- Easy prototype research
They make it possible to evaluate reactions to three dimensional objects easily, quickly, and (relatively) inexpensively.
- Access to target markets
At present the SL environment is quite unique in that it is very international and it has a high concentration of people in technical, creative, and marketing jobs.
- No geographical limitations
It removes RL geographical constraints. For example, it’s not uncommon for companies to make decisions for all of the US based on focus groups conducted in just a few cities.
- Honesty and helpfulness of the community
The quality of data collected tends to be high. People are really forthcoming in SL, and comments made in focus groups, responses to open-ended survey questions, etc. all tend to be thoughtful and helpful.
The above lists touches some interesting topics, but I think there are 4 more reasons that makes research in Virtual Worlds worth considering:
- Distant 1 on 1 communication
The option to do direct ‘interviews’ instead of internet polls or questionnaires makes it possible for the dedicated researcher to continue on certain answers, and ask different questions depending on the responses. This creates a higher likelihood of creating some valuable outcomes.
- Simple reward system
Offer 250L$ reward and people are more inclined to participate in your research than they would getting a dollar in Real Life. The 250L$ is a lot of money compared to the usual ‘earning’ systems such as ‘camping’, which tends to offer 2L$ (0,008 USD) per 10 minutes.
- High know-how on certain topics
The users of SL are a nicely definable niche already of early adopters, gamers, explorers, social networkers and internet enthusiasts. You can assume certain knowledge on some topics such as technology or the internet and ask deeper into certain subjects.
- Easy Profiling
Unlike real life, you can right click a person in SL and get a profile with groups, skills, interests, and a description of themselves. Especially the groups the user has joined will tell you something about the person playing that avatar without explicitly having to ask for that information.
The trick to successful research in Second Life is to choose your topic based on the demographics of the users of Second Life, and attract a large enough group to get numbers you could extrapolate over this SAME group. Get into conversations with residents and ask for feedback on your questionnaire, direct human interaction is one of the greatest assets of the Virtual World, use this to your advantage. Last but not least, make sure you get a diverse group of respondents. In Virtual Worlds people tend to cluster, and word to mouth of one ‘campaign’ could get stuck in one group, giving a wrong impression in the results as these people tend to think the same on a lot of subjects, or even share their answers.