Michael Jackson will soon go from being the “king of pop” to the ruler of his own world of avatars.
The Michael Jackson Estate has given its approval for SEE Virtual Worlds to produce “Planet Michael,” a virtual world that will launch at the end of next year as an ongoing game and social network.
The online world is expected to be the first of several new “planets” that Los Angeles-based SEE will create for high-profile properties owned by TV networks, studios, record labels and individual artists.
Hollywood has already dabbled with licensing their wares to virtual world operators like Second Life and Habbo, that enable members to buy clothing or products based on movies, TV shows or specific characters.
The rights holders earn revenue from each transaction — a business that’s expected to balloon to $1.6 billion in the U.S. this year, largely because of games like FarmVille on Facebook, according to Inside Network.
“Planet Michael” is expected to be the first virtual world that revolves entirely around an entertainment icon.
In “Planet Michael,” members will create their own avatar to explore various areas that revolve around Jackson’s music, fashion, dance moves, lifestyle and philanthropic causes that concerned him. Locations will be themed around certain songs “Scream” would be featured in a futuristic setting enabling members to moonwalk, for example.
Venture will generate revenue from the sale of virtual goods that let members personalize their characters. Since each item degrades over time, they will need to be upgraded, creating an ongoing revenue stream. Other items include the sale of skills and abilities like dance moves, food to sustain characters, even glitter to apply to a glove. It will also enable members to contribute to charities that Jackson supported.
Membership to “Planet Michael” will be free and not require a monthly fee.
“Michael was always exploring creative new ways technology could enhance the experiences of his fans, and for that reason we are thrilled to be working with SEE Virtual Worlds to build a global interactive experience that befits an artist as innovative as Michael Jackson” said John McClain, co-executor of the artist’s estate.
The virtual worlds biz is the latest spinoff for Martin Biallas after forming SEE in 1997 to produce traveling tours for “Titanic,” “Star Trek,” “Pokemon” and other properties.
The execs zeroed in on Michael Jackson after Swedish firm MindArk enlisted Biallas to lock down high-profile entertainment properties to build worlds around and add to their Entropia Universe of 3D environments.
“I was looking for a major name to introduce this platform and put us on the map,” Biallas said. “With Michael’s huge fanbase this was the perfect property.”
MindArk already has found success in “Planet Calypso,” another virtual destination which has attracted nearly 1 million members. The technology that runs that world will be used as the engine behind “Planet Michael” and future worlds, for which Biallas has locked down deals.
“When we first approached (the Michael Jackson Estate) and talked about creating ‘Planet Michael,’ one of our primary goals was to build an interactive environment where fans from all over the world come together to affirm Michael’s life-long dedication to fostering global friendships,” Biallas said. “We envisioned a magical, enjoyable place that will capture that zest for fun and life that was at Michael’s very core.”
Eventually, members of SEE Virtual World’s creations will be able to transport their avatars from one planet to another, providing them with multiple reasons to spend their dollars across a variety of licenses.