A lot of news about virtual worlds has crossed my laptop lately, so – since this is a big growth sector of cyberspace (with the global VW population growing from 186.5 million now to 638 million by 2015, according to Strategy Analytics) – I thought I’d package it up for you….
1. Avatar PR
Now (if not yesterday or last year) is a good time to fold avatars into family discussion about reputations and self-representation online. Even if your child’s favorite avatar is waddling around in Club Penguin, it would be good to ask to see the penguin, if you haven’t already, talk about that penguin’s favorite activities in-world, how many friends it has, and what sorts of things they do together. Why am I telling you all this? Early lessons in social Web spin control – not to mention early prep for the business world.
By the end of 2013, 70% of businesses will have behavior and dress code policies for employees whose online avatars represent their organization,” Virtual World News reports. Gartner recently published “Avatars in the Enterprise: Six Guidelines to Enable Success,” CNET reports.
As for the littlest VW citizens, Virtual Worlds News recently reported that, at 27% growth between now and 2015, children aged 5-9 are the biggest growth sector of a global virtual world population (which itself will grow from 186 million to 640 million by 2015). VW News was citing Strategy Analytics figures. For insights into day-to-day life in a teen virtual world, check out this YPulse interview with Gaia Online’s Joe Hyrkin.
2. Two new arrivals
* Israel-based Shidonni.com where kids 4-10 draw and animate their own animal avatars, which can then be turned into real stuffed animals! There’s a bit of a Webkinz model, but this is much more appealing to kids because they’re the producers. Here’s coverage at Virtual Worlds News.
* Omaha, Nebraska-based KidCommand.com for 7-to-12-year-olds is a virtual world that aims to teach kids and tweens about the real world so they can help make it better. The company, Green Bein’ Productions, Inc., wants to team up with other organizations that work to empower kids (e.g., schools, after-school programs, scouting). Here’s Virtual Worlds News.
3. Second Life’s booming economy On average, users of virtual world Second Life spend 100 minutes in-world per visit, adding up to more than 1 billion hours so far, PC World reports. Even more interesting, though, is the virtual world’s very real economy. “The equivalent of more than US$1 billion has been transacted between residents in Second Life, who purchase virtual goods and services from one another.” The in-world economy grew 54% year-over-year (between third quarter 2008 and third quarter this year), Virtual Worlds News reported more recently. This is a multinational economy: “Users from the United States accounted for 37% of the economy, followed by Germany and Italy at 8% each, France at 7%, and the UK at 5%.” Here’s a list of dozens of businesses that have a presence in Second Life – in retail, manufacturing, technology, travel, real estate, finance, communications, etc. (I couldn’t find anything more recent than this, but I doubt the number has gone down.)
4. Avatars in MySpace
MySpace, which has always been as much a self-expression tool as a social utility is expanding those self-expression features. In an arrangement with the newly profitable teen virtual world Meez Nation, MySpace users can now create avatars, Ad Week reports (CNET mentioned Meez’s profitable status).
Meez and MySpace have music and other media sharing in common, Meez CEO John Cahill said in an interview with YPulse. “Our users watch popular videos together, listen and dance to music together, and we’re always offering new virtual goods and “Roomz” tied to events like Halloween, for example. See YPulse for more.
5. Virtual worlds in the movies
Hollywood’s all over it – not so much making money in virtual worlds as telling stories about them, the San Jose Mercury News reports. There’s Second Skin (which I blogged about here), recently released Gamer and Surrogate, James Cameron’s Avatar in December, and next year’s Tron Legacy from Disney and Christopher Nolan’s Inception. [See also "'Red-light district' makes virtual world safer."]
KZERO, a virtual worlds research and consulting firm in the UK, has a slide show showing more than 10 dozen companies marketing in virtual worlds (with screen shots of their locations) here. [They put out great resources but are not great at returning press calls.]