on TV in their separate, real-life living rooms.

NBA Headquarters includes a virtual basketball court, where avatars can sit and watch a real-time, 3-D diagram of NBA games:

NBA stadium in Second Life

And a shop where you can buy NBA-logo virtual merchandise for your avatar. The front of the shop is a reproduction of one in Manhattan:

NBA shop in Second Life

One feature that will appeal to Second Life users -- the chairs in the basketball arena are "scripted." Once a user sits his avatar in the chair, the user can flick his point of view from the playing field (with its real-time diagram) to the scoreboard, and back again. That's a convenience; in most places in Second Life, the user has to manually change his camera point of view by combinations of keystrokes and mouse movements.

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