All things are pointing to 2008 being the year that virtual worlds really come into their own and hence I’ve named it Virtu8 (virtual world meets 2008 + rapid uptake = virtu8…pronounced “virtuate”).
The New York Times has a comprehensive article supporting my thesis, particularly with respect to the pre-teen kids demographic. In this piece Brooks Barnes points out that Disney is spending circa $100m to create a portfolio of virtual world plays. Following on from their successful proof of principle through the acquisition of Club Penguin in 2007, Paul Yanover and the team at Disney Online are set to create a suite of worlds tied to major entertainment titles this year – per example, Pixie Hollow which is tied to the movie Tinker Bell (screen shot above from the Disney site).
Time Warner’s Nickelodeon is targeting a similar quantum and portfolio approach and Lego and Mattel are hot on their heels.
The plethora of virtual worlds these companies will bring out in 2008 will expose a lot more people to the entertainment value they can deliver. In fact, entertainment will be a key driver for virtu8 – the rapid uptake of virtual worlds. This is a key point postulated by Ted Castranova in his new book, Exodus to the Virtual World. He says:
Virtual worlds are societies where fun matters. The designers of virtual worlds have made a grab for attention…and the weapon they have developed, the mechanism of play, is powerful and well-suited to the task.
I’m still reading it so will reserve comment until I’ve had time to ruminate on it, but so far it supports the point of this post.
While many new avatars will be created this year, it will also be most interesting to watch others mature. What awaits current Runescapers in 2008, for example.
Virtual worlds may themselves mature into an entertainment genre in their own right in 2008, but it is also important for them not to be viewed in isolation. In fact they will be an integral part of general Internet upside delivered this year. In this regard check out JP Morgan’s Nothing But Net report – which TechCrunch covers here.
All up, the scene is set for an interesting year of virtu8ing!