News Update :

More Virtual Worlds for Children

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The annual virtual worlds conference is taking place in NYC today and tomorrow. Just a list of the speakers is instructive; there are a lot of major brands that are becoming players in the virtual worlds space.

The announcement that caught my eye was from Nickelodeon. They’re planning more virtual worlds to join Nicktropolis, now about a year old. They include the popular SpongeBob SquarePants, which will delight my grandson! More to the point, if you look at the comparative site statistics for the Disney Virtual Kingdom and Nicktropolis (both of which are relatively generic), versus the Barbie World, the wisdom of building a virtual world around a more targeted brand seems evident.

Virtual worlds have taken a lot of hits lately, but they seem to be here to stay, especially for the young crowd that likes to spend time playing games and communicating with a network of friends.

A couple of questions. First, is there a strong first mover advantage here? Even for kids there are a limited number of sites that they are going to patronize at any given time. The real question is, “Will they be loyal?” Kids? I think not. If their friends are suddenly all over a new site with cooler stuff, they’ll leave for the new one.

Second, when is a brand franchise strong enough to warrant this type of investment? Barbie seems obvious. SpongeBob may be also. But again, how many, how strong? And how do you keep the virtual worlds vibrant?

These are truly brave new worlds--watch for further bulletins from this space!
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