Most real-life companies with Second Life operations have created sterile places where visitors come once and never return. NBA Headquarters, by contrast, has a variety of features designed to draw people back.
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Real fun in a virtual world
NBA Headquarters also has a shop that replicates the NBA's Manhattan storefront and sells logoed virtual merchandise for avatars. A downloadable toolbar provides a real-time feed of NBA news and lets users' avatars play games against each other, including the playground game H.O.R.S.E. and another in which avatars attempt to dunk the ball. There are four video lounges where fans can watch past playoffs and highlights of past games. And users can get their pictures taken with the NBA championship trophy.
NBA Headquarters is part of the professional basketball organization's drive to embrace new media, including Yahoo, Facebook, wireless communications, and online video. "This is an area we find to be very exciting," says NBA commissioner David Stern. "It's causing us to rethink the concept of how our fans consume NBA content."
WILL THEY RETURN?
The NBA, which worked with the Electric Sheep Co., a virtual worlds consultancy, to build NBA Headquarters, was attracted to Second Life in part because of its large user base, Stern says. That figure was hovering around the 6 million mark last week, though the number of active accounts is much smaller than that, possibly 10% of the total, according to Linden Lab estimates.
And the real question for the NBA is now that it's built this virtual play area, how many of these Second Lifers will actually come--and, once they do, will they return?