Nickelodeon is giving kids a digital playground to call their own.
The kids-targeted network will look to draw tweens and teens to its “Nicktropolis” virtual community, where they can play games, watch videos, interact with other kids and create their own personalized 3-D rooms. They can even visit SpongeBob SquarePants in a virtual “Bikini Bottom” room.
For parents, Nick executives said the site provides numerous safeguards such as parental notification when children are engaged in chat-room exchanges.
“We’re trying to create a safe, immersive digital playground where kids can come and play every day,” said Nick executive vice president of digital media Steve Youngwood. “It’s a continuation of where we’ve been going the past few years.”
Kids who enter the site (www.nicktropolis.com) can create a fictional avatar that they can design and personalize. From there, users can visit a number of different areas by moving the avatar around the site. Each user gets his/her own virtual “room” that can be decorated or can accommodate other invited participants.
Parents have the option to control their child’s settings in Nicktropolis, including limiting chat settings and setting security levels of where and with whom they can visit. Kids can chat in real-time using pre-written messages or by freely using a kid-appropriate dictionary that includes a foul-language filter and limits the type of information kids can provide to other users. Youngwood said Nicktropolis is fully monitored, and features a “report button” should any concerns arise.
Free to kids, the network is eyeing ad-supported features. “We know we can do the obvious [advertising] like a banner, but I think we want to explore various other ways to integrate marketing messages that serve the marketing partner while preserving the integrity of the experience with our audience,” he said.
Children can purchase objects to decorate their room or new clothing through “Nick Points,” which they can earn through games or by taking part in various activities.
“It’s a free, points-based system that you can earn doing various activities,” Youngwood said.
He would not speculate on how many users will come to Nicktropolis, which he said combines the best elements of the company’s Nick.com and Turbonick.com Web sites.
“What we’ve never done is brought everything all together in this virtual world which we call Nicktropolis that allows kids to enjoy all of these multimedia experiences as an individual or a group that’s compelling and fun, but also safe,” he said. “It’s a virtual playground for kids.”