Blue Mars has announced that it is restructuring, dropping its PC development to focus solely on Apple iOS. The company itself is also restructuring, with an unspecified number of layoffs, including the departure of CEO Jim Sink.The 3D virtual world
Once pegged as an up-and-coming competitor to Second Life, Blue Marks is a CryEngine 2-powered virtual world from developer Avatar Reality. On Friday, the company said it will no longer add new content to the PC version of Blue Mars, switching its efforts to develop a version of the virtual world on iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad devices. The servers will remain online, but there will no longer be any technical support. Current city developers will no longer be charged monthly hosting fees.
According to the company announcement, "With over 50 million new tablet devices projected to reach consumers this year along with tens of millions of iPhones and iPod Touch devices, the market for Blue Mars Mobile is a massive opportunity for our company and our customers. We already have a functioning alpha in house and we aim to release the first builds of Blue Mars on iOS next month." The shift in focus
The move from a desktop client to a mobile platform makes sense in terms of general trends towards mobile gaming. And if Blue Mars is successful with its release, it will be the first 3D virtual world on the iPad. But some question whether mobile devices will be able to provide the same sort of experiences - resource-intensive in terms of graphics, data, and processing power - that a PC can.
The Future of Virtual Worlds
The change in the focus of Blue Mars development - along with a larger company shake-up echoes some of the problems that Linden Labs Second Life has faced in the past year - layoffs, management changes, and a struggle to woo new "residents" and maintain interest in 3D virtual worlds. For its part, Linden Labs has recently hired Rod Humble, a former EA Games exec, as CEO.
It remains to be seen if making virtual worlds more like games or more like mobile apps will be what saves these companies from more bad news in 2011.