Blue Mars restructures, goes mobile

Virtual worlds and restructuring… it’s becoming a long story. The latest episode: Blue Mars. The company behind the virtual world platform Blue Mars, Avatar Reality, is restructuring “in order to concentrate on bringing Blue Mars to portable touch screen devices like the iPhone and iPad.”

The company says they have a functioning alpha in house and they aim to release the first builds of Blue Mars on iOS next month. CEO Jim Sink leaves the company:

Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to keep the current team together while building Blue Mars Mobile. Like many of my friends here, today is my last day at Avatar Reality. It has been a true pleasure working on Blue Mars with so many talented and dedicated creative professionals. Just as rewarding was seeing the growth and creative output of the Blue Mars community. Thank you all for your sharing your creativity with our community. It was fun.

See you on Mars,
Jim

“The first versions of Blue Mars Mobile will be an extension to the PC client but over time, the mobile version will absorb many of the features found in the PC version. With our focus now clearly on mobile, updates to the PC version of the software will likely be restricted to bug fixes for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, we will no longer charge our current City Developers for the monthly city hosting service. The servers will remain online, city updates and uploads will continue, and shop and residence rentals will still function but technical support for the user client will no longer be offered.”

It is unclear how many people leave the company. No mention is being made of a new CEO. My first impression: the strategy of having a heavy PC client did not succeed. I did not visit the Blue Mars environments very often, but the times I went there I had the impression it did not gain traction. The few people in-world often were developer-types or Second Life residents exploring another world. The graphics are impressive, but for those who like open ended user generated virtual worlds Blue Mars lacked the buzz of Second Life and OpenSim.

“The focus for the first version of Blue Mars Mobile is avatar style and rankings. The initial versions will allow people to share their Blue Mars avatars through a native iOS application. In the next few months, an app store for clothing, Facebook Connect integration, avatar snapshots, account registration, and character customization will be added. The items you have created or own will already work with the mobile version as will the Blue Mars item creation tools.”

Mobile and Facebook Connect, it all seems rather logical, because these are growth areas. However, for the moment the announcement sounds like an admission of defeat.

The last press release on the Avatar Reality site (March 23, 2010) announced that an additional $4.2 million was raised from venture capitalists including Henk Rogers and Kolohala Ventures. “To date, more than $13 million has been invested in Avatar Reality”, so it was said.

Avatar Reality was founded in 2006 by interactive entertainment visionaries Henk Rogers – best known for introducing Tetris to the world – and Kazuyuki Hashimoto, former CTO of Squaresoft and vice president at Electronic Arts. In March 2010 the company had more than 30 employees in Honolulu and San Francisco.

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About rolandlegrand

I'm social media manager at Mediafin, the publisher of Belgium's leading business newspapers De Tijd and L'Echo. I have a special interest in the intersection of immersive media, business and philosophy.
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