BigPond enters “Second Life” virtual world

I was sent a press release to announce that Australia’s major internet company BigPond now has a presence in Second Life. Some of my friends in Second Life have been working on this for a whole now and I know its been a major job developing the islands to create an “Australian” flavour. Here is the press release:

BigPond enters “Second Life” virtual world

BigPond today launched Australia’s first major corporate presence in the online virtual world, Second Life, with the unveiling of ‘The Pond’.

The Pond features islands with uniquely Australian themes and recreations of iconic Australian landmarks such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, the Outback and Uluru.

On the islands, ‘avatars’, the 3D virtual characters that people create to represent themselves in Second Life, can enjoy a range of activities including car racing, scuba diving and ice skating.

At The Pond, avatars can socialise, join communities with shared interests, go shopping together at The Dome Shopping Mall, and even go dancing at the Illusion Club. They can take a boat trip or relax and have a drink in the Outback Billabong Bar.

The 3D nature of Second Life enables full participation – so avatars won’t just look at the Sydney Harbour Bridge, they’ll climb it.

BigPond Group Managing Director, Justin Milne said: “BigPond is an innovator in online entertainment and The Pond is our latest online ‘first’.

“The Pond will showcase our range of online entertainment in a unique way that will encourage users to become involved. For example, they can get into a car and experience the thrill of virtual car racing.

“We’ve already seen how rapidly user-generated content has gained popularity online, in particular through our interactive BigBlogs and Australia’s biggest online games community, BigPond Game Arena.

“Now we’re taking a glimpse of what the internet of the future could be like – driven by user-determined experience.

“We’ll also offer uniquely Australian experiences like flying to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge or swimming and scuba diving in a coral reef. And you won’t have to wait until New Years Eve to see fireworks off the bridge as they’ll be going off every night!

“BigPond Members can join VIP clubs where they’ll gain access to special in-world events and enjoy special benefits.

“If they find something they like, they’ll be able to click through to the BigPond website to purchase, or they can visit the in-world BigPond shop.

“Second Life is a very compelling package offering entertainment, creative collaboration and business possibilities.

“There’s so much going on in Second Life, both at The Pond and in the wider virtual world – it’s entertainment, a way of interacting socially, even a medium for corporations to set up meetings. Excitingly the direction it takes will be determined by the public,” added Mr Milne.

I went to visit the BigPond sims tonight with a friend and had to laugh at one guy wearing a huge sign on his head saying “Big PonG” and some other protestors making snippy comments about the cost of internet in Australia (and just to put the costs into perspective, I currently pay AUD$130 a month so that I can have the speed and download capacity to run Second Life – my US friends tell me they pay a whole lot less).

I was also dismayed to find out I could not cross over into the Uluru sim for a closer look, but I was informed that, just like in reality, it would be considered disrespectful to the Indigenous Australians to clamber all over their sacred site.  Apparently there were quite a few discussions between Indigenous leaders and the BigPond developers about this replication of Uluru.  It took me by surprise a bit – but then I know that there are quite strict rules about taking or showing any photographs or videos of Indigenous Australians so I guess this is considered another form of media to be met with the same restrictions.

Anyway, congratulations to BigPond!

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