Virtual worlds predictions for 2010

Having completed our review of our 2009 predictions, we’re back for another round for the coming year.

1. OpenSim will continue or even improve on its growth trajectory – the momentum will continue, although a handful of larger grids are likely to have the lion’s share of that growth, with all the challenges that go along with it.

2. Australia will have its first government funded virtual environment – a proposal is already underway to see this come to fruition. Education will be the focus, but the foresight of the proposal’s facilitators is likely to ensure it involves business, education and government in a collaborative partnership.

3. Closures – it’s not a desirable prediction to make, but unfortunately it’s also a fairly safe one. There’ll be company and/or platform failures. Some may be bought out, but like Metaplace in the past week, there’s going to be some outright shuttering of some environments. I have some specific ones in mind but don’t have the data to support naming them specifically as being on a ‘death watch’.

4. Intellectual property disputesThe Eros vs Linden Lab action is likely to be resolved during 2010 and it will generate a large precedent in regards to virtual goods. Linden Lab will probably defend the action successfully, but the playing field will still have changed considerably.

5. Integration – Whether it be Second Life or Habbo Hotel, the level of integration between virtual environments and social media services will increase. Whether it’s a Facebook Connect sign-in or the ability to Tweet from Second Life, that functionality will move from the plugin / add-on phase to core architecture more commonly.

6. ABC in Second Life – I don’t have any inside knowledge on this, and I really hope I’m proved wrong, but I can’t see the ABC continuing to fund its Second Life presence beyond 2010. For the past year, the majority of the activity on ABC Island has come from its tight-knit community, with support from ABC staff. With the burgeoning ABC Online continuing to grow, there’s always the risk that the Second Life component will be squeezed out. Please, prove us wrong on this one.

7. The mandatory ISP filter – If the legislation passes during 2010, there remains a real possibility of adult content in Second Life and elsewhere falling foul of the filter. There were some gob-smackingly naive acceptances of Linden Lab’s claim they’d heard nothing about being affected by the filter and therefore were not concerned. There’s a chance everything will be fine but given the blacklist isn’t defined, nothing is certain at this stage. Our prediction: Australia-specific verification mechanisms will need to be put in place for Second Life and other environments where content creation occurs.

8. Taxation of virtual goods – 2010 will see the United States further formalise taxation arrangements in regard to virtual goods. I doubt the Australian Tax Office will make any substantive rulings in the coming twelve months.

9. Gaming worlds – 2010 is going to see the largest MMO launch since World of Warcraft: Star Wars The Old Republic. It won’t eclipse the incumbent but it will become the solid number 2 player in the short-term, with all bets off in the longer term. The second half of 2010 also sees the launch of the next World of Warcraft expansion, called Cataclysm. Head-to-head clashes in the MMO industry don’t get much bigger, and it’ll make for some fascinating times.

10. Social games – this year saw social games like Farmville take off in a big way. There’ll be some significant fatigue from users with these platforms, but there’ll also be further innovation to make them more engaging and with easier integration of virtual goods without the spam-like accompaniments that plague people’s Twitter or Facebook timelines. Overall: continuation of exponential growth, albeit not at the same level it has been the past six months.

Again, over to you. What’s in your crystal ball for the coming year?

Other sites with some interesting 2010 predictions:

Eddi Haskell
Daniel Voyager
Adam Frisby
Living on a Prim (some damn funny ones here!)
All Virtual (focused on virtual events)
Second Sins (NSFW)
Tateru Nino
Adric Antfarm


  1. Agree about ABC – in fact I said so when Telstra closed.

    Like you, I have no inside knowledge other than gut feeling but I suspect SL will dramatically and unexpectedly be forced to close. At best it will stagger on for another year or two. No particular desire to see it go, just a feeling that the end is nigh. Hope I'm wrong.

    I do think a whole stack of VWs will close down in the next year or two as the market rationalises and the seed money from the heady days of the 2007 hype runs out. I expect we'll see a move toward gaming and business platform solutions.

    One to watch: web.alive. Prices look good and the platform is ideal for business use. Could be a good year for them presuming Nortel can keep it together.

  2. “Australia will have its first government funded virtual environment”

    If this is the case, then it would hasten the closure of ABC Island, because if the ABC were to have a virtual world presence, then logically it would be in the government funded virtual environment where it can insert educational and other material it already broadcasts.

  3. I'm sure the ABC lawyers would find some ludicrous reason why they couldn't do that. They have form =)

  4. Either way, it's likely that ABC Island will go (sigh)

  5. SL is highly likely not going to close, and the reason is really not because the interest in SL might decline. Rather, SL is just like it doesn't require exponential growth to remain a valid business model, able to sustain LL's continuing profitability. never closed down, and very likely never will. And Second Life offers so much more… while Linden Lab is one of the few virtual world platform creators that annually make 4-5 times the initial seed money in profits. Even a decline in SL's user base won't affect profitability much (unless it's a dramatic decline, e.g. imagining 90% of everybody would leave from one day to the other) β€” LL is a cost-oriented operation, and less users just means less servers, less bandwidth, less concierges…

    But let's even imagine the worst case scenario, that LL is forced to be shut down due to political pressures or something. Well, people would just go to OpenSim instead πŸ˜‰ (I'm sure LL would be happy to allow someone else to get all the content if they had to close down!)… but not the amateurishly-run OpenSim grids ran out there, but what Lowell suggested on his prediction: the big grid operators, possibly… IBM and Intel, for instance πŸ™‚

    On the other hand, I surely hope we get more and more virtual worlds. I just hope they're paying attention to Second Life. The notion I got so far is that everybody wants to be a SL “replacement”; but the designers behind those have no clue why SL is successful at all. They just seem to base their decisions on… popular notions published on the tabloid press about SL. No wonder most utterly fail. To design an SL-killer, one needs to know what is there to “kill”, and has to have experienced it first hand.

    Lowell's prediction #10 is actually something I'm quite curious about. I have this feeling that all major Flash-based games designers will actually use Facebook's reach of 350 million users to disseminate their platforms. I'm quite sure that virtual world designers will do pretty much the same: the Electric Sheep Company did exactly that. Your own suggestion, Nortel's web.alive, might go the same route, and so will possibly hundreds of others. I predict that outside the virtual world wars, the game wars on Facebook will be quite interesting to watch. Facebook is already the #1 platform for disseminating Flash-based games, and this was probably never imagined by the Facebook creators πŸ™‚ FarmVille is just the start of a revolution… πŸ™‚

    Anyway, here go my own predictions for 2010. πŸ™‚

  6. Hi Gwyneth,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments! On Farmville, I just find it incredibly intrusive in the way it impinges so heavily on the broader Facebook experience. My prediction’s based on the assumption that is something companies may be wanting to avoid, in which case I could be very wrong πŸ˜‰

  7. I'm in with #10, I think 2010 will the year the first 3d games and apps on Facebook will grow and branch out to encompass basic social features and online world. I wouldn't be surprised if Buddypoke became a virtual world πŸ™‚

  8. AdricAntfarm says

    Thanks for the linkage guys. We love Aussies like um.. well.. um.. yeah– John Safran made me laugh so hard I wet myself a little once. I am the only American who knows him, but still.


    I can't stand that place since they decided to ban some friends and I who were just standing around trying to watch one of their video streams. Some admin claimed we were griefing and made up some story.

  10. ABC Island? Never seen a video stream anywhere there.


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