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 area also features a downloadable toolbar (in Second Life jargon, those are called HUDs, for "heads-up displays") to provide a realtime feed of NBA news and control a couple of in-world games, which allow avatars to play basketball against each other. The games include the playground basketball game H.O.R.S.E., where players take turns shooting baskets, as well as another in which avatars attempt to dunk the ball.
The area also includes four video lounges where fans can watch past playoffs and highlights of past games.
And users can get their pictures taken with the championship trophy. That's my avatar, Ziggy Figaro:
When posing with the trophy, the point-of-view automatically moves into position, and the user has a choice of several goofy poses.
During the press conference, Stern said the NBA was attracted to Second Life in part because of its massive user base, which Stern said was 6 million users. Actually, that's not quite true. As of Monday at 3 p.m. Pacific time, Second Life was indeed on the verge of rolling the odometer over to 6 million accounts created since the virtual world open for business four years ago -- 5,968,396 accounts, to be precise.
However, the number of actual users of Second Life is much smaller. Linden Lab itself estimates the user retention rate at about 10% -- which would be almost 600,000 active accounts. And dedicated users will often create more than one account (the secondary accounts, in Second Life jargon, are called "alts.")
Still, Second Life does have an impressive growth rate, 20% per month, and 40% of the users are women, Stern noted. Second Life will be part of the NBA's effort to diversify its fan base, which also includes programs to recruit Hispanics and women as fans.
The NBA and Electric Sheep declined to comment on financial details for the area, except to say that it is supported by advertising from partners including T-Mobile, Toyota, and Cisco Systems. Different parts of NBA Headquarters bear prominent corporate sponsorship, for example: The T-Mobile Arena and T-Mobile Half Court Shot Contest.
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