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Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide announced it would unveil a new chain of hotels sometime in 2008. But you won’t have to wait two years to enjoy the accommodations, according to this News.com article. The company announced it would open a virtual version of its hotels in Second Life, an online virtual world that’s less computer game and more, well, a second life.

From the article:

In the brick-and-mortar realm, the plan is for the first Aloft inn to open sometime in 2008, catering to active, urban 30-to-50 year-olds. But the real-world lodge will be preceded by a 3-D cyberversion designed to prompt feedback from virtual guests and help guide the earthbound endeavor.

 

“We think the SL [Second Life] world is a specific community of early adopters, of tech-savvy people who like to voice their opinions,” said Brian McGuinness, vice president of the Aloft Hotels brand.

Virtual worlds have come a long way over the last few decades. As always-on connections become more ubiquitous and game developers become more skilled at creating complex storylines and mind-blowing graphics, an interesting phenomenon developed: online games have spawned real economies based on digital items (players building up their characters, for instance, then selling them on eBay).

Several savvy marketing companies have already set up shop in places like Second Life, reaching out to early adopters and hardcore gamers – each of whom has disposable income and the ability to virally spread information.

I’m not entirely sure what the hotel chain hopes to gain from this – other than lots of folks like me writing about how nifty it is that they’re participating in virtual world – but it’s certainly an interesting experiment.

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