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Virtual worlds seem to have run their course in the startup world. But that doesn’t mean new entrepreneurs can’t launch something new all over again.
3Dchat is launching a brand new virtual world today that combines a 3D game environment and social network for adults. This business plan may seem like something out of 1995, but 3Dchat is an ambitious effort with a lot of work behind it and pretty good graphics. It seems to be targeting two kinds of folks: sex-crazed guys who want to ogle virtual women, and sex-crazed guys who want to have virtual sex with virtual women — and don’t mind paying for membership.
As of today, you can download the game client, create a personalized avatar and explore the world. Glenn Garritano, founder and chief executive of 3Dchat, says that his company will be the one to create an immersive 3D virtual world where users can dive into a social scene. The goal is to make something that is more targeted than hodge-podge worlds such as Linden Lab’s Second Life, which is one of few big virtual world survivors.
Garritano says the company is distinguishing itself by segmenting its audience very carefully. In other virtual worlds, you never really know who the person is behind a sexy female avatar. But with 3Dchat, Garritano says the company has come up with a proprietary identity verification service.
“Sixty percent of the women characters in virtual worlds are played by men or boys,” Garritano said. “We are targeting people over the age of 18 because we want consumers to make purchases.”
It ensures that the people you meet in the PC-based online world are verified adults. It makes use of partners such as Aristotle and others, which have also made strides in age verification technologies. Once verified, you can make use of game content that is not available to those who aren’t verified.
The company can thus create an opt-in world full of adult themes. There is, for instance, a Sexland option that you can choose where you can do anything from have sex to dance in a strip club. The more tame activities include drinking at a local pub, dancing with hot singles in a nightclub, going on virtual dates or chatting with like-minded adults. You start with your own penthouse where you can furnish your home with art or decorations. You can customize your character to the nth degree, fine-tuning your look to match your real-life appearance or an alter ego.
“As a 3D dating service, we will raise the bar for other sites,” Garritano said. “Not only can you view someone’s static profile, you can go on virtual dates with them.”
Some of the trappings are similar to Sony’s Home, the virtual world for PlayStation 3 owners. You can, for instance, go into a movie theater and watch films along with other friends. You can insert your own YouTube videos, streaming music, and pictures into the world; you can, for instance, open your own art gallery and sell real stuff. In contrast to Home, you can actually have your avatar hold hands with another’s.
“Our world is a lot more engaging,” Garritano said.
3Dchat, based in Mount Pleasant, S.C., is the brainchild of Garritano, an entrepreneur who started a video store chain but got out of it as Blockbuster Video emerged. He then got involved in the virtual reality craze of the 1990s. The company has been dreaming up the world since 2008 and has 30 employees. It is funded by undisclosed angel investors.
In a demo, Garritano showed off a full-fledged “gentlemen’s club” with multiple stages and stripper poles. He said the company is in negotiations with a real strip club chain to put its branding on the club. You can only get into this area if your age is verified and you’ve purchased some kind of premium subscription.
3DChat is being developed under contract with Golem Labs, a game developer based in Montreal. Golem Labs was founded in 2000 and launched a moderately successful series of games called Super Power and Super Power 2. Golem Labs used Emergent’s Gamebryo engine to create high-end graphics for the world and characters. The imagery has fluid avatar animations and dynamic lighting and shadows — though it falls short of the very best imagery in video games.
You can maneuver through the world using a 3D map. The world is infused with activities; you can read a book to level up your character, learn soccer and get new moves (there are 35 of them) on the dance floor. You can generate income and spend it on cruises or furniture.
The developers will soon add a virtual currency and purchasing system to allow players to buy both real and virtual goods while inside the world. Users can buy things for themselves or provide gifts to users. If you like something another avatar is wearing, you can right click on it and buy it. The world will have special events; on Halloween, for instance, you’ll have to join everyone else in killing a bunch of zombies.