We rarely blog about new games and services, but I will make an exception since Whirled by Three Rings seems to be an intriguing concept, design and research -wise.
“Whirled is an in-browser virtual world that is open to player creations and customizations; anything can be uploaded to the Whirled, from simple image furniture to mini-MMO games. Sophisticated avatars, pets, toys and games are coded to Whirled’s Flash ActionScript APIs, which support multi-player games with arbitrary numbers of players driven by client or server-side code.”
So basically Whirled enables independent flash designers to freely publish and sell games using the Whirled platform, as well as virtual assets within them.
“Gamers play Whirled games to earn Coins, and may purchase a second currency, Bars for U.S. currency using credit cards, paypal, SMS, Target pre-paid cards and other payment methods. Whirled emulates aspects of the success of Puzzle Pirates: part of the power of the business model is that it provides a seamless exchange between player’s time and this cash currency, thus effectively monetizing virtually the entire player base, rather than a small fraction. Creators’ sales in the Whirled Shop accumulate a third currency, Bling, which can be cashed out for real-world money.Three Rings’ Whirled infrastructure is fully operational today: creators are making money from avatars, interactive toys, game items and level packs.”
Whirled implements the double-currency system of Puzzle Pirates (another game by Three Rings). The above paragraph hints that this currency system will monetize “the entire player base”. I don’t know about that, but it attempts it by enabling trading between the currencies. This way, players who will buy currency with real money and then trade that to the currency which is earned through gameplay, indirectly monetize players who are not spending real money otherwise. The driving force for these transactions are limitations in what you can buy with each currencies. I suppose items are set with a price in either or both currencies, meaning that a player needs both currencies to buy needed items. Players lacking time and thus lacking the timecurrency (Coins) trade the bought currency (Bars) to Coins and vice versa. In Whirled, players have freedom of pricing their own products. It will be interesting to see how it will work and what kind of phenomena will follow.
The UGC side of Whirled seems pretty interesting as well. Of course there are other SNS’s where players accumulate wealth with UGC like IMVU, Second Life and such, but are more or less socializing oriented. Whirled, though, seems to be concentrated on gaming, and the actual game(s) are generated by users. The creators earn their own virtual currency (Bling) which can further be cashed out and which is the third of the revenue. Other thirds go to Three rings and affiliate who initiates the sale.
It seems this business model perceives users in three larger categories; time spenders, money spenders and creators, and Three Rings has created the three currencies accordingly.