Explaining Vertical worlds
What are the factors that are going to drive usage and adoption of virtual worlds?
Ease of use?
Multiple entry points?
To small degrees, the points above will assist with growth but not be the primary factor.
People need a reason to enter a virtual world – an objective, something relevant to them. This ‘sense of purpose’ is what will drive wider adoption of virtual worlds and bridge the gap between the innovators and early adopters currently inhabiting older virtual worlds to the early majority.
When you think about it, worlds like Second Life are generalist. People have nothing really in common with each other when they first join. This is why you find over time that residents gravitate towards people with similar interests, be it geographical, genre or interest group. Whilst this is great if you want to actually target early adopters (and many companies do) worlds that offer a dedicated themed or category driven experience are likely to encourage this wider take-up.
Why? Because creating a world that is themed means that straightaway potential residents have something in common with the world. The interest isn’t the technology or the fact that there’s a virtual world to join, but instead, it means there’s an environment available tailored to their real world passions or interests. In this sense, the technology driving the world is just a means to an end.
Examples of vertical worlds.
Football Superstars (FS) is a classic example of a vertical world. Set for launch in May 2008, FS will be part MMOG and part virtual world – a Metammog. The gaming element provides an online football experience, playing games as a single player in a team, with other team mates online and playing at the same time. When you’re not playing you live the life of a footballer, training, learning skills and interacting with football-themed events and environments.
The key here is that you know that every person in FS has an interest in football. This is a vertical world.
Playstation Home is another vertical world set for launch next year. Home is a world sitting on the PS3 designed to bring together gamers. The world itself will offer virtual games and activities, a dedicated personal space and the ability to go with other players directly into PS3 games.
Think of it as a ‘glue’ that will bind players together in a Playstation themed world.
Virtual MTV is another set of vertical worlds. In this instance, MTV has created virtual experiences themed around various TV product, such as Laguna Beach and Pimp My Ride. Again, people in these worlds have something in common and the worlds have been created with specific themes and interests.
Another example is vSide, a music virtual world. In vSide, avatars can hang out, listen to music (with friends of course), go to events and basically wrap music around their virtual experience.
What does this mean for Second Life? Will vertical worlds steal users? Doubtful. As Second Life is proving, generalist worlds are popular and there will always be a place for them. And, valuable early adopters will continue to inhabit such worlds. Will Second Life continue to attract people? Absolutely – there’s a lot more early adopter groups to penetrate and a lot of compelling reasons for brands and companies to enter.
Interestingly, there’s already some instances of vertical places existing in generalist worlds. The L Word in Second Life and CosmoGIRL village in There are venues created to cater for specific types of people with specific interests.
But, what dedicated vertical worlds provide are new options for marketers wishing to tap into different demographic types and target markets. People who are less tech-savvy or brand-sensitive than typical SL residents. These residents (from early majority groups) will find vertical worlds easier to use and also more compelling than generalist worlds.