If you can’t get enough rock and roll in your life, you might want to go live in Rocktropia. That’s the new virtual world for rock music lovers that is debuting today. It’s a world where you dress up like a rock star, immerse yourself in rock lore, explore a rock-inspired landscape, and go listen to live events.
Building a virtual world in the age of social networks such as Facebook may seem antiquated. But Jon Jacobs, creator of Rocktropia, believes that virtual worlds will become popular again once the Facebook crowd moves on to something new.
“I think that high-end 3D virtual environments will be the next step,” said Jacobs. “Our platform has all of the features of a social network. It has immersive storytelling, and is an entertaining game.”
Not only is Rocktropia a place for rock stars to hang out with their fans. Jacobs sees Rocktropia as a haven and next-generation business opportunity for rock artists. The music industry has taken severe hits with the decline of the CD sales.
“Music artists, whether they are big or small, have to find ways to monetize their content as the music industry is changing,” Jacobs said. “Ten years ago, they realized they needed a web presence. They created web sites, joined MySpace, and launched on the social networks. But it is hard for them to monetize those things. Here, we have created a destination with a real cash economy built right into it.”
Jacobs has been prescient before. He created a song, “Gamer Chick,” that became popular in the Entropia virtual world. Then he became even more famous in 2005 when he bought a giant asteroid in the Entropia virtual world for $100,000 in cash. He actually mortgaged his home to do that, and people thought he was crazy to invest in virtual real estate.
But it worked out. Jacobs collected a tax on economic activity on his asteroid, which he turned into a virtual nightclub and christened Club Neverdie. Within eight months, he recouped his investment. And by 2008, he was generating $250,000 a year in revenue. To date, he has made $1 million.
This time, Jacobs has created Rocktropia as a kind of theme park for rock fans. He is doing so with support from rock artists such as Motorhead‘s lead singer Lemmy and singer songwriter, Kevin Rudolph. In the world, you can play it as any other online game. You can go on quests that earn you points so that you can get some of the best apartments. You can congregate in a concert area to listen to live music. And you can listen to music from budding artists on internet radio.
The area created around Lemmy and Rudolph will be a continent unto itself with areas such as the VampireFreaks Cathedral and Motorhead Stadium. The cathedral is the hangout for members of VampireFreaks.com, a social network which has more than 3 million members who are fans of industrial goth vampires. At Lemmy’s Castle, you can win guitar axes by conquering the castle’s guardians. In Rudolph’s area, you can battle zombies in ZOMhattan and win diamond-encrusted shotguns.
“It’s a wonderful idea really,” said Lemmy of Rocktropia. “It’s the best idea that has ever been visited upon in my suffering years. I get to invent monsters that go on to slaughter thousands of people and I get paid for it! What could possibly be better than that?”
The world is built on the online game world platform created by Entropia, which is being used to craft virtual worlds such as NextIsland. It supports a virtual currency which can be used to buy and sell virtual goods. For graphics, it relies on the CryEngine 2 game graphics engine, which is being used to make highly realistic video games such as Crysis.
A few years ago, MindArk decided to license its platform to third party developers to create their own virtual worlds within the Entropia Universe. Jacobs got on board in 2007 and convinced MindArk to let him build a virgin planet. Jacobs built a game studio in Hollywood — Neverdie Studio — with 12 employees and started working on Rocktropia. He raised funding in the $3 million to $5 million range. His team is now 13 people.
Now the world is built and it can support up to 1,000 users in the same place at one time. Over time, Jacobs plans to expand it to 5o,000 concurrent users. In the world, you can craft and manufacture your own digital goods. You can compete in events, battle against monsters in a kind of Heavy Metal universe, and chat with your friends. You can mine for valuable natural resources, pursue quests, and make friends.
Rpcktropia sounds a lot like Brutal Legend, the hard rock-inspired game that debuted as a console game last fall from Electronic Arts and Double Fine Productions. Jacobs believes that Rocktropia will fare much better than Brutal Legend because of the business model. You can join Rocktropia for free, but you’ll be inspired to spend a lot of money on virtual goods within it. Jacobs said his team can built new destinations for rock artists within Rocktropia in as little as three months, and it will be crafting many special items that fans will gladly pay for.