There’s an excellent thesis put forward on 20 trends in virtual worlds over the past year. The ones of particular relevance were:
1. “Shedloads of virtual worlds will be launched in 2008” – I think that’s a fair bet though how many actually make launch is doubtful.
2. “Teen-focused virtual worlds are huge” – Not surprising really – they’re the consumers who have an intrinsic understanding of the whole virtual world concept. That said Teen Second Life is a pale imitation of the adult version and most other options cater to the pre-teen market. Are there actually many virtual worlds who’ve achieved a solid teen audience? Corporations like Sony are certainly trying.
3. “Brands still get it wrong” – Oh yes they certainly do – it tends to be the native virtual world brands that have the greater success at this stage.
4. “There’s a problem with communication” – The author means the issue of communicating what virtual worlds are to those who have no concept of them. I believe this is the pivotal issue that needs to be addressed for the forecasted exponential growth in virtual world use to actually occur.
5. “There will be big growth in corporate use of virtual worlds” – Yes, but until real value propositions can be put forward to business, their investment in virtual worlds will remain firmly planted in the research and development are.
6. “Virtual items will be a big moneyspinner” – Nothing new there – people are happy to pay for virtual possessions and the more striking they are the bigger the business to be had.
7. “Governments are waking up to virtual worlds” – They’d better be because governments are already lagging badly in this regard. It may take a significant corporate legal action to prompt some serious legislative scrutiny, with the real risk of the main benefits of virtual worlds being crushed in the stampede to regulate.
8. “Virtual worlds need to become easier to use” – Another obvious one here – I’m yet to use any complex computer application that doesn’t require a steep learning curve. The company or person that cracks that one will be one wealthy entity.
The full post is worth a read.
In a similar vein, Clickable Culture reports on the issue of ad-creep in kid-oriented virtual worlds. There’s a sure-fire trend that’s likely to continue.
Thanks to Massively for the heads-up on the trends piece.