The Rise and Fall of 'Coke Music'
The virtual MMO game that peaked FAR too soon.
Coke Music, also known as MyCoke or Coke Studios, was a virtual MMO game developed by VML and Sulake in January 2002.
After the massive success and uprising of Habbo Hotel in 2000, VML, who was taken on by Coca-Cola in order to create a new and exciting world, was tasked with representing the brand with a fresh networking game that would target the younger market.
Shortly after the project had been assigned to VML, the work began with the assistance and core technology of Sulake; the developer who built the Habbo universe.
MyCoke was launched beneath the huge domain of Coca-Cola in the first quarter of 2002. And of course, being a multi-billion dollar corporation, had no trouble in getting users on board upon release.
Similar to the smash hit Habbo Hotel, MyCoke offered users a second life at their very fingertips. With a unique avatar (or better known as a 'V-Ego'), a customizable virtual room, a central hangout and a bundle of lobbies for mini-games and meetups, MyCoke took the original concept from Habbo and added a few minor tweaks in order to differentiate between the two.
But, unlike Habbo or any other MMO on the web, MyCoke introduced their key selling point which was sure to poach some of their rivals users from various other spaces on the web. And that my friends, was a music mixer. That's right, an actual music mixer.
With a choice of genres and a whole stack of tasty effects and instruments, users were given the power to create their own demos, which could later be played in lobbies to other players in return for the in-game currency (Decibels). Oh, and a thumbs up or down emoji depending on whether it rocked the house or bombed effortlessly.
Despite a few minor tweaks to the algorithm, MyCoke was soon enough labelled as a ripoff of the renowned pack leader. But sitting under a brand as big as Coca-Cola, a few rumours and complaints were quick to fly from the radar and become nothing more than a minor speed bump in what was to be a long and fruitful lifespan.
MyCoke continued to pour out regular updates and content in order to keep the fanbase keen and loyal, and by 2004, a vast majority of MMO gamers had made the transition over to the new world everybody was soon talking about.
Come late 2004, MyCoke released version 2.0 of the game and introduced new features such as the Coca-Cola Red Room, premium furniture, and a whole new special catalogue of V-Ego items and collectables for users to enjoy.
By 2005, MyCoke had established itself as one of the most visited virtual MMO games on the web, all thanks to Sulake and their expanding kingdom of virtual worlds and mechanics that just seemed to tick all of the appropriate boxes.
Everybody had an account. Everybody had a demo to play. And everybody wanted to ride the coaster of what was to be one of the most influential games of its time.
Heck, even I recall wanting to switch dreams at only the age of twelve. And rather than pursuing a dream job as an award-winning actor, I wanted to create music and travel the world as some international record producer.
Coke Music did that. They influenced me to start making music outside of the virtual world.
... Plus I started drinking Coke a lot more, too. So in a way, it was a win-win situation for both parties.
Now that's marketing.
As the world settled in and grew accustomed to the pixel planets, several others sprouted from all over the world in hope of tugging the candy crown from Sulake's toasty temple.
IMVU, Bin Weevils, Webkinz, Club Penguin; all similar in concepts, but never quite reaching the same level of charisma as Sulake's homely creations.
There was something Sulake brought to the table that no other company could bring. Whether it was the way they marketed their work just right or simply hit the lucky streak at all the necessary milestones, something about the two MMO games just made the public weak in the knees.
But as the years were kind enough to keep MyCoke as one of the top dogs of the food chain, an unfortunate and deadly force was brewing in the faraway distance. One that would eventually chip away on the back burner and spell out the fall of the beloved world.
In 2007, it was announced that MyCoke would be merging to a third-party platform called There, under the new branded name, CC-Metro.
Although standing as one of the most likeable MMO games of its time, developers decided to switch paths and follow a new course where users would be able to separate both the Habbo and MyCoke platforms and experiment with new mechanics with one game whilst keeping a tight lid on the other.
Stripping the top-down concept and pixelated avatars, CC-Metro adapted to the new idea of 3D maps and third-person views where the user experiences would feel more 'intimateand lifelike' as opposed to distant and somewhat make-believe.
Despite Coca-Cola's best efforts to stay relevant and 'down with the kids', CC-Metrofailed to reach the same amount of hype as the once cherished MyCoke edition of the game.
Although the ambition was there and the market was clear, the lack of love and respect caused the rebrand to fall flat and lose a large chunk of its perplexed and heartbroken users.
The world was still vibrant and Cola-red like before, but something was missing. And everybody knew it.
There was something about the original Coke Music that made everybody froth at the mouth and eager to play. But CC-Metro just so happened to steal the baton and run in the opposite direction from the finishing line. It fell short when trying to captivate the souls of long-term fans. And with that, Habbo was able to take flight and leave poor old CC-Metro to scoop up the dust.
MyCoke had disappeared, and the countdown to CC-Metro's destruction had officially begun.
As the gaming community was left to pick up the pieces of what used to be their second home away from home, CC-Metro continued to spiral down an unfavourable path where no user wanted to follow.
After three years of working alongside partners There, CC-Metro, along with every other sub-domain under the empire, finally closed down to the public due to a major fall in new users.
In January 2010, There shut its gates for the foreseeable future, also sealing the lid of opportunity for once idolised Coke Music, too.
With no partnership in the works, Coca-Cola pulled the plug on the virtual world and settled the score with Sulake.
There are no plans to bring back MyCoke or CC-Metro. But with the direction the developers were heading in prior to closure, perhaps that might've been for the greater good after all.
Maybe it is better left as a memory rather than witnessing the rebirth of the brand and watching it plummet into disgrace. Maybe it is better left alone whilst old school users are finally beginning to forgive the developers for what they had regrettably thrown away.
Perhaps someday an ambitious creator will recreate the world with the same vision Sulake once had in 2002. Or you know, maybe they won't.
MMO games are still going strong, but with the likes of Habbo reigning over the market, maybe another Coke Music is the last thing we'd want. Maybe it's just a tad too late to reboot something that already peaked many years ago. And you know, perhaps it is better just to be left as a story to tell our grandkids someday.
There's a lot we can take away from this tale. And as the saying goes, "if it's not broke, don't fix it." That's something every developer needs to understand. And if you've got yourself a working title that seems to make people happy, then don't change a thing.
MyCoke peaked far too soon, and if the developers had chosen to avoid the herd of 3D sheep, chances are they'd still be around today. With a loyal following and just as many faithful users as there were seventeen years ago, they'd be a network worth fighting for, for sure.
Times change, as do people. But as far as that sweet little gem went, nothing had to change at all. Not a damn thing.
It was perfect and it was memorable, but it was exploited and milked until dry. And if Coca-Cola hadn't have gotten that demonic thirst for more, they'd probably have discovered that the original Coke Music concept would've tripled their profits should they have left it alone to digest.
I guess it just goes to show that one wrong choice really can destroy a following. And with MyCoke, one bad decision was really all it took to lose an entire army.
So devs, if you're listening, take note of this, please. Because if you get greedy when you've already struck gold and decide to empty the pockets of your product in search for more, make sure you understand that not only money will fall out of them. Understand that everything buried within them will fall out, too.
Supporters. Fans. Followers. Everything.
Everything can crumble with one stupid mistake. So do yourself a favour and don't be Sulake. Don't be CC-Metro.
... Be Coke Music, baby.
- J Tury
Penny for the poor?
Thanks for taking the time to read my latest article!
If you enjoyed the read then please do consider supporting me on Patreon at www.patreon.com/Tury
I don't expect much from writing, but I do appreciate every little penny that helps towards it. So thank you for your support and contribution.
For a further look into my works, please visit www.jtury.uk
If you have any ideas for articles or would like to hire me, please email [email protected]
- J Tury