MTVN to pimp 'Ride' online

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Viacom's MTV Networks said Wednesday that it will be launching a virtual world next week for "Pimp My Ride" to complement its online "Laguna Beach" and "Virtual Hills" offerings.

Speaking here at the first Virtual Worlds conference, Matt Bostwick, senior vp franchise development at MTV Music Group, also said that LogoWorld — the previously announced virtual offshoot of its gay-interest Logo channel that will be entirely user-created — will be operational in the summer. MTV also plans to launch a virtual music initiative, but that project is still in the works and Bostwick could not give specific dates for its completion.

The "Ride" world will be patterned after Van Nuys, Calif., a hotbed for car culture, and it will let users customize cars, participate in races and join car clubs, among other features. This world also will be connected to the "Laguna Beach" and "Hills" spaces by a virtual highway.

Bostwick also gave a progress report on the "Laguna" and "Hills" projects, which were launched in September and January, respectively. He said there are 600,000 registered users in the two worlds, of which 85% are female with a median age of 20. Bostwick projected 3 million users in MTV's virtual space by year's end and said that daily visits are up 300% from January.

MTV will be adding features to these worlds in the next three months, including guilds, where users can learn virtual skills; click-through e-commerce, which lets users buy real-world items through the virtual world; and MTV Virtual Cribs, in which users can build and customize their own houses.

Also at the conference Wednesday, Steve Youngwood, executive vp digital media at MTVN's Nickelodeon, touted his network's 3-D Nicktropolis space as the "fastest-growing virtual world." Since its launch Jan. 30, the community has acquired 2.4 million registered users and 7.5 million visits. Nickelodeon plans to add more features and events to this space in the near future, including a viewing party Saturday for the Kids' Choice Awards and virtual scavenger hunts.
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