PREDICTION by next xmas participating in virtual worlds will be just another entertainment pasttime

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by: Lynette Webb (with Dan Calladine)

Once upon a time, not that long ago, the idea of grown adults choosing to spend time relaxing of an evening playing on a Playstation (or Xbox or Gamecube…) was deemed a little odd and antisocial. Now console gaming has gone mainstream and it’s utterly normal. We believe the same change in perspective will happen with their online relations, ‘virtual worlds’.

In a sense, most console games are like virtual worlds already – most involve role-playing a character in a pretend (but getting ever more realistic) environment. With the advent of internet connectivity for consoles, some are even multiplayer. Visiting a PC-based ‘virtual world’ like World of Warcraft, Second Life or their ilk, is only a small step beyond.

This is not to say that large numbers of people will choose to regularly spend time engaged in ‘virtual worlds’. In fact, over the next 12 months we think the proportion of people in the UK who are regular visitors will remain niche, especially in comparison to console game players, not least because of practicalities (eg: need for a high spec PC). But what will change is that participating in virtual worlds will cease to be something to remark upon.

Already virtual worlds have entered the playground vernacular – South Park devoted an episode to World of Warcraft – and there’s been a deluge of articles in mainstream TV and press about SecondLife. In 2007, virtual worlds will continue to boom and evolve, but with less of the hype.


**** Don’t think having a website will always be enough. The time is coming when people will expect you to have a presence in the virtual arenas they frequent too, whether that be MySpace or SecondLife or anything in-between. Today, not having a web presence is seen as a negative; in 5 years the same could well be true for a virtual ‘shop’. There is an opportunity for leading brands, especially those targeting tech savvy early adopters, to get out there today and become part of the community, helping forge the standards for brand involvement.

**** Product placement in virtual realms is limited only by your imagination, but whatever you do, don’t be crass and overtly commercial. Focus on enhancing the experience for people in-world, don’t do something that jars. As well, especially in places such as SecondLife where creativity & entrepreneurism flourishes, don’t assume that just because you’re a ‘real world’ big brand that your presence will be welcomed. You need to be clear about what you contribute by going in-world and avoid being seen as seeking to wipe “indigenous” businesses out.

This is part of a series of predictions for 2007 developments, prepared jointly with my colleague, Dan Calladine, for Isobar Global. Opinions are ours personally and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Isobar group.

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