February 5, 2007
AOL Pointe Getting Strong Reviews in Second Life

The number of brands extending into Second Life in one form or another continues, with AOL launching its major foray into the virtual world.

AOL's site within Second Life, an island "for fun engagement and interaction around AOL content," features movie trivia, interactive competition areas for Second Life avatars to play lone games or in groups to win Linden dollars, and even skateboarding, according to the beta for the site.

AOL Pointe launched as a beta in late January and then launched as a full site at the beginning of February.

Reports from Tateru Nino on Wagner James Au's New World Notes site, providing first-hand coverage of Second Life, covers the beta test run at the time of AOL Pointe's launch.

For Tataru, the the AOL Pointe island gets a strong review. Tataru writes, "I was expecting a big business branding-exercise that would leave me with a bit of a foul taste in my mouth, and in that respect I was a bit disappointed-- within a few minutes I was entertained and engaged. There's no mistaking that it's AOL, but this doesn't seem to be basic push-marketing or marketing at all, in the conventional sense. Could this be someone 'getting it?'"

Tataru hypes the site as a theme park, feeling that it's providing for a niche that is missing in Second Life with that themed atmosphere and a wide variety of theaters and other public screens for media content to play on-demand in the virtual world, as well as traditional linear channels playing within AOL Pointe.

Because Tataru blogs on a site owned by AOL's Weblogs, there is a disclosure acknowledging that link, but it's not exactly a universally complementary piece. Rather, Tataru criticizes AOL for often being a follower instead of an innovator but finds AOL Pointe an indication that trend could be reversing.

According to AOL's page about AOL Pointe, there is a lounge called Club AOL, a place called "The Main Screen" to watch Behind the Scenes clips from Hollywood as well as movie trailers, and a blog board, where avatars can post up notes. This is one of about 20 aspects of AOL Pointe described, and the site features a full calendar of events from inside the virtual world.

Looks like tomorrow night (Tuesday) will be "Scooplex Gossip Night," with "gummy bears you can throw at the screen" and the latest gossip. And it looks like I've already missed learning how to skateboard at the centrifuge today...

Here's an interesting image of the geography of AOL Pointe.

And Taran Rampersad at KnowProSE provides a review that sounds more like one of those NYC social scene parties from yesteryear:

The place was packed; it was a who's who of SecondLife - names mentioned so many times in SecondLife that it would seem ludicrous to go through them here again. The place was definitely hopping, the dancing was a tornado with an... AOL RunningMan at the center. Very cool avatar - relatively simple to make and yet quite effective as a 3 dimensional walking and talking (and dancing) representative of AOL. I think of everything, that is the thing which will stand out most in my mind. Excellent branding, and a very likeable fellow - engaging, interesting and interested. Good Public Relations.

Taran also includes a lot of screen shots as well.

Our partner GSD&M have their own island in Second Life, a virtual version of their concept of Idea City. I wrote:

The company has created a virtual Idea City as well, which is their entry into Second Life. There are even rooms within Idea City for corporate meetings. In fact, C3ers have even been known to meet with folks from GSD&M in Second Life in lieu of having a phone conversation from time to time.

In addition to meeting space for virtual corporate discussions, there is also room for leisure activities. The article highlights in particular a basketball court for avatars to play on, as well as featured logos from various GSD&M clients. Future plans, according to a quote from Joel Greenberg in the story, are to have streaming videos of clients' ads run in the Second Life version of Idea City as well.

We first wrote about the extension of brands into Second Life with Reuters opening up a bureau back in October. At the time, I wrote:

Reuter's CEO says that, this "shows Reuters has a certain with-it-ness." While that statement may put its cool factor in jeopardy, his point isn't completely off-base, and it's an interesting experiment to retain the validity of a traditional trusted news source. It will be interesting to see what type of content Reuters' online bureau focuses on and whether it develops a reputation as being a serious source of news within Second Life or simply a fun extension--the questions will be what this virtual bureau means for quality journalism and what it means for the brand of a traditional journalism source.

I also wrote about the launch of a music video channel for the UK-based Ninja Tune record label back in December.



Actually, it did strike me as a NYC social scenes parties - which is really funny, because I'd never been to one of consequence. As I mentioned, I went off exploring instead, because it is in my nature to do so.

What I was trying to get at is that at this time, AOL Pointe is open ended - as well as it should be, I think. The sim doesn't try to define itself - it sprawls out and does interesting things. Because of that it gathers interesting people. That is how the sim seems to define itself - by the visitors. And I think that the AOL Pointe Team would think that a compliment.

Will I go back to the sim? Yes. Why? Interesting sims gather interesting people.


I haven't been to any NYC social scene parties, either, so maybe it was just my jealousy coming through! Of course, I can make it in to AOL Pointe, since it isn't limited by geography nor capital.

We do have some swinging parties here at MIT sometimes, though...

But I think you are exactly right, in that a world like AOL Pointe means nothing without the users in it. That can be said of Second Life in general, can't it?


This reminds me so much of AOL's own 'walled garden' areas from the mid-90s. They used to have this one special section of AOL at Keyword: Insomnia that was a sort of virtual coffeehouse or club that would literally only open at night. I got such a kick out of that when I was a high school kid stuck in the middle of rural Ohio with nowhere to go but online.

Kids these days have it so easy. ;-)


I remember finding some of these havens as well. When I was an eighth grader and first got access to AOL, I spent my time in the writing club section of AOL. It seemed like such a brave new world, and between the people there and those on the message boards at WWE's AOL site, I thought I was part of a new social scene just like this. Looking back, it was probably more like a Waffle House than high NYC society, but new technologies give us rose-colored glasses, I guess.