You read the title correctly: free cars are actually being given away by one of the largest automakers in the world, Toyota - to be more specific, the Scion brand.
What's the catch? ('Cause you know there's always a catch, right?) These aren't real cars, they're virtual vehicles! According to a captivating article in The Economist on MMORPGS ("Massively multi-player online role-playing games" "“ pronounced "morpegs"), Toyota is the first automaker to enter the arena, giving cars away to avatars living in Second Life, a virtual world with over 800,000 users.
The point of the giveaway? Marketing and PR, what else. Apparently, the freebees are a warm-up, as Toyota plans on selling the Scions in Second Life later this month. According to the article, "Toyota really hopes that an "˜aftermarket' develops as avatars customize their cars and sell them on, thus spreading the brand "˜virally.' Toyota will be able to observe how avatars use the cars and might, conceivably, even get ideas for engineering modification in the real world"¦"
And Toyota isn't the only company that sees big money in MMORPGS. Some publishing houses are now promoting book launches and author readings in Second Life. "The BBC has rented an island, where it holds music festivals and parties. Sun Microsystems is preparing to hold in-world press conferences, featuring avatars of its top executives."
The list goes on! Real world bank and hotel chains are buying property, billboards are going up, and property developers are moving in. Clearly MMORPGS are the Internet of the future. 800,000 Geeks served today, the rest of the world tomorrow"¦ the same way the original Internet blossomed from the early 90s.
Only this time, advertisers are getting in early.