Business in Virtual Worlds, Second Life, Virtual World Platforms

The Year Ahead for Virtual Worlds: And the Children Shall Lead

A post over at Linux News summarizes the potential of virtual worlds and offers predictions for the year ahead, among them:

* Increasing stickiness and trial conversion rates remain top priorities for virtual world operators.
* There will be many experiments with platform interoperability and universal avatars. Several efforts are already underway, including IBM and Linden Labs’ collaboration in pushing an open standard and the China Recreation District initiative to build a virtual platform that can host millions of avatars.
* 3-D virtual worlds will become more user friendly and compelling.

The author relies like many other observers and venture guys on the kids to set the tone for the boom ahead:

Two big success factors for child-oriented virtual worlds are that they are structured and provide interesting things to do for their participants. The No. 1 reason for visiting virtual worlds is to play games, and this is especially true for kids. For instance, more than 50 percent of Webkinz and Neopets users go there mainly to play games. In contrast, visitors to 3-D virtual worlds such as Second Life cited escaping real life, being someone else, and creating and managing avatars as their top three reasons.

In our view, such motivations lack sustaining power. In order for 3-D virtual worlds to grow their active resident base, they need to provide more organized and engaging activities. Many newbies to 3-D virtual worlds feel overwhelmed and bewildered when they first enter the wild, seemingly vast and unstructured virtual world. Some industry pundits are making the argument that whatever you can do on the 2-D Internet, you can do it better in 3-D virtual worlds. Such vision may prove true 10 years from now, but currently the technology is not mature enough and mass-market consumers simply don’t see enough value to migrate to 3-D Internet.

Which I guess means that in his view, Second Life needs to get game and treat newbies like kids, and while there’s something to be said for giving some structure to those first few hours, it ignores the deeper possibility that an open-ended platform for creation may be far more sustainable than the latest quest-driven world - one gets stale over time, the other continues to deepen the tools and resources that sustain innovation. (But if you don’t take care of that first hour or two, the innovation is invisible).

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