Our Friends Electric
According to new research compiled by eMarketer, virtual worlds are becoming more and more popular with young people.
According to the company, nearly a quarter (24%) of the 34.3 million US child and teen Internet users will visit virtual worlds once a month in 2007. This is forecast to rise to 53% by 2011. The phenomenon is not just limited to the States, though, with Korea’s Cyworld well ahead of most other worlds, according to the ComScore data cited in the report:
While the sector in general is showing growth well ahead of the norm, intense competition for teens’ attention and the faddish nature of children themselves means that it’s more difficult than one might imagine to spot the best places to invest in advertising or online content. Many of the top-scoring worlds have been around for less than twelve months. Similarly, some of the bigger names in this sector, Disney’s Toontown Online and WeeWorld, would appear to be in decline according to these figures.
A further complication highlighted by the report is that the correlation between teens interacting with a brand online and in real life has not yet been established. Report author Debra Aho Williamson observes, “The bad news is that it is difficult to know what all this virtual interaction really means. What value is there in a person’s avatar drinking a Pepsi? Or wearing a shirt bought from a virtual store? What if a person’s virtual activities have no bearing on their real-world activities?”