IMVU (pronounced I-M-V-U or im-view) has long been known as a web-based avatar chat system. Founded on the premise of creating an emotional connection through the use of avatars, in 2004 five co-founders from There put together the idea of fashion and chat; but it suffered, quite frankly from a lack of any There there.
With the rise of multiple chat clients and the social networks as the decade proceeded, the virtual chat client found itself needing a bit of reinvention in order to survive it what had become a competitive environment. To accomplish this IMVU first placed music for sale à la iTunes in 2008. Six months ago with partners OMGPOP and Viximo, more than 20 games were brought to what had become a platform of its own.
Long before titles such as Ravenwood Fair, Fishdom, and Backyard Monsters landed on IMVU, the gamification of its elaborate fashion system had become a monetizing staple and a stickiness factor that allowed the platform to expand to the Mac, iOS, and 13 different languages. With more than 50 million registered users, around 10 million of whom visit each month, there are more than enough interactions to create a fashion extravaganza. Adding games put a very thick icing on the cake: 10% of outstanding credits in the ecosystem were sunk into the first three games.
“Players” of IMVU are of two flavors: creators and users. Creators use programs such as 3D Studio Max to create the “items” that make up an avatar; users and creators review each item for appropriateness; once the process is complete more than 7000 new items are uploaded per day to a catalog that boats more than six-million virtual items.
I asked Senior Vice President of Product Management Lee Clancy how it was possible for so many new items to be found it such an enormous catalog. He explained that they have an exceptionally long tail: the top 20 selling items account for only .20 percent of total revenue.
This is achieved through a daily outfit challenge in which more than 150,000 users vote and participate. A theme is presented each day from “toxic” to “Elizabethan attire.” Players then create the most unique outfit possible while voting up or down other unique outfits. This keeps the players viewing and purchasing new content on a daily basis.
Other methods of direct monetization include over seven thousand user-designed game rooms and 28-thousand RPG rooms. Using a 3D game designer, players have added a Flash overlay for simple games such as chess or poker. The RPG rooms are nothing more than MUDs without any tools. Users sell the 3D designs and IMVU takes a portion of the sales.
It’s a robust system that includes sales tracking tools for creators, an internal Twitter-style system called Pulse to notify Users of new items or sales, and badges and awards for winning daily contests.
With a demographic that is 70-percent female, 65-percent over the age of 18, and only 50-percent US-based, IMVU reaches the holy grail of casual game users. The addition and success of social games makes IMVU a viable alternative to other networks and one to watch.