Starwood Hotels will launch a new hotel brand, aloft, in the massively multiplayer virtual world of Second Life over a year before the actual hotel opens its doors. The in-game implementation, called "aloft island," will be based on early designs and floor plans and will serve as a 3D dress rehearsal for the actual hotel.
Marketing services firm ElectricArtists led the in-game effort for the client, and has set up a Weblog to provide insight into its development at virtualaloft.com. The blog will focus on the specifics of creating a Second Life property as well as give interested parties a peek into the process.
"Knowing that there are a lot of people who are interested in SL and specifically how brands are approaching SL, we decided to 'open the curtains' and let people see the process that a brand goes through in building a property inside of a virtual world," said ElectricArtists CEO Marc Schiller, in an e-mail statement.
Starwood Hotels, the group behind the popular W hotel chain, will introduce aloft in 2008, yet Second Life avatars will be able to sample the hotel online starting in September of this year.
Second Life users manifest as hyper-personalized avatars in a 3D virtual world and have the ability to purchase and personalize real estate with "Linden Dollars," the official currency of game space. Second Life creations, which range from utopian dream homes to dragon-like avatars, can be bought and sold on the Second Life market since each user owns the IP Rights to his/her creations.
Starwood is not the first brand to play in Second Life. Almost a year ago, Wells Fargo built a branded role-playing game within the massively multiplayer universe.
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Zhenya Gene Senyak of www.senyak.com is a bipolar writer/marcom pro based in a formerly lazy California chicken farming river town. A ClickZ writer, he's also the author of Prentice-Hall's "Inside Public Relations" and Public Relations Journal articles on cognitive dissonance and fear appeals, and is a contributor to Business 2.0, OMNI, Home Office Computing, Publish, and other onlineand offline media.
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