New Youth VW Report and Insights

As those younger users continue to grow, I’d guess that one of two things will happen. We’ll either see a boom of interest in developing virtual worlds for the teen and older sets as we already have for the younger generation, or we’ll see more worlds go through the same process as Gaia and age with their existing communities while other worlds rush in to fill the space at the bottom for the new young users.

Right now, it looks like it may be the latter. I’ve put less than 1/3 of the developing worlds down as specifically targeting teens. However, with those in early stages, some of that comes down just to my guess work. As a counterpoint, K Zero forecasts most of the growth in the coming years in the teen and young adult space.

What do you think? Is there an opportunity to provide virtual worlds for the soon to be teens and young adults or are they moving away from virtual worlds to other content?

Virtual Worlds News: Virtual Worlds Management Report: 150+ Youth-Oriented Worlds Live or Developing

This is a great question, and worth some pondering (and occasional off beat rambling).

As a certain virtual world I know plows through it’s private beta, I’m again working with the chillins online (I was severely missing the taters tots this past year).  Kids are definitely looking for those plentiful methods of PLAY and SOCIALIZATION.  It’s cool to see how kids in ‘beta’ react to each other now… as opposed to a year ago.  There’s a lot of casual adjustment and quick learning – less hand holding and chatter-prompting, which is VERY cool to watch.

The younger tots are still getting the grasp of social networking in general.  My godson (one of the dual lights of my life, since I’m blessed with two godsons) is 8 years old and not a big “gamer” or a computer nut either.  He’s an out-door, bust-em-up, adventurin’, sportin’ trouble maker of awesomeness.  I got him into VWs and he LOVES them now.  But what particularly caught my interest was his understanding of virtual worlds… the virtual world – that was HIS facebook, HIS myspace.  My godson’s older sister is 13 and just venturing into the MP & FB insanity.  He looks at her, and that “BORING” (as he puts it) site she uses and relates various virtual worlds as his own version (but less “lame” and with more “to do and see”). 

Granted, at 8, he’s still very visual and doesn’t have the text-based/peer-social-stalking skills mid-development that a 13 year old hopped up on hormones and the beginning stages of self-actualization does.  But that doesn’t stop him from making LOADS of friends in the world, collecting them like lightning bugs in a jar.  A lot of his play mimics the type of play he would display outside with his friends, but cannot – due to summer hours with mom at work, or after-dinner chill-time, or early morning boredom. 

I’m kinda getting tired hearing from people that social worlds are more for “girls”.  I just think that’s a cop out, lazy statement.  Boys are social beings too, it’s just a different type.

Anyway, without spilling my secret magic beans about boys & virtual world play (more than the obvious)- virtual worlds have something for all tweens.  And what the wonderful gentlemen over at VWN point out = what happens in a year – three, when these tweens who thrive and survive in the VW’s want the depth & fantasy they get in worlds, without having to be on a ‘mission’ like in older “MMOs” (WoW, Maplestory, Everquest, etc).  Gaia is sittin’ pretty, that’s for certain.  And maybe, just maybe Second Life will actually make it mainstream?  Then again… i dunno.  As a HUGE VW soul, I’m still not sold on the whole Second Life thing yet.  As my best friend always tells me (minus the opening “izzy, that’s…”) “too much.”

Thoughts?

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