BMW’s No-Drive Zone

by Alphaville Herald on 31/01/07 at 12:18 pm

by Fiend Ludwig

[We sent Herald reporter Fiend Ludwig to test-drive some Beemers in Second Life -- only to find the project could hardly get into first gear.
--Walker Spaight

BMW New World: Dude, where’s my SL car?

Another corporate sim equals another deserted island. This formula, oft trundled out by the not-so-mainstream media seems, in fact, to be true. Most of the corporate sims around Second Life are normally entirely devoid of other visitors. This was certainly the case when I had a look around BMW New World recently. Upon teleporting in, a chat script chimed, “Hi Fiend Ludwig, unfortunately we cannot welcome you personally right now. Please IM Munich Express with any questions you might have. Talk to you soon.” Feeling a little smug, I posted a somewhat flippant report on my blog and thought no more of BMW and their New World.

Until Munich Express actually did IM me.

“Hi Fiend, just read your blog on BMW in SL,” he wrote. “You sound a bit skeptical. I can assure you that we would have responded to your IM (OK, may be not right away). I should know, because I am Munich Express. So, if there is anything you would like to know, don’t hesitate to send me an IM. Best, Munich.” When I overcame the shock that my blog was actually being read by anyone, I replied to Munich asking for the opportunity to explain my skepticism, to get a corporate perspective on the future of corporate sims in SL, and to find out more about those cool-looking cars.

In real life, Munich Express is Achim Muellers, Head of Brand Relations and Cooperations for BMW Group in Munich, Germany, and the person in charge of BMW’s presence in SL. He summarizes BMW’s goals like this: “I’m fascinated by the creative element of Second Life. It is consumer-generated content at it’s best. A very open, curious, extroverted, and challenging global community, which makes it a very interesting one for us to talk to. Initially we want to get into a dialogue, understand the community and take it from there. It is a process with potentials in different areas. Innovation is an important element of the BMW brand identity. Therefore we are always open toward new creative, innovative concepts like Second Life. I believe it was George Bernard Shaw who once said ‘All great truths begin as blasphemies.’”

“You will have noted that we started with a soft launch [at the end of November 2006],” Express went on. “We observed Second Life for a while and I also spent some time as a resident prior to getting involved with the company, but I was far from being an insider — many things to learn, even today and tomorrow. One thing I understood, however, is that interaction is very high up on the list, and if you want to interact it helps to know what the people that you want to interact with are looking for. I always say that you only have one chance to leave a first impression. We notice that the number [of visitors] is increasing. That probably has to do with the fact that the residents are starting to find out that we are here.”

Express believes a resident-centered approach is better suited to project development in SL, “We want to get the dialogue started; what we do next also depends on our learnings from these discussions. And why not develop and implement creative ideas together? If at all possible we’d love to develop and implement some of these ideas with the residents. I mean, there is so much creative potential here — it would be a shame not to use it.”

But will there be drivable BMWs in SL soon? Probably not: “At this point in time we are not planning dynamic product experiences, since the available programs (graphics and physics) do not allow us to develop an adequate BMW virtual driving experience.”

Munich Express walks to his Second Life office for a reason

Perhaps the big guys are getting the message. Express says, “I think that Second Life is here to stay and, as always in life, once the initial hype is gone, the ones that are serious about their commitment and that add value will stay on board.” Cynics will say that Munich Express and colleagues are simply pandering to the bloggers and critics — telling us ‘native’ SL residents what we want to hear. But surely that is a measure of the success of that criticism. Someone is listening. With such scrutiny, it does not pay to fake it, so time will tell if BMW can live by its paradigm. But if they do take the long view and stick it out to become a dynamic part of the community, it can only be a positive step for Second Life.

As for those cool cars — Express says, “The BMW Hydrogen 7 and the CleanEnergy concept demonstrate our commitment to hydrogen as the long-term foundation for individual mobility, which makes it the perfect starter for Second Life: A future-oriented mobility concept on a future-oriented platform.”

Now if only we could drive one.

10 Responses to “BMW’s No-Drive Zone”

  1. Urizenus

    Jan 31st, 2007

    “At this point in time we are not planning dynamic product experiences, since the available programs (graphics and physics) do not allow us to develop an adequate BMW virtual driving experience.”

    It’s encouraging that they figured this out and didn’t plunge ahead anyway. Trying to drive in SL is absolutely not a rewarding experience and I wouldn’t want to link my product to such an experience.

  2. Khamon

    Jan 31st, 2007

    “A very open, curious, extroverted, and challenging global community, which makes it a very interesting one for us to talk to.” – Munich

    Ha ha ha, which metaversal consulting company wrote this stuff? I must know so my jocularity may be aimed within precise parameters.

  3. Hiro Pendragon

    Jan 31st, 2007


    I dunno, I read it as, “Guten tag, vee are BMW and our German engineering is too good for you!” Even if they didn’t want a drivable car, there’s a whole lot they could have done and still had a car you could sit in.

  4. Fiend Ludwig

    Jan 31st, 2007

    @ Khamon – Munich did mention during our discussions that BMW did not use the services of a metaverse development agency, and that the project was directed in-house, so any jocularity should be aimed in his direction.

  5. Frederic Preost

    Jan 31st, 2007

    When these corporate residents get any clue?


    My child ask me to buy him an island in virtual community, with a fee of up to 200 US$ a month or so.

    he tells me,

    I don’t know what to do, but i decided to have a island there, because of Second life’s creative possibility and “its challenging global community”.

    Would I authorize him to proceed in this new “business endeavor”?

    No, I would not.

    Oh wait, I’m not a corporate executive… ROFL.
    What would I know anything about Second life, right?

  6. Johnny Ming

    Jan 31st, 2007

    BMW motorcycles are “Beemers”. BMW cars are “Bimmers”. And that… is your useless fact of the day. :)

  7. Baba

    Jan 31st, 2007

    I love BMWs

  8. dildo baggins

    Jan 31st, 2007

    “Even if they didn’t want a drivable car, there’s a whole lot they could have done and still had a car you could sit in”

    eh? Hiro, you sound like a real fun guy to be around.
    That’s the sort of experience you sell your clients?

    my…god….how cutting edge…right click…select sit…go whhhoooooooottttt…lookeee here mama i’s sitting in mah new vir-tu-al beemer in sl…wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

  9. Rock Ramona

    Feb 3rd, 2007

    in other words………..ya,we f**cked up,followed the hype,realized what a pile of crap sl is and are trying to figure out what to do now………….

  10. Dannyboy Lightfoot

    Feb 3rd, 2007

    I love the Recent Comments feature on the Herald. Right now it tells me that at some point of the last twenty four hours someone called Rock Ramona came on here and vented a volley of spleen on three stories related only by the fact that they’re tales of SL as we find it in early 2007.

    I love Google. A quick search for Rock Ramona digs up a single previous comment posted in response to the Blue Note Jazz Sim crash, telling the heart-rending tale of the self-styled ‘happiest man in second life’, whose dream was destroyed when somebody with an alternative vision came along and turned the neighbouring sim into a mall with a volcano and a lagmonster waterfall.

    I love Second Life, and the stories it gives me. Take The Ballad of Rock Ramona. Just another sad story, full of metaversal truth, but most telling in terms of what it says about the human condition. After all, when you’ve watched your dreams dashed upon rocks of your own invention, how else to respond than by going out and wishing the same fate upon the next guy?

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