Nickelodeon announced they are ramping up their online presence with the development and production of additional virtual worlds, building on the success of its existing Neopets and Nicktropolis sites.
An entire virtual world based on hit SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS will have games, avatars and a strong social network component is expected next year, as well as an original site called Monkey World, a social networking and massive multiplayer game.
There will also be increase in interactivity on its Neopets site via a new virtual world called World of Neopia. A paid tier to Nicktropolis is also expected. Nicktropolis is the overall virtual world divided into sections for each Nickelodeon show and property.
The new worlds will be developed out of Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group's Virtual World Studios (formerly titled NeoStudios, announced in July 2007), which will develop virtual destinations for kids, tweens, teens and families each year, while continuing to innovate upon the company's existing virtual worlds.
The SpongeBob, Monkey World and Neopia will also have paid tiers, although there is no word on how much they would charge.
The news is timed to the Virtual Worlds Conference this week in New York and will help Nickelodeon compete with the increasing Disney family of sites. Disney recently acquired Club Penguin (which also charges for subscriptions) and launched Toontown Online to target online-savvy children.
Steve Youngwood, executive VP of digital Media at Nickelodeon, told THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER it will be difficult to launch a new brand like Monkey World:"Now a virtual world is putting its foot out there as another viable medium, not just to extend brands but to create brands," he said.
However, if the online worlds succeed, it would position Nickelodeon as a key player in digital media, generating revenue from subscriptions and advertising.
"For our audiences, virtual worlds are the convergence of gaming, entertainment and community online, and by announcing these new worlds, we are ensuring that our content pipeline is going to remain fresh and vibrant," Youngwood said. "We are very fortunate to have a digital production studio that, like our linear animation studio in Burbank, will be dedicated to creating great new content experiences for our audiences both with our existing brands and properties and new, original ones."
Neopets alone has 45 million registered users. Nick parent company Viacom acquired the site several years ago and considers it a success.
Additionally, Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group will continue to evolve and add innovative experiences to its current virtual worlds. Over the next few months, the Nicktropolis will add new environments such as a comic book store, pirate ship themed area and another centered on the new Nickelodeon series THE MIGHTY B, from co-creators Amy Poehler (SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE), Cynthia True (THE FAIRLY ODDPARENTS) and Emmy and Annie-nominated storyboard artist and writer, Erik Wiese. A regionalized version of Nicktropolis will also launch in the U.K. in April.
In other Internet news, Paramount Digital Entertainment announced today they will extend their popular VooZoo application to MTV Networks' vMTV virtual world and Makena's There.com.
Paramount, MTV and Nickelodeon are all owned by Viacom.
This marks the first movie studio to partner with There.com and underscores Paramount Pictures' commitment to making famous scenes from its most popular movies available to users in social environments and on wireless devices.
With VooZoo, vMTV and There.com members can send each other video emoticons called "Voohoos," which are made up of video clips from Paramount Pictures' library that last from a few seconds and capture the most famous one-liners from a gamut of movies including classics like FOOTLOOSE, FLASHDANCE and BEVERLY HILLS COP to mainstream favorites including MEAN GIRLS, CLUELESS and ZOOLANDER.
Members of both worlds will be able to purchase the clips for about $1 each and use them when chatting with other members just as they would use other emoticons such as "smile", "lol" (laugh out loud), or "twist" (a dance move).
Instead of just quoting lines from pop-culture icons like Cher Horowitz (CLUELESS) or Ferris Bueller (FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF), members can actually express themselves with the actual movie clip, which plays in a small window above their head.
While There's library of literally hundreds of emotes is already one of its most popular features, the ability to incorporate the "complete" multimedia experience of these iconic moments will take it to a whole new level, arguably one of the few that can't be easily reproduced in real life.
"We are very focused on giving consumers premier choices from our catalogue of movies that goes way beyond a passive experience," states Derek Broes, senior vice president of new business development, Paramount Digital Entertainment. "VooZoo allows consumers to differentiate themselves from one another by which characters and lines they choose to express their thoughts during virtual conversations."
Over time, thousands of movie clips from Paramount Pictures' library will be made available to There.com members. All of the movie clips offered will comply with There.com's PG-13 environment. Consumers will also have the opportunity to purchase a DVD via a sell-through capability that will pop up once a video clip is selected.
In addition, MTV Networks will offer clips reflecting the best pop-culture moments from its extensive stable of hit shows. The VooZoo application is currently in private beta in There.com and will be available some time in Q2 in vMTV.
"vMTV marries the great programming of television with the unparalleled interactivity of the Internet," said Jeff Yapp, Executive Vice President of Program Enterprises for MTV Networks. "With the VooZoo application, our audience can have an even deeper level of engagement with the popular major-motion picture and television franchises they love."
"There.com is all about social interaction and self-expression. Your avatar can already dance, talk, run, jump and drive a buggy and the addition of video movie clips takes social interaction to another level," said Michael Wilson, CEO of Makena Technologies. "Rather than repeat a movie quote when talking with friends, our members can use the actual movie clip, allowing them to share their thoughts and feelings in a richer, more engaging way."
VooZoo in vMTV and There.com marks the third migration of the application onto multiple platforms since its debut on Facebook last month. Earlier this week, Paramount Mobile Entertainment, a division of Paramount Digital Entertainment, announced the launch of VooZoo Mobile, further demonstrating themselves as a studio leading the charge in the creation of digital solutions for short form content.