This is the first in a series of four posts exploring how virtual reality will drive the future evolution and direction of virtual worlds towards Social Virtual Reality – what we’re calling ‘Virtual Worlds 3.0′.
It’s important to lay-out in the first instance how we got to today, moving through VW1.0 and 2.0. Using the definition of ‘a real-time multi-user virtual environment that can not be altered by the user’, VW1.0 was heavily driven by the KT&T (Kids, Tweens and Teen) market, with registered account growth from this segment reaching 1bn in 2013 and an active user base in excess of 250m account globally. (Note that we’re focussing more on social VWs rather than game-based MMORPGs and the like).
The graphic below (the KZero Universe chart) visualises the tween and teen segment of the virtual worlds marketplace.
Many of these virtual worlds have amassed multi-million registered account bases by creating immersive environments based around activities such as socialisation, avatar dress-up, multi-player experiences questing and exploration. And, in many ways these virtual worlds have proved popular because they offere ‘visual social networking’ (via avatars) before the concept of mainstream social networking as we know it today. They offer users the ability to be in the same ‘place’ at the same time as other people, albeit with in most cases a 2.5D perspective, viewed via web-browser.
In addition to existing IP branded platforms such as Playstation Home, Build-a-Bearville, Barbie World and Fusion Fall being popular, brand-new IPs such as Moshi Monsters, Club Penguin and Poptropica demonstrated the appetite for younger users to explore in and engage with virtual worlds.
Importantly, a key differentiator between this stage of the market (VW1.0) and the next, was the fact that users had no or little control over the environment – the virtual world could not be modified by them. In other words, User Generated Content (UGC) was not possible, which leads us to VW2.0.
We classify the second evolutionary stage of the virtual worlds market as VW 2.0, defined as a ‘A VW that allows the user to create/modify their environment’. By this of course we mean UGC….
Interestingly, some UGC-based virtual worlds actually existed before some of the more popular VW 1.0 platforms, with Second Life being the most prominent one. But, it was not until Minecraft became a global phenomenon that the concept of creating ‘virtual stuff’ hit the headlines and continues to do so. The advent of UGC worlds such as Minecraft, Roblox and Stardoll pushed global registered accounts up to 1.3bn and active users to 350m. Continue reading →