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A Virtual World... Will Consumers Go

Boot Camp feature for Monday, October 27, 2003

Will consumers be conquered by a new virtual world? Bloomberg Boot Camp, a report on today's technology. After years of development and months of testing... There Inc now hopes to make money from a three dimensional online universe. Users create avatars and interact with each other... and buy merchandise using Therebucks. Chief marketing officer Andrew Donkin says the currency is one of the ways the venture hopes to make money...

"And Therebucks work just like the real world. You can actually go in and buy Therebucks, the in-world currency, and use that currency to buy items in-world. So what we found in beta, is people have spent on average, about seven dollars a month buying Therebucks to buy in-world goods. The other revenue stream comes from a member subscription model. So I pay a one time fee of 19.95, if I buy it by the month, plus 4.95 a month, and I get an allowance of Therebucks when I buy that plan."

Members can create their own businesses..like virtual car dealerships to generate Therebucks. And there are sponsors... including Levi's and Nike. There is sort of a cross between a game and a chat room...

"You can create your own body shape, you can create your own look with your own clothes, with your own hair color, so it feels really real. And in There, there are a bunch of games you can participate in and actually allow you to meet other people."

The company hopes virtual romances will keep subscribers coming back. Avatars, are limited, by the way to virtual kissing. Bloomberg Boot Camp, I'm Fred Fishkin.