Coca-Cola forced to shut down CCMetro as There.com closes

Coca-Cola’s virtual presence in There.com is now history, but few other enterprises will be affected by the loss of this virtual world, experts say.

Coca-Cola's CCMetro center in There.com. (Image courtesy Makena Technologies.)

Coca-Cola's CCMetro center in There.com. (Image courtesy Makena Technologies.)

“Unfortunately, There.com ceased operations,” Coca-Cola said in a statement. “As CCMetro is part of the larger There.com environment, CCMetro closed as well.”

The company said it is now reviewing alternative virtual world environments, and is soliciting suggestions from its customers.

CCMetro was a 3D social world designed to engage visitors with the company’s brand in a virtual environment. Other companies that dipped their toes in There.com’s virtual waters included MTV, Scion and Spin.

Michael Wilson, CEO of Makena Technologies — There.com’s parent company —  announced the shutdown of his company’s There.com world in a letter two weeks ago, and promised a limited buy-back of the world’s virtual currency.

“There are plenty of other virtual worlds who will be more than happy to step in and take on those clients,” said Caleb Booker, an analyst at UK-based virtual worlds research firm Clever Zebra. “VSide, for instance, is a social world that targets the same demographic and relies heavily on a corporate sponsorship model. IMVU is bigger than ever, and I’ sure would have no problem at all doing cross promotions with various brands. There’s also Kenova, which offered an official invitation to There.com’s user base the other day and most closely resembles their business model.”

Other virtual worlds have also stepped up with invitations to There.com’s user base. Second Life, for example, created a virtual community starting point for There.com emigres.

Going even further, Vancouver-based Utherverse Digital, Inc. offered to give away shiny new Rays, the currency of the Utherverse virtual world, in return for the now-defunct Therebucks.

The reason? “So that users were not left penniless after putting in so much time, and in many cases, so much work, into There.com,” Utherverse CEO Brian Shuster told Hypergrid Business.

In addition, Utherverse created an entire new virtual world — ThereNewWorld.com — for the new arrivals. “It is very similar to the look and feel, as well as the activities, of There.com,” Shuster said.

Utherverse also operates the Red Light Center, Virtual Vancouver, and the business-focused Virtual World Web.

(Image courtesy Utherverse.)

(Image courtesy Utherverse.)

So far, more than 800 former There.com residents have moved over to the Utherverse platform, he said.

Privately-held There.com had not released its user numbers, and calls to the company were not answered.

The goal isn’t just to attract users, however, but also to bring in the kind of big-budget high-profile corporate marketing projects that a large user base makes attractive.

“We have not seen major enterprises, such as Pepsi or MTV, roll out with us yet, but I would not be surprised if they were in touch in the near future,” Shuster said.

According to Makena Technologies, the company partnered with MTV Networks to provide the technology platform for their virtual worlds from 2006 to 2009.  These included Virtual Laguna Beach, The Virtual Hills, Virtual Pimp My Ride, Virtual Real World, Virtual Newport Harbor, Virtual Video Music Awards, Virtual Kaya, Virtual Rob and Big, and Virtual Life of Ryan.

Enterprises using virtual worlds for more than marketing — for collaboration, training, and meetings — have not been affected by There.com’s closing, since the world was designed more for social interaction than for business.

“There.com was targeted specifically at consumers, not enterprises,” said Booker. “Enterprises didn’t use There.com at all. They did, however, occasionally work with the parent company to run special promotions — which only happened a few times.”

A There.com spin-off, Forterra Systems, was able to sell the enterprise-focused Olive virtual environment to companies — at least, until it sold off Olive last month and shut its doors.

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jie.hu@tromblyinternational.com'

Jie Hu

Jie Hu is a freelance business writer based in Western Massachusetts.

  • Scrooge

    Forget Utherverse, Onverse is the way for Coca-Cola to go. Many of us from There tried Utherverse and moved on almost instantly. In fact, 85% of my friends moved to Onverse, a small little world currently in Beta. Some have complained that it’s limited and it is but it will only grow.

  • Doohicky

    I totally agree with Scrooge. Onverse may be new, but it's already better than almost every other virtual world option. Imagine what it will be in 6 months, let alone after 7 years like There. CC Metro, if you are listening… Onverse yourself.

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  • Why not Utherverse? We are established and not in threat of having to shut down. Our users have the ability to control their own experience as we are able to offer them a wide range of entertainment options.

    There is an art gallery with paintings, sculptures and photographs that are available to real life buyers. We have movie theaters and live music streamed into the world through our various venues; every Friday we have a live performance in our amphitheater. We have a skate park as well as a fun house.

    Our events team is the best there is at creating weekly games and contests for our community to partake in, and the best part is our simple user interface makes this all possible.

  • E.B.

    Why not UV? Because it's a porn world that constantly lags and crashes and offers lousy customer and technical support. Plus it offers very little to do other than have virtual sex and dance in mostly empty nightclubs. The rest is just spin. That's why large mainstream companies won't set up shop in UV. Coca Cola needs to join the ranks of IBM, Harvard, the American Cancer Society, and all the other corporations, universities, and institutes in Second Life.

  • Skeptic

    Why not Utherverse? Maybe because Coca Cola would want people under 18 to be able to enter. Since Utherverse is based off of a porn king's 3d world, it is filled with adult content. Content that slaps you in the face every time you log in, no matter which of the "VWWs" you want to visit. It also requires all members to be 18 and up, which would kill the teenage market Coke might want to attract.

    Coca Cola might also want to keep the folks who visit their virtual world from having mirrored accounts made at multiple "adult" websites, as UV has done at least twice in the past, without asking nor even warning their customers. They also might want to avoid having their customers having to deal with unwanted sex requests via IM in world and PM on the social pages.

    Utherverse is a porn site playing at being a main stream social center. Period.

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