Youth-Oriented Virtual Worlds on the Rise

By January 30, 2009

Over two hundred virtual worlds are live or in development, the vast majority oriented towards youth. Monday's Virtual Worlds Management Report provides the breakdown, and shows most of them to be geared toward the younger sections of the youth market, as well as providing educational content, heavily branded experiences, and different systems of monetization. This report shows an increase from 150 worlds in August. The data tracked as of January includes target demographics and development status, and now includes business models and countries of origin. 107 worlds are aiming at the kids market (ages seven and under), ninety worlds for tweens (ages eight through twelve), and 78 for teens. Back in August, it was tweens that had the most planned sites at 88, followed by kids at 72. Teens still received the fewest at sixty.

To look at the list of planned and present virtual environments is to look at a Kids 'R' Us shopping list. Representatives include BarbieGirls, BuildABearville, Lego Universe, Spongebob Squarepants and others. Recognizable brands are an excellent spending primer.

Virtual worlds generally collect their money through subscriptions, advertising and virtual goods sales. Microtransactions and subscriptions are the most popular, with 59 and 57 utilizing worlds respectively. Another 46 include advertising. Subscriptions are more popular with kids sites, partially due to children's safety concerns, and are easier to implement when the world incorporates educational content. Microstransaction or advertising-based worlds target tweens or teens as a primary user base.

WIth 81 virtual worlds still in concept or development stages, it is clear that this area is still a growth market. As the report shows, the teen market in particular is relatively open, and because of their age and increased autonomy, these sites are potentially easier to monetize. So while youth is the growth space so far, in the future much is likely to happen for adult offerings.

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