Synthravels (via Springwise) is a barely nascent company that offers a travel guide experience in virtual world. You pick which virtual world you want to go to and what kind of things you want to see and they will find you a guide. Last time I visited the Second Life newbie ground, there was a number of people saying so, what do I actually do here, even though there were Welcome cards right in front of their avatars. A human guide might ease that startup confusion.
To those who read science fiction, many of these new business ideas are not so new because they had already been discussed in depth by various science fiction writers. So, a new type of business is often a sign that we finally reached a particular stage of development and can start bringing into the reality various ideas from the books. This must be quite annoying to William Gibson, who – being somewhat of a technophobe – wrote of the future he was afraid of only to get thousands of developers so excited by it that they went out of the way to build it.
So to me, Synthravel is a winner. There are just so many angles to play there. I think having a high-level player as a guide would be particularly interesting at an early stage. Having a guide with maxed-out magic and maxed-out healing (to keep me alive) to take me through normally unreachable levels of a fight game and do a show and kill would be quite interesting. I might even pay to see the same level with guides in different character classes. I think a warrior’s approach to room full of dragons would be quite different from that of a necromancer.
At the moment, Synthravel’s registration system for users and guides is very simple. It is a plain free-form entry of interest. Once there is enough interest, they will probably need to switch to some sort of semi-constraint fields to explicitly ask for guide’s skill levels and expertise. If they play it right with features and rating systems, there might even be an eBay style market with bidding for specific guides’s time.
And, as with real tourism, they may even spawn a whole cottage industry of people catering specifically for newbies being brought in by an experienced guide. Expect to see colorful tourist buses and cheesy virtual goods sold by human or AI-driven peddlers. And, of course, expect other players to grumble about the intrusion of new kind of AOLamers into the zones they were previously unable to discover unassisted.