Lessons in Launching Virtual Worlds. Mistake #2: We’re targeting kids aged six to 13

This is the second in a series of posts examining common mistakes made by companies launching virtual worlds for the KT&T market. The first post, ‘We don’t need a Marketing Budget’, is here.

We get a stack of business cases every month at KZero for new virtual worlds. Obviously a critical element of any plan is the target market, so here’s some actual extracts from a number of these business cases:

‘Targeting boys aged 5 to 12′

‘Targeting boys aged 6 to 15′

Targeting girls aged 5 to 11′

‘Targeting girls aged 7 to 16′

And my personal favourite ‘targeting girls and boys aged 3 – 14′

Here lies the problem, and the topic we almost always raise first with clients…..

The activities that five year old boys like to do online (and in virtual worlds) differs massively from those aged 8, let alone 12 year olds. They have different play patterns and interests. Now compare boys with girls. Again, even though for early ages there’s a little overlap, once you get to tween and early teen ages, again, user profiles and interests differ greatly.

The point here is that having a wide age range as the target market in a business case may give you a larger addressable market but really, can a virtual world concept proposition engage both ends of the scale? Short answer, no. Only the early movers into the space (the likes of Habbo, Stardoll and Club Penguin) have enjoyed this type of wide penetration and this is mainly due to the massive brand awareness pulling users in in the first instance.

Now, in the age of multiple virtual worlds there’s little chance of appealing to both ends of the spectrum. And, if you did try to cater to a wide range, the pitfall is concept dilution – you just don’t have enough engagement to attract and retain users. The lowest common denominator approach is no longer an option – relevance is key and a more tightly defined target market.

We typically recommend an age spread for the primary market no greater than three years. So, this means 8 to 11, or 5 to 8, and no more. Consider users outside of this group as the secondary market – a ‘great to have’ but not the main focus.

Does this impact on the business model? Short answer no. Longer answer – these posts for Europe, Asia and the Americas) highlight the very large addressable markets available, even with a four year age range – there’s enough to go around here.

Another important element to remember is that from day one operational launch of a virtual world you’re gonna get users from all over the world. The message we send to VW operators is to realise this fact from day one. Just because you’re in New York doesn’t mean your user base will be local. It will be global.

So start thinking about gathering and analysing data to understand engagement metrics by age and country. Consider localisation of the website (if it’s browser-based) and local currency payment options. Throw moderation in here as well (multi language support).

Focus on a tight age range, develop the concept and features closely aligned this range and analyse hard and often. There’s a large enough market out there if you make your proposition relevant and tailored into a tight age spread.

KZero Services

KZero Reports