Barbie has entered the virtual world with the launch of Mattel's www.BarbieGirls.com. Chuck Scothon, General Manager and Senior Vice-President, Girls, Mattel brands, says that Mattel is "....thrilled to be the first global, virtual online world designed exclusively for girls and offer girls an unparalleled online/offline hybrid play experience."
How times have changed! The launch of www.BarbieGirls.com has become the world's fastest growing virtual community, touting 4 million registered users to date. Registration is expected to increase with the just released Barbie Girl device, which will function as a portable MP3 player and give girls added interactivity through the website. At just 4 1/2", it's touted as one of the most exciting tech gadgets to hit the streets this year. The customizable device will hook up to computers via a USB-enabled docking station. Once hooked in, girls will be able to "hang out" in the virtual world. They can adopt pets, buy fashions, decorate their rooms, and chat with other users.
User safety has been addressed, and girls won't be able to sign in without online parental authorization. Measures have also been taken to prevent the exchange of personal information online.
The Barbie Girl device definitely represents the next generation in fashion doll play. What's interesting is the device's ability to cross over between the physical world, and the virtual one. The device incorporates all of the key benefits of interactivity to be found in the virtual world: the ability of the user to manipulate and control their experience directly, the ability to personalize an experience - and the ability to communicate with others through media.
Just imagine the implications for other products. Consumer goods and services companies have already advertised their wares on Second Life.
What's next? What about virtual communities where companies are able to offer needed products or services based on stories provided by online visitors? (last I heard, IBM was working on that one...) What about websites which take www.amazon.com to the next level, and are able to offer you new product ideas based on your actions and lifestyle in the virtual world?
Images of my childhood Barbie doll will never be the same...