Awesomely Interesting Article on Virtual Worlds

Youth-Oriented Virtual Worlds to hit 20 Million Users in 2011

53% of all American child and teen Internet users will visit virtual worlds at least once a month by 2011 says eMarketer Senior Analyst Debra Aho Williamson. Right now that number sits at about 24%, with only 9% visiting a virtual world weekly. In her new study, Kids and Teens Online: Virtual Worlds Open New Universe, Williamson, whose recent background is in studying social networks, lays out a detailed survey of the new, fertile market. “Several marketers have already been active in virtual worlds for kids and teens,” Williamson said in an interview with “These companies are on the vanguard. Definitely from a marketers’ perspective, virtual worlds haven’t gotten to the point of social networks. Everyone wants to use social networks to reach a youth audience. Virtual worlds are where social networks were a year or two ago.

“I think we may well see a growth trajectory similar to what we’ve seen for social networking,” continued Williamson. “Virtual worlds can be an addictive, immersive, compelling environment. They offer a lot of things for kids and teens to do. Just over half of kids and teens will visit virtual worlds at least on a monthly basis by 2011. Already
you’re seeing session times of a half hour, an hour, and ten hours a month. 2008 and 2009 are where the growth is slightly bigger than ’10 and ’11. You’ve got other media companies jumping in the game. Disney is getting aggressive. MTV and Nick are getting very aggressive. Right now what we’re seeing is a lot more development activity and figuring out how a virtual world fits into media assets. I think as we get into ’08 and ’09 is when you see a lot of traction.”

The study contains a wealth of data on virtual worlds and virtual worlds usage with the goal of providing marketers who may not be involved in the space an opportunity to hit the ground running. One interesting note for developers, though, is the way that marketers are still approaching virtual worlds.

“Probably less than 10% of [Whyville’s] ad revenue is banner ads,” COO Jim Goss told eMarkter. “We throw them in to speak the language that Madison Avenue is used to right now.”

The common wisdom in virtual worlds circles has been that billboards and banner ads are an ineffective way for marketers to approach the immersive space, but Williamson still sees them as a reasonable way to test the waters.

“From a virtual world perspective, there are so many better ways to engage a user than to stick up a billboard or slap a banner somewhere,” she said. “If you think about it from a marketer’s perspective, though, if they want to experiment and don’t have the time or budget to run a full-fledged campaign, a banner ad or a billboard is still better than

She explains that the current level of technology adds to the approach. That’s one reason why certain companies, like Scion, have taken vanguard approaches to virtual worlds and invested in novel
marketing strategies, but others have held back.

“I remember the early days when people were complaining about the effort it took to build a web page,” Williamson said. “It was a lot of money and development time. I see something like that happening in virtual worlds. There’s a lot of development that needs to be done to create a large campaign in virtual worlds. It’s different. It’s not turnkey. The technology is different for all the worlds. I think that’s where you see the push back from companies that don’t have the time or resources for a full campaign.”

That will change, though, as the technology improves and as ad spending increases for the media that surrounds virtual worlds, says Williamson.

“What I really found was that virtual worlds are really at a sweet spot,” she said. “They are attractive to young teens and kids who are into games, but they’re also attractive to older teens who are interested in communication and socializing. They’re really at the
intersection of gaming and social networks. Both of those things are available in virtual worlds.”

eMarketer predicts that the worldwide ad spend for social networks will hit $3,603 million in 2011 when video games will receive $1,938 million.

For a more detailed report, check out the full study. Also, I’ll be moderating a panel on “Kids and Teen Worlds – What You Need to Know” at the Virtual Worlds Fall Conference & Expo, October 10-11 at the San Jose Convention Center. I’ll be joined by representatives from Stardoll, Nickelodeon, Habbo, and Neopets, so it should be an informative session.

Virtual Worlds News: Youth-Oriented Virtual Worlds to hit 20 Million Users in 2011

BAH! THEY’RE TELLING ALL THE SECRETS. No, not really– but still. Hahaha.  In all seriousness- it’s exciting to see all the opportunities and possibilities associated with Virtual Worlds and that people think they’ll be so huge still in a few years.  Rock on.

I’m quite jealous of the author of the this post & their pane at VW in the Fall out in San Jose. BAH!

Which is why anyone in New York intersted in VWs should come to the Tween Mashup this Friday and say hi to me as I’m exploring Virtual Worlds with an interesting panel who are doing their own unique interpretations of VWs! (DO IT! YOU KNOW YOU WANNA GO!) 😀

Blogged with Flock

  1. September 29, 2007 at 7:40 am

    I DO wanna go…and wish I were there, but I’m here. Boohoo! Hopefully you’ll ‘report’ a tad? On the exciting news/good front here in S.F. I have the CEO and outreach dir. of staying here w/me this eve and it’s been an inspiring night of visionary dreamscaping…We’ll have to swap new media notes! 😉 Thanks for the POV on the Packaging Boyhood commentary on Shaping Youth too…I pinged you back on it! ttys, Amy

  2. September 29, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    Congratulations on your panel, Izzy! I can’t wait to hear what insights you derived from it. Colleen

  3. September 30, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    are these virtual worlds are really affecting are real worlds?

  4. October 2, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    HI Izzy,

    Great blog! I work for a virtual website for tween girls and enjoy reading your work immensely.
    Do you have an email adress where I can send you information/updates that I think would interest you.


  5. tisirin
    October 5, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    Don’t forget FusionFall from Cartoon Network.

  1. September 30, 2007 at 12:50 am

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