Twinity's virtual London opens for business

Twinity_London_Piccadilly_small[Germany] Twinity, the virtual world that mirrors the real world, has finally launched a beta of virtual London. And if mirroring the real world includes replicating London’s reputation for delayed construction works, then Berlin-based Metaversum, the company behind Twinity, is doing just fine.

The virtual world, which distinguishes itself from the likes of Second Life by building exact replicas of well known cities, launched back in 2006 and while London was always planned to follow Berlin and Singapore, it feels like it’s been a long time coming. And tough luck if you are on a Mac – the 3D browser only supports Windows XP and Vista.

Even now, virtual London is incomplete. Initially, users are only able to visit London’s famous Soho district, “stretching virtually from Oxford Street down to Trafalgar Square including the world-famous Piccadilly Circus and China Town.” However, Oxford Street in particular is at the heart of London’s shopping region and the home to many famous brands. And that’s probably the point. Virtual worlds are all about business and Twinity is no exception.

Case in point: to celebrate the launch of virtual London, Metaversum is offering the first 10 residents and shop owners based in real Soho the chance to win their virtual apartment or shop floor at the same address in Virtual London for one year at no cost. To qualify, they are required to send their name and proof of (real) address to the company. The idea is that brick ‘n’ mortar retailers (or night club, bar and restaurant owners) will want to set up shop in Twinity’s London to promote their brands or sell virtual goods. It’s the same pitch that Second Life has made for years and at its most hyped saw a virtual land grab by a number of famous brands. However, given we are in a recession, one wonders how many businesses will be rushing to take up this offer.

Following Soho, further districts and landmarks will be rolled out, with Big Ben, Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace up next. And all of this week Twinity will also be holding live events, walking tours and contests in virtual London to kick start its newest offering – although I suspect they will need to continue staging such activities in order to persuade users to keep coming back.