Monday, February 18, 2008

Pirates Online - a new interactive social network

The power of the big entertainment networks to push cross platform appeal of new content. While niche internet networks are fun to watch, one wonders if they can ever reach enough views to effectively monetize. Sites like Funny or Die may boast Will Ferrell, but is it enough for people to remember to bookmark it and check back frequently for new shorts. Out of site, out of mind.

On the other hand, big companies like DIsney can push new web sites and upcoming programming. This morning, while my kids were watching Disney, a promotion came up for a new social web site based on Pirates of the Caribbean. First a ride, then a movie, then a sequel, then a DVD and a gameboy game, and now a social network. And while it is being pitched as free, the user gets the offer to upgrade to a paid subscription in order to avoid seeing ads. Either way, Disney has found another way to make money off the brand. My son begged me to sign up and spent the hour exploring Jack Sparrow's world. Luckily I felt that the social networking elements were limited and certainly of much less interest to my 8 year old son. He likes the virtual sword fighting and exploration of the town. The site offers a week of ad free play so I will have to report back how the ads effect the game or the depth of the content. For now, we'll stay with the free play.

Playing in a virtual world based on a movie experience, seems far more interesting than a second life that tries to mimic real life. If users are going to play in a virtual world, the more fantastic the better. And Disney's ability to promote and build excitement by being everywhere - on TV, on the web, in the movies - and to promote easily across multiple platforms. It is the challenge the niche networks, the small fish, will contend with, how to get noticed when the big fish have so many resources at their fingertips.