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The Reality of Virtual Worlds


For anyone doubting that virtual worlds are here to stay (and that the internet is ‘evolving into three dimensions’), read this excellent piece by Victor Keegan in The Guardian, which includes these nine rather astounding factoids:

  • Entropia Universe, the Swedish virtual world had a turnover of $365m last year and is about to be floated on the stock market
  • Habbo Hotel has 80 million members (bigger than the UK population), and 7 million regular users (about the population of London)
  • Gartner research predicts that in a few years time 80% of all broadband users will have an avatar
  • China is currently investing $30 Billion dollars in a 100 square kilometre site that will house the infrastructure (server farms, electricity, transport logistics etc) to host nine or ten virtual worlds, each of them capable of supporting over 150 million avatars. The underlying strategy of why they are doing this is ‘strictly economic’.
  • In South Korea, 43% of the population are already members of the virtual space Cyworld, a penetration level which means that every consumer brand wants a presence there. 300,000 business already offer over 500,000 virtual items for sale.
  • It’s not just about Second Life – there are already over 50 virtual worlds competing for supremacy (featured in more detail in Dan’s excellent post, and here’s one he did about 15 more which are in development)
  • Corey Bridges, co-founder and exec producer of Multiverse (a company that provides virtual worlds for others and charges only when they make a profit), believes that virtual worlds will be bigger than the entire entertainment industry is now. "Virtual worlds are instantaneous while Facebook is timelagged" he says.
  • Corporations including BP, IBM and Diageo are already using virtual worlds to enable remote working and hold meetings saving hundreds of thousands of pounds in travel and employee time. IBM already has 5,000 people working virtually and is exloring ways of making different worlds inter-operable. Diageo has reported that 90% of employees who took part in virtual meetings thought it better than similar real life occasions.
  • Virtual Worlds are helping science, by enabling scientific, academic and technology communities dispersed around the world to work better together. The UK National Physical Laboratory has recently backed the launch of ‘Nanotechnology Island‘ in Second Life to serve just such a purpose.

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