Gartner research – 80% of active internet users will have a “Second Life” in the virtual world by 2012
Interesting stat from Gartner – in their research they go on to explain how companies should participate in virtual worlds:
First Law: Virtual worlds are not games, but neither are they a parallel universe (yet)
Second Law: Behind every avatar is a real person.
Third Law: Be relevant and add value.
Fourth Law: Understand and contain the downside.
Fifth Law: This is a long haul.
Link to full press release
Jonny Bentwood’s take on this is slightly more cynical and pragmatic…
Virtual worlds, communities and nations are here to stay. Whilst emerging media is exploring new ways for companies to interact with their target audience, businesses must be careful not see this as another outlet where they aggressively sell.
Users go these sites often as a form of escapism and would probably take a negative reaction where vendors try and conflict with this. However, this can be done well – take Toyota selling their cars on Second Life as a great example of complementing a virtual world rather than fighting it.
Even though Gartner do suggest this is a “long haul”, there is a lot to be said for being early entrants into a market. My advice would be to start now but passively.
Also – don’t get hung up on the main avenues. Technology is changing fast – who knows what new scenario will be the best place to virtually hang-out in a few years time. Have a plan that is flexible and go for it. Nevertheless, Gartner have made some sound suggestions that would be foolish for any would-be vendor in the virtual world not to follow… but perhaps they should use mine too.