No Recession in WeeWorld: Teen Socializing Drives Growing Virtual Goods Revenues

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pricing, the presentation, and the content itself, and every day every single person in the company gets a digest of the feedback from the audience, so we can quickly say that ‘What’s really going to be hot today is the animated lightning T-shirt.'”

Some of the best ideas for virtual products, Francis says, come directly from members. Unlike other virtual worlds such as Second Life, though, WeeWorld doesn’t give members tools to build and trade their own virtual goods. It’s not that these tools don’t exist; they’ve been part of the WeeWorld back-end infrastructure since the beginning, Francis says. The problem is that in a free-for-all virtual market, it would be too hard to maintain a consistent style, not to mention a G-to-PG-rated environment. (Which is an issue when your biggest advertisers are Disney and Procter & Gamble.)

“It’s tempting [to open up the world to community-generated content] and I know what the potential is, but there’s a conflict between doing that and the cost of moderation,” says Francis. “It may be a strength or it may be a weakness, but we like to stay a family-friendly brand that has a certain style and flavor.” Francis says she thinks the company will “eventually” figure out a way to let members create their own virtual items without compromising the company’s brand or the site’s family tone.

The "Mall" area of WeeWorld's New Dome CityYou may wonder how teens without credit cards buy the WeeWorld points they need to pay for all of that branded Jonas Brothers, Pussycat Dolls, Justin Timberlake, and NBA gear. Some use their parents’ cards, some use PayPal, and some use prepaid WeeWorld cards that they can purchase for cash at supermarkets and other locations. In fact, the retail cards are about to become a much bigger part of WeeWorld’s strategy. “We have cards at Safeway, Albertson’s, Vaughns, and Toys-R-Us, and we’re going to be launching in a ton more locations in the next month,” Francis told me in an April 14 interview. Members can also earn WeeWorld points by filling out marketing surveys.

The majority of people who encounter the startup do it only through their WeeMee avatars and never actually visit WeeWorld—but that’s fine, Francis says, because the WeeMees still operate “like a farm team for the virtual world,” drawing in a good number of people every month. They also help to bring in a few people from outside the world’s typical teenage demographic. But WeeWorld is the company’s permanent core focus, Francis says, and is only going to grow more elaborate over time.

“You might think of it as a constantly evolving game that never ends, where you socialize and play with your friends but where there are also various levels of achievement,” she says. “We add to it every month…so that you’re always coming back, always engaging in that quest for identity that, for teenagers and young adults, is something that just doesn’t get old.” At least, not until the users themselves do.

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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10 responses to “No Recession in WeeWorld: Teen Socializing Drives Growing Virtual Goods Revenues”

  1. john says:

    who is the hottest guy on weeworld? BLACKYNIKE56

  2. Mike Kinsella says:

    A small correction Wade but an important one none the less. Celia Francis is indeed the current CEO but hardly the founding CEO as stated, having been hired by the company founder Mike Kinsella (my good self) 5 years later in 2005. Thank you in good faith. Mike

  3. Wade RoushWade Roush says:

    Sorry about that Mike! Error fixed. I actually knew that Celia wasn’t the first CEO, so I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote that.

  4. swagboy19 says:

    it is a good game

  5. it is a awesome game add kiraroxsox4u

  6. casey says:

    technolgy makes us stuip