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Playboy to expand in virtual world

What next, World of Sports Illustrated?

In a conference call with investors, Playboy Enterprises boss Christie Hefner - daughter of legendary founder Hugh - has indicated that the men's magazine brand wants to expand further into virtual worlds.

Playboy already has its own island - bunny-shaped, naturally - in Second Life. Talking up the concept in the earnings call, Christie Hefner said, "we intend to leverage [the brand] in both immersive real world and in the virtual environment to increase shareholder value".

That's the first time we've heard the real world described as "immersive". By a company executive, no less. You don't say.

But Hefner feels that virtual worlds haven't been fully exploited by brands yet. "We believe that the potential of online is much greater than the performance we've seen in the last several years," she said. "And to realise that potential, we have to catch up in terms of technological infrastructure and breadth of content and interconnectedness between what we do in the virtual world and what we're doing in other businesses in terms of e-commerce, in terms of events, in terms of advertising, in terms of social networking."

The mention of infrastructure has led some to speculate that Playboy could be planning its own branded virtual world; a permanent pyjama-party paradise. Exciting to some, no doubt, but remember that in the virtual world, you can look, but you can never touch.

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