Monday, May 12, 2008

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Iron Man Unbound: Defying Fears Of User-Created Content, Official Avatar Released In Modifiable Form

Ironman7 Chances are you'll catch a glimpse of Iron Man adventuring in Second Life, nowadays-- fighting evil doers, cutting through the sky, and acting generally heroic. 

If you're lucky, you'll also spot him flirting with bar floozies and exotic dancing, or even hooking up with Wonder Woman

All this wackiness was made possible by Silver Screen, the Second Life division of Picture Production Company, a movie marketing firm that's promoting Paramount/Marvel Studios' hit movie in-world.  To help do that, Silver Screen recently launched an SL screenshot/ machinima contest that challenged Residents to make Iron Man-related videos and images in Second Life.  And to do that, they created and distributed an official, modifiable version of an Iron Man avatar, to let Residents play with as they wish.  Since it can be freely copied and customized, it's spread far and wide through SL.

“We've had reports of it being given away and sold all over the grid," Silverscreen general manger Dannyboy Lightfoot tells me.  "As such, it's impossible for us to know exactly how many avatars there are in circulation, but I can tell you that from our own records alone we know that the total runs into five figures."

Which brings us back to all those sightings of Iron Man acting decidedly un-superheroic.  When metaverse marketers consider advertising clients in Second Life, a common concern is how the user-created community might put their brand in embarrassing situations.  How did Silverscreen allay those worries? 

"All the clients we've worked with in Second Life (Warner Bros, Fox, Paramount) are made aware that they surrender a degree of control over the use of their intellectual property and brand values the moment they bring them into Second Life," says Lightfoot.  "They're also aware that there is very little to stop somebody else setting out to undermine those brand values off their own backs, so they have an interest in trying to inspire the SL community to embrace movie characters and concepts in a way that's true to and respectful of their origins."

Winning_iron_man_machinima To judge by the results, this gamble has paid off, leading to a massive number of Iron Man-related screenshots and machinima, a lot of them very impressive, and even when Marvel's hero is put in silly situations, they're generally affectionate.  (In any case, maybe they're meant as tributes to Robert Downey Jr.'s wild years before he got cleaned up.)

Here's the two winners of the contest, by the way.  "[T]he avatar has been hugely popular," says Dan, "and the contest has received a large number of entries, some of which are of incredibly high quality, and will undoubtedly attract an audience in their own right."

Dannyboy Lightfoot suggests there's a larger lesson in this success story:  "[T]he challenge to any brand or business wanting to become a part of the user-generated web is that they have to surrender a degree of control to their audience, and rely on people's better judgment and intentions," he writes.  "Our expectation was that the huge majority of the fan art we received would embrace Iron Man as the ROCKING cool comic book character he is, and that any more unorthodox material would still demonstrate an essential creativity and good taste.  On the evidence of what we've seen so far, we were correct."

First image credit: Kanomi Pikajuna.


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Sophrosyne Stenvaag

In a year marked by virtual worlds development projects rooted in corporate fear of the customer, this is a fantastic development.

Trust and openness build loyalty and respect. Closure, defensiveness and hostility build resentment and contempt.

Lindens take note...


OMG I was SOOOO excited to find out that the Iron Man avatar is FULL-PERMS (!!!). When I heard they were giving free ones out, my initial thought was that it would be restrictive, but thankfully that was without basis. Woohoo! I spread word of this 'round the lab... also see this group for my pix and mo' rad customizations!

» Iron Man in Second Life

As you can see, works wonders for motivational posters.



Sorry Marvel I was ummm...ummm...hey, Tony Stark had a drinking problem, ya' know. Dancing at a strip club in full armor is probably not the worst thing he ever did!

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