[MUD-Dev] re: there.com

Jessica Mulligan jessica at mm3d.com
Fri Jan 10 07:43:45 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

At 12:05 AM 1/10/2003 -0800, "Marc Fielding" <fielding at computer.org> wrote:
>[ susan wu ]

>> I was curious as to what people on this list think about their
>> product/service/business model.  They plan on charging for
>> customer subscriptions, and also charging for virtual-objects
>> created by third party vendors (levis, nike) and the community
>> denizens themselves.

> Their business model seems quite similar to Project Entropia's
> (www.project-entropia.com) which received quite a panning in this
> list not too long ago. They even have the same "currency-exchange"
> feature that's bound to get them some unwanted federal
> attention. ;)

We'll see.  They seem to be cutting some of the right deals with
vendors and sponsors, but I have my doubts the business is truly
viable yet.  One thing we've noticed in the commercial side of the
industry, going back to the old CiS and GEnie days, is that people
in virtual spaces hate feeling like they are being nickle and dimed
to get ahead.  There is a very great potential for that here,
especially since they want the more casual and mass-market chatters
and socializers, not the hard-core gamers.  Those folks are
notoriously tight-fisted.

Apparently, There.com has been in development since 1998.  As late
as three days ago, their Jobs section still had notices up for a
Community Manager and a Director of Customer Service, which I
consider *the* two critical components for a product such as There,
which is aiming at a very demanding audience of less-sophisticated
computer-users.  Had it been me, I'd have had both positions funded
from the very start.  If (and I do mean 'if') this represents the
same attitude I've seen at many other publishers concerning CS and
player relations, then it is deemed not nearly as important to the
effort as development and technology.

This would be a mistake.  It is one thing to have all the 'royals'
in place early, especially if you need them to acquire equity
funding (they have 12 executives listed on The Team, for example,
not counting the Principal Investor)); you also need experienced
people who have actually been in the trenches, got their hands
dirty, interacted with customers on a daily basis and know what
works in reality and what doesn't.  When building a commercial
offering, not having an experienced 'trench' representative from CS,
community relations and/or player relations on board during the
design phase is gonna come back to bite you every time.

And considering the relatively slow sales for TSO, one has to wonder
if it is time for a product like There...


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