Multiverse isn’t the only company working on this type of system. Areae, for example, is creating Metaplace, a platform that is being designed to allow developers to build worlds that can be accessed from Web pages and mobile phones, as well as from specialized clients. Metaplace has not yet been publicly released, and the company’s previews so far have showed only its 2-D capabilities. Raph Koster, company president, says that he eventually expects Metaplace to offer 3-D support.
Eilif Trondsen, director of the Virtual Worlds Consortium for Innovation and Learning at SRI Consulting Business Intelligence, says that Multiverse’s new technology “could be a huge opportunity for virtual worlds … There’s been a lot of talk about how we can make [virtual worlds] simpler for the users.” He anticipates that, thanks to the universality of Flash, the new technology will help drive growth by helping users overcome several hurdles to entering virtual worlds. He says that, in addition to being put off by problems with older computers, some users have not gotten into virtual worlds because they’re intimidated by the learning curve of 3-D video-game-style navigation. Trondsen also notes that business users of virtual worlds have been limited because of barriers to installing clients on corporate computers. Finally, he says, many users, particularly in Asia and other world markets, demand the ability to interact with software through mobile devices.
Trondsen notes that, while many companies are working on this type of technology, “it’s impressive that Multiverse was able to do this so quickly.” He says that the flexible design of the company’s platform architecture probably helped Multiverse adjust quickly for Flash. Trondsen adds that Multiverse’s technology could also contribute to connecting social-networking sites with virtual worlds–a trend that he sees being started by companies such as Vivaty, which provides 3-D chat rooms.
Developer tools for Multiverse’s 3-D client are already available for free download. Developers can make their worlds available at no cost, but if they charge users, they must share the profits with Multiverse. Bridges says that Multiverse’s Flash technology is immediately available to developers who want to incorporate it into their worlds. However, he says, the company doesn’t have a good way of monitoring how the Flash technology gets deployed. Therefore, in order to maintain the same business model, Multiverse is only making its Flash developer tools available to those who contact the company directly.