Gaia Online is an English-language, anime-themed social networking and forums-based website. It was founded as go-gaia on February 18, 2003, but, following a statement by founder Derek Liu, the website moved towards social gaming, and eventually became forum-based. In 2007, over a million posts were made daily, (with over 26 million total registered users). Gaia also won the 2007 Webware 100 award in the Community category and was included in Time Magazine's list of 50 best websites in 2008. In January 2011, the company won the Mashable Best User experience Award for 2010.
Members of Gaia Online, known as Gaians, receive a customizable avatar when they sign up. Users have the ability to customize their avatar in many ways, including skin tone, eye style and color, hair style and color, gender, race (e.g. human, vampire, elf) and attire. Numerous clothing items and accessories for avatars can be purchased from a range of NPC-run stores using the site currencies, Gaia Gold and Gaia Cash. Avatars appear next to posts in the forums and profile comments (the post itself encapsulated in a "speech bubble"), and in Gaia Towns and other environments the avatar appears as a movable character that can travel from place to place, interacting with the environment (catching bugs, shaking trees, digging for buried treasure, collecting trash and flowers etc.) and other users.
Forums are the public message boards. There is a large variety of forums in which users can post, such as forums for general discussion, news, topics regarding the Gaia community and NPC story lines, casual conversation and lifestyle discussions, various types of role play, general entertainment, featured games on Gaia, and artist discussions. There are also forums for users to buy and sell items, as well as a forum for user-run businesses, e.g. art commissions and thread-bumping services. Users may make threads in almost every forum, as long as they follow each forum's guidelines. Users also have the option to add polls to their thread. Posting and replying to threads, as well as voting in polls, yields gold.
The currency used in Gaia is known as "Gaia Gold", commonly referred to as gold. Gold is regularly distributed to users as they browse around the website, post in the forums, play games, and participate in other various events and contests; the site also rewards users every day with random gold or items from the Daily Chance. In July 2007, Gaia released another virtual currency called Gaia Cash, which can be purchased with real money; $1 USD is equivalent to 100 Gaia cash. Gaia Cash can be bought through cell phone payments, or directly from Gaia itself.
Paying Gaia users generally spend about $30 USD per month to purchase Gaia Cash, which is then used to buy virtual things such as evolving, chance, collectible, and limited edition items.
On September 13, 2010, Gaia announced the introduction of AutoCash. AutoCash is an optional feature where GaiaOnline members can sign up to buy Gaia Cash on a reoccurring monthly schedule. The current cost per month for the feature is $10; users are given a generous amount of content for the monthly fee. AutoCash can be charged to a credit card or debit card and members may also pay for the feature using a PayPal account. The service can be canceled at any time; staying past three months offers users the bonus of receiving items specifically designed and made for those that continue to use the AutoCash feature. The benefits of using AutoCash include:
Sales within the Gaian market can be divided into four areas: Gold Shops, Cash Shops, Trade, and Marketplace.
- Gold Shops: Items from these stores can be bought with Gold or Gaia Cash (most users purchase with Gold), and can range from regular store items to upmarket items. These are various NPC-run stores which sell a variety of items, such as avatar clothing and accessories, furniture for Gaia Houses, and parts for Gaia Cars. Items found in the shops can also be sold back to the shop for 50% of the shop price.
- Cash Shops: Items from these stores can be purchased with Gaia Cash only. The majority of Gaia Cash sales are from La Victoire, an NPC-run store that only accepts Gaia Cash. It specializes in high-end items such as "Evolving Items", "Random Item Generators", and "Monthly Collectibles". Most items from La Victoire are continuously rotated in and out of the store. Other Cash-Only stores include "Phin Phang" (Gaia Aquarium items), and "Back Alley Bargains" (power-up items for Gaia's MMORPG, "zOMG!").
- Trade: Users can trade items and gold with other users. A majority of these trades are settled in the "Gaia Exchange" forum (and its sub-forums).
- Marketplace: The Marketplace is a separate area of the site for users to buy and sell items. Rather than self-auctioning an item through a thread in the Exchange forum, users can either put their item up for immediate sale with a "Buy Now" price, or leave their item for auction with a starting "Bid" price. Users can have up to 10 items for sale at once until getting the Tycoon achievement. After that, users can sell 20 items at once, and each item can be listed for a maximum of 14 days. The cost of this convenience is a 5% tax on all gold earned from sales.
Recently, the site's virtual economy is experiencing hyperinflation after the introduction of more gold into circulation. However, former COO Jason Loia didn't consider inflation as a significant issue.
Monthly Collectibles (previously known as Donation Items, also referred to as MCs) are special items that can be bought with real money meant to support Gaia's maintenance and costs. Established in June 2003 after users of Gaia Online petitioned for a "donation system" in an attempt to increase site revenue, for every US $2.50 a user gives to the site, Monthly Collectible items and the "Thank You" letter items they are found in are specific to the month that they were released in: for example, the items found in the "Thank You" letter for April 2006 can only be found in that letter, and one could only purchase that letter in April 2006.
Letters can be purchased over the phone, with a text message from a mobile phone, via PayPal, credit card, traditional mail or with Gaia Cash through the Cash Shop, "La Victoire". Envelopes and letters can be later bought and sold through user trades or through Marketplace.
Evolving Items, commonly abbreviated to EIs, are items which change or evolve over time. Items begin with one set of item poses, but with each new evolution, a different set of poses become available instead. Additionally, with each subsequent evolution a re-release of the item becomes available at the Cash Shop as a "next generation" release. When the item has fully evolved all previous poses become available for the item. Times between evolutions are different for each EI, and can be anywhere between a few weeks to a few months. Recent additions of "Rapid Evolving Items" evolve twice a week. New evolution updates are noted in regular site announcements as "Evolving Item Reports" present by the NPC, Dr. Singh. All EIs are available from the Cash Shop "La Victoire", and can be later sold through trading or in the Marketplace. EIs are removed from the Cash Shop sometime after their final evolution becomes available.
Chance Items/Random Item Generators
With Chance Items, referred to as CIs (previously known as Random Item Generators, or RIGs), users play a chance mini-game and the item they are granted depends on their success with completing the game, when they decide to stop playing and collect an item, or their failure to complete the game. Games will vary depending on the RIG – some may require users to choose a "correct" response, while some are simply a choice between continuing the game or stopping and collecting an item. RIGs are available from the Cash Shop "La Victoire" and are eventually rotated out of the shop.
Users are able to own their own Gaia House situated in Gaia Towns. Houses are available in three different styles: Round, Square, and Long. To purchase a house is free; however future changes to the style of the house costs 500 gold, and after that, 10,000 for the largest style. Users are also able to relocate their home to a different Town postcode at a cost of 1000 gold. A range of decorative furniture items can be bought from the NPC-run store, "The Faktori", such as include floor and wall tiles, tables, chairs, lamps, among others. Rare housing items can be found in Enchanted Wooden Trunks and Enchanted Golden Trunks randomly found floating across site pages.
On June 18, 2007, Gaia Online and Scion announced a partnership that allowed users to create a virtual Scion with customizable wheels, decals, fog lights, tail lights, and spoilers. Other car choices available were the fictional Possum and Musculero. The Scion tC, Scion xD, UFO and Kiki Car (which is available only with Cash) were later released, bringing the total to seven possible cars to choose from. Users can own up to 3 cars, which are stored in their Garage. Parts and decals for cars (such as paint color and antenna ornaments), as well as car bases, can be purchased from the NPC-run store, "Sam's Body and Parts". Cars are used as part of the Rally game available on the website.
Users can maintain fish and other creatures in Gaia Aquariums. Fish and tank accessories can be purchased with both Gaia Cash and Gold from the NPC-run store, "Phin Phang". At certain times, the fish inside a tank (from a different owner, commonly as a signature under a post in the forums) will "glow", enabling the Booty Grab mini-game. Aquarium item bundles (which include various fish and tank items) can be purchased from the main Cash shop, "La Victoire". Items can also be bought at the marketplace.
There are four main arenas on Gaia Online: Housing, Art, Avatar and Writing – with some of these arenas having subcategories. Members can vote in the arenas and comment on art, avatars, houses or written works which have been submitted by other users. Entering the Avatar Arena costs 10,000 Gold and rewards up to 150,000 gold for winners. Entries to the Writing Arena costs 10000 Gold (recently changed from 100g to lower so many trash entries). Entering the Art and Housing Arena is free, and no prizes are awarded.
<!--Please don't add more to this list of promoted items, this isn't meant to be exhaustive--> The Gaia Quest system grants users items for performing certain tasks. Although previously quests for doing tasks around the website (similar to Gaia's current Achievement system), quests on the site are now for promotional purposes, granting items related to a featured movie, video game, or series for watching trailers or advertisements. Movies, video games, and other products that are promoted by the Gaia Quest system include Gracie, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, The Golden Compass, Nancy Drew, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Kung Fu Panda, Bee Movie, Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce, You Don't Mess With The Zohan, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, The Sims 3, Sonic and the Black Knight, Harry Potter, August Underground's Mordum, PopStar Guitar, and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, among many others. Anime series and TV shows have also been promoted, such as Naruto, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, and The Hills. There are a few for games such as "Dragon Quest Swords" and the "Naruto: Ultimate Ninja". There are also some quests for advertisement such as the new Crazy Cores Skittles.
Achievements are tasks that can be performed around the site. Completion of Achievements grants users Achievement Points. There are a variety of different Achievements that can be obtained – tasks to gain these can include posting in a thread, changing one's equipped avatar items (or equipping specific items), selling an item in Marketplace, among many others.
Users can use Achievements they earn to add titles under their Avatar.
Gaia Online currently offers a number of Flash games, and users can win different items or gold from these games. These games constitute 10% to 15% of total site activity. On November 6, 2014, the staff announced that due to hardware and engineering limitations, zOMG was to be permanently removed from Gaia Online.
On February 28, 2017, it was announced that beta tests for a zOMG revival were underway.
On March 13, 2017, zOMG returned and is now open to play again. Members who played zOMG before the shutdown of the servers could pick back up where they left off. Members who sold or got rid of their rings and zOMG related items unfortunately will have to start over.
A game part of the new The Playpen subcategory of games. The game tests your skills and timing as you destroy blocks and clear the board to score as many points as possible. Tournaments are held through the game, while Gaia Cash is required to play, and gaia gold is rewarded as a prize for winning.
Gaia Towns (often simply called Towns) is a virtual world where avatars may move and interact with each other. While in Towns users can pick up various items. Insects, litter, and flowers can be collected while in Towns, and these items can be later made into other items for a small cost. Shaking trees, rocks, and shrubs can yield small amounts of gold to be collected. Users may use a virtual chat system while in the towns. Homes can be found throughout Towns and more than one user can visit someone else's home.
Towns 2, was launched in 2013.
Since 2009, Gaia has been implementing virtual worlds, similar to Towns, for various site sponsors. These have included a rainbow-styled world for a Skittles sponsor, a castle for an Alice in Wonderland film promotion, a large forest tree for the film Legend of the Guardians, and a tree house for the animated TV series Adventure Time among many others. Users can interact with certain NPCs in these areas, and are often awarded prizes for visiting these areas.