Google’s Lively Is a Different Beast

Second Life is either peaking or busy crossing the chasm, depending on who you believe. IMVU stealthed its way to tons of users. Club Penguin found its windfall by figuring out how to reach children safely. Blizzard had revenues of $1.1 billion last year. Qwaq makes private virtual worlds for the enterprise. And there are dozens more. Do we really need another?

Then along comes Lively. At first blush, as James points out, it’s a me-too play. But Google’s other projects may mean it can do things other virtual worlds can’t.

First, of course, there’s advertising. Google can sell wall space. All those walls are good real estate for interstitial video ads. And social ads are better: Recommendations in your friends’ rooms cut through the advertising clutter, which makes Lively a good vehicle for social advertising without inviting the Beacon Creepy Stalker Guy along for the ride.

Second, Google has payment. Not only for buying in-game things, but for purchasing the physical equivalent (through Googlebase, paid with Checkout.)

But Google Earth (acquired from Keyhole) and SketchUp (an incredibly easy-to-use modeling tool bought in 2006 and subsequently released for free) are far more interesting. Google already has millions of structures, both those it built itself and those its community built. They’re mapped to a planet with coordinates and roads. Put the two together and Google’s in the real estate business:

“Mr. Trump, the folks from Google are here.”

“Fine, send them in.”

“Hi, Donald. Would you like to buy Trump Tower?”

“What? I own Trump tower!”

“We meant the Lively/Google Earth version.”

“Get the hell out of my office! You’re fired!”

“OK, then, crack dens and whorehouses it is…”

“Wait a second…”

If you’re in advertising, it’s all about location. Anyone want virtual Madison Avenue?