Business Opportunities in the “Virtual” World

Not long ago, stories about virtual world systems such as Second Life were abundant. However, recently, not much has been said about these systems. New user growth has slowed, and the number of regular users (around a half a million) of the largest system, Second Life, has turned out to be only a fraction of the overall number of registered users. However, these regular users do spend over 30 hours a month on the system, and they have formed a number of small communities, based on individual interests and activities.

Many organizations have experimented with virtual worlds such as Second Life, thinking that their acceptance could be like the broader Internet, which was initially dismissed as an irrelevant toy of geeks in the 1990s (much as many people regard virtual worlds now). If virtual worlds do become popular with the general public, many organizations want to understand the basic tendencies of the systems, and they want to be there when they take off.

Most early business initiatives in Second Life were basically 3-D billboards that were able to gather outside media attention (which was positive), but they were not able to get significant user attention. Businesses found that users were drawn to interaction with other users, not to structures in the background of the world. After recognizing these tendencies, many organizations began experimenting with virtual collaboration-based activities. Existing virtual worlds offer organizations a great opportunity to experiment with virtual relationship building, group meeting, interactive presentation, and training activities. While the outcomes of using a virtual world for these types of activities are still not clear, many organizations are realizing that it is not much of an investment to use an existing virtual world for experimentation, and the lessons learned from these initial experiments may become very valuable as these systems mature and grow.



7 thoughts on “Business Opportunities in the “Virtual” World

  1. too true………half of the modern world depends on Internet for most of the works…….my job is also based on internet………

  2. I would have to agree with the comments above- I think that the only hope for really profitable virtual worlds exist within the realm (at least for the present time) of massively multiplayer games and RPGs.
    The advertising that social media sites (like Facebook and MySpace) currently employ is not at all successful, at least according to what I’ve read and seen. I highly doubt that it will continue except under the current trend of very cheap banner ads on a cost per thousand impressions basis.
    People using social media sites just aren’t looking to buy anything- the same with second life and really any other virtual world. They go there to meet people, or even perhaps, to GET AWAY from advertising that’s now so prominent in the REAL world!
    The future of advertising lies more in subliminal product placement type strategies. Consumers are far more savvy than in the past, and traditional campaigns are not nearly effective as they once were.

  3. I agree there about the limitless opportunities at Second life especially ‘cos of the plugins that can be installed and freely developed.
    Its a good trend we see here of social media/online RPGs opening up to developer content. Facebook clearly did it well in terms of having open api’s for creating applications, a fact that orkut (google) is still struggling with and yahoo (360 who?) has none of!!

  4. You are right that many lessons can be learned about users’ behavior in these games. However, the business opportunities in these gaming worlds are limited, since they are tightly controlled by their developers. However, gaming worlds do present opportunities for experimentation, and they have limited marketing opportunities, although developers have not totally opened up to this idea yet.

  5. Today profitable “Virtual” worlds exist in the way of computer games. There is a whole industry with some clearly business leaders such as the Blizzard division of Vivendi.
    Blizzard is not alone in this market, and different models of people to people interaction exist on different games. I think that these gaming worlds have much more to teach us than Second Life because of the underlying success and the raw number of users that those games have.

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