Cauchi said the site would have had to be built differently a year ago, because the Macromedia software authoring tools today are more efficient to use than earlier versions. Analysts predict that animations will be catapulted even further ahead with 3-D streaming animation rendering technology that's under development through the combined efforts of Macromedia, Intel Corp. and NxView Technologies Inc. in Cary, N.C.
"We used Flash 5 and Shockwave 8 to the limit. That's why it was a good time to bring the Beatles to the Web: because the Web medium is reaching mass market and the technology is getting very exciting," Cauchi said.
While the games and chat functions on Beatles.com may not seem important to mainstream businesses, the site's navigation with animated objects "is definitely where businesses on the Web need to go," said Rikki Kirzner, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass.
Businesses selling products on the Web will want to take advantage of development tools to help customers rotate productts, walk through the products' features and explore how they work, Kirzner said.
For example, NxView Technologies specializes in providing businesses with the ability to show their products on Web sites from various viewpoints with walk-throughs users can navigate, she said. Several consumer automobile sites already let users rotate a camera view of the interior of a new car model using the same QuickTime VR technology Beatles.com employs for a Studio 2 tour.
The Beatles.com project wasn't without technical obstacles. One difficulty developers faced was sharing hundreds of Beatles images taken from different time periods across 27 different templates for the 27 song pages without a centralized database, Cauchi said.
The inability to share images over a common database is typical of problems for big retailers and manufacturers selling products to consumers and other businesses over the Web, several analysts said.
Web developer Dan Sayers at London-based Kleber developed the Help! game with colleague Hawken-Bright Roberts in approximately six months' time. They primarily used Shockwave and Flash, but Sayers found that he had to create a custom tool to make the chat functionality work when the Shockwave Multi-user Server couldn't do the job.
The use of online games and chat functionality like those in the Help! game is controversial on mainstream business sites. There's limited value in posting games or chat rooms on a business site, Kirzner explained, "unless you are trying to appeal to teenagers."
But some traditional businesses say games help bolster the image and visibility of the company brand.