This week Google launched Monopoly City Streets. The concept is simple. You buy real streets, develop them virtually, and earn a corresponding virtual income. Like Jerry Paffendorf's million-inches-in-Detroit, MCS combines alternate reality, games, virtual worlds, and social networking.
Is it good? I have no idea. Can't get in, because massive user inflow has already crashed the product. I'm reminded of the way that Quake broke some parts of the network when it launched, and EverQuest clogged all the bandwidth of San Diego on its opening day. When somebody comes up with a good idea on the net, the user storm becomes awe-inspiring.
There's a lesson here in the contrast with Google's Lively, a virtual world of avatars and rooms where you could hang out. /yawn. The crash there was caused not by massive user inflow but massive user apathy. Merely virtualizing something is dumb. VR a necessary tool, not a sufficient one. To create new energy, you have to reinvent the game people are playing.
Thanks to Daniel Polonsky for pointing this out.