UK based Virtual World company seeks entrepreneur and (VC) sponsor

PlayGen a London based game development studio with a strong and growing track record in developing serious games for training and learning purposes is developing their latest video “learning” game NanoWars.

The idea is that the game should be based on fact as it’s meant to be an educational tool to make learning about nanoscience interesting for 12 to 18 year olds.

“Our aim is to inspire and touch 28 million American and 6 million British teenagers, who play video games, to learn and know much more about nanotechnology.”

According to PlayGen, “The game’s plot is to save the world from destruction by Dr.Nevil and his army of nano-machines and nano-materials, whilst the player stealthily learns about real world nanotechnology. The game hero (player)  supported by Dr. Goodlove and his assistants use nano-imaging and quantum theory, create nano-machines,  develop nano-materials, and utilise an extraordinary shrinking machine to shrink the player to nanoscale to stop Dr. Nevil and save the world.”

I must declare I am not a gamer but of late War Craft, Habbo Hotel and especially Second Life have grabbed my attention. When you hear that Habbo hotel sold more furniture than Ikea last year and was more profitable in doing so; when you hear that more than 1m people now inhabit Second Life and that approx $0.5m is traded daily in Second Life, you have to sit up and take note.

US Dollars spent in Second Life over last 24 hours
$489,156 as of 4:01pm PST
U.S. Dollars Spent in Second Life Chart
When Business Week runs a story called “Why Savvy CEO’s hangout in Second Life” and IBM’s CEO Sam Palmisano appears as an avatar (14th Nov) on the IBM island in Second Life to announce that the computer giant is investing $100 million in a new business unit to explore the potential of new technologies like virtual worlds in commerce, e-learning, and customer service, then you have to sit-up and take notice.

IBM is not alone because in the last few months about 40 corporations have also established themselves on Second Life. Among them are Sony BMG MusicAdam Reuters Entertainment, Reebok, Dell, and Reuters which assigned a full-time reporter Adam Reuters – aka Adam Pasick in first life – to hang out and chronicle the goings-on.

According to Business Week, “it seems IBM actually stumbled into virtual reality thanks to the curiosity of British IBM software strategist Ian Hughes (avatar: ePredator Potato), who is a longtime PC gamer. Hughes started raving about virtual worlds on his internal IBM blog and, before long, IBM scientists and programmers worldwide were buying virtual islands in Second Life and using them for group collaboration or solving computer science problems.

Recently Hughes (on Nov. 7) led a guided online tour of Second Life that showed just how diverse virtual reality can be. Stops included a replica of the Wimbledon tennis club, where Hughes runs 3-D replays of actual championship games, an IBM meeting center, a Reebok store, and a casino complete with virtual naked female avatars.

The most impressive locale on the tour was the scale replica of The Forbidden City created by IBM designers, which was the scene of Palmisano’s virtual debut.”


So back to PlayGen. Right now there are more than 60 schools and educational organisations that have set up shop in the virtual world and are exploring ways it can be used to promote learning. It strikes me that the line between NanoWars, MindCandy and SecondLife is beginning to blur to the point where the classroom of the future isn’t on a college campus, it’s in the virtual world of Second Life.

So I can’t imagine that PlayGen will take very long to find an entrepreneur and/or a sponsor to help them progress. I think a VC or incubator like the ZGroup might look to fund or acquire the PlayGen team to build educational and/or commercial applications to work within Second Life.