Business in Virtual Worlds

Virtual Worlds in Business: Summary from Metaverse EIC’s Report

There seems to be an assumption among those looking into the crystal ball of business operations that virtual worlds will take their place as a regular component of company technology. David Holloway, as most of you probably know, brings an Australian perspective to this thesis as the editor of The Metaverse Journal.

Holloway recently put together a succinct (read: only 6 pages!) overview of how virtual worlds and business will interact over the coming year, opening with the assumption mentioned above:

If you work for a business and are reading this, you are likely just exploring the concepts around virtual worlds or you’re a more experienced personal user of the technology who is becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of insight at the company level on what this technology can offer. You may even be searching around for data to support a business case. Below are some snippets that may kick-start some discussions in your enterprise about what is very likely to be a standard operational process in a few years time.

First, Holloway knocks down the hyperbole that comes with virtual worlds such as the assumption that virtual world adoption can easily increase brand recognition or drives business traffic. Flat out, he states this is not the case unless a “longer-term, community-driven campaign” is attached to these efforts. He tackles the myths that SL is a) all about virtual sex and, b) is actually in decline by debunking both. In regards to the sex component, Holloway makes the point worth repeating that “the sex industry has always been at the forefront of technological innovation and virtual worlds are no different in that regard.” We need look no further than video-on-the-Web and the transfer of adult films from actual film to videotape to see that this is the case.

He then goes on to outline some ‘high performance’ examples of where SL is beneficial: cost savings, the use of virtual prototypes and demonstrations, and the integration of 3D with a 2D intranet.

After charting the major virtual world players and their advantages and disadvantages, he outlines the major trends he sees for the remaining year, summarized below:

- Continued explosive growth in virtual goods;
- Clearer definition of intellectual property rights in regards to virtual goods;
- Increased integration between VWs and social media;
- Formalized taxation (in the US) of virtual goods; and
- An increase in the number of VW-based social games.

In conclusion, Holloway writes:

It’s extremely difficult to put the case for virtual worlds in a few pages, and our role is not one of advocate. The Metaverse Journal exists to report on both the challenges and opportunities that virtual worlds present. Since our establishment in 2006, the momentum in the virtual worlds industry has continued to grow steadily. The current economic difficulties in the United States and elsewhere will continue to bite, but the growing evidence of actual return on investment in the virtual meeting space may actually facilitate wider adoption within enterprises.

The challenges of maintaining brand integrity, protecting intellectual property and providing a truly enjoyable experience for customers are significant in virtual worlds. It is those same challenges that also provide some ground-breaking opportunities for enterprises that have a desire to innovate and recognise the fact that a significant proportion of their employees and customers already see such channels as a natural way to interact.

Any business that recognises those realities will likely gain some degree of competitive advantage in an environment of increasing adoption of virtual worlds and their near-inevitable ongoing growth as ease of access improves and their immersive power becomes self-evident.

Again, download the free report here.



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