Part two of the two-part series- this post will focus exclusively on the peril of virtual worlds. When I pulled out my handy-dandy Webster’s New World Dictionary to further define my term of peril- other words that stood out were: danger, jeopardy, and exposure to harm. So I thought to myself- could virtual worlds really be so ominous? Forrester Research recently reported that “only 11% of enterprises have adopted virtual worlds to augment their work.” With all of the press on virtual worlds- is this number really accurate… it seems like such a stark contrast to the numbers previously posted in The Promise of Virtual Worlds (link to blog article here) where we stated the following numbers from K Zero:
“By the end of this year we’ll be at the 150 mark for total worlds. We forecast this number to double by the end of 2010.”
“Combine all of this and we get to our 2012 forecast of 900 virtual worlds.”
“We forecast 2012 revenues to reach $6bn and 2013 to hit $9bn.”
We’ve seen Google Lively and Weblin enter the virtual world scene and then quickly fold- will more follow suit? So does the infamous tagline from Field of Dreams- “If we build it, they will come” really stand true for all virtual worlds (well it might if they don’t go bankrupt first). First of all virtual worlds are not created equal- although most all of them hold promise in different respects, will that be enough to sustain and prosper? The primary reason for some virtual worlds closing is the lack of funds generated- if a virtual world is free to users- there must be a valid business model underpinning the endeavor. Without such a model- will virtual worlds be able to continue. Sure lots of users are in-world and building communities but that ultimately doesn’t bring home the bacon. Whereas if a virtual world company branches out- such as Second Life with branding opportunities or Blue Mars with the Smithsonian maybe success will ensue. What could possibly lead to the peril of virtual worlds as we know them? Although mainstream adoption may be a little ways out I wouldn’t say that the perils outweigh the potential of virtual worlds. If a company makes a name or carves a niche then the opportunity for high-level success is there. But in today’s economic times there are a lot more companies that go bankrupt before success is reaped. So I am sure that we will see more virtual world companies enter and then exit the scene for lack of funding.