Who’s winning the War of the Virtual Worlds?

Virtual worlds need new users,particularlynew worlds. But there’s only so many users around to sign-up to new worlds. Is supply exceeding demand? At present, quite possibly. In the near future? Even more likely, until new worlds stop relying on viral activities and focus more on more traditional marketing channels to raise their awareness.

There’s been a flurry of new worlds catering for kids, tweens and teens (KT&T) lately. Some are in open beta and some are fully live. But how are these worlds doing in terms of attracting traffic to their sites? One thing’s for sure, unless a world has a specular rate of new sign-ups, they’re not going to release these figures. But, we can look at other ways of determining who’s doingcomparativelybetter than others.

Using Alexa traffic rankings is one way. Alexa ranks websites based on visits from users of its toolbar integrated into internet explorer and other other browsers. It’s not perfect, due to potential sampling biases, but it works well forcomparativeassessments.

The graph below shows newly launched or open beta virtual worlds for the KT&T segment. The number axis refers to the comparitive score of each site – the lower the better (the most popular website in the world would be ranked number one). Just in case you’re wondering who’s in the top five across the entire web, it’s as follows:

  1. Yahoo.com
  2. Google.com
  3. YouTube.com
  4. Windows Live (live.com)
  5. MSN.com

Ok, so here’s the new virtual worlds, using the traffic ranking from the primary (usually .com) website……

With an Alexa rank of 14,558, Buildabearville is attracting the most traffic for new KT&T worlds. Of course, Alexa rankings do not take into account the conversion rate of visitors to sign-ups (or the demographic profile of visitors), it’s just an indication of traffic to the site and that’s the basis it’s being used for. This is of particular relevance to newly launched worlds – these guys need traffic asap.

Second place goes to Chapatiz with a score of 18,896. Two UK based worlds, Vizwoz and Lola’s Land are not doing as well as their US counterparts, explained primarily by the localite nature of the viral activity taking place for these worlds.

The middle ground is comprised of Smallworlds, Whirled and ZooKaZoo, with rankings in the 160,000 range – not bad.

But, all these worlds have a long way to go to get into the territory of the more established KT&T worlds, as shown by the graph below.

Gaia Online (assisted by their extremely popular forums) is the leading world in this segment with a rank of 291 – the 291st most popular website in the world, based on Alexa rankings. Neopets comes in second best with a score of 368. Interestingly, Stardoll and Webkinz are extremely close from a ranking perspective – 750 – 800 range.

Perhaps surprisingly to some, Club Penguin is in fifth place, with a ranking of 1,121, although it’s three times more popular than Habbo (.com) and over four times more popular than Barbie Girls. All of these worlds perform extremely well on an overall basis though.

Lastly, the graph below shows virtual worlds for older teens and young adults, with Second Life included as a benchmark. It’s important to also point out here that these worlds are all downloadable clients as opposed to browser-based, so visits to these websites exclude actual usage in-world, unless directed from a login.

Clearly IMVU is nailing this segment with a ranking of 709m globally. Often compared Kaneva and There demonstrate their similarities here as well, with scores of 24,380 and 25,870 respectively – Kaneva is marginally more popular according to Alexa.

vMTV and Twinity are also level-pegging, albeit on a less popular basis than Kaneva/There, with rankings in the 73k – 75k range. Newcomer vSide has an understandably lower (less traffic) score of 109.408.

So, of use?

Treating Alexa rankings with the provisos noted above, these comparative numbers shed some great light into how well worlds are performing, especially for newly launched worlds.

For companies currently in stealth/early development mode thinking growth will come purely from viral activity: take note of these rankings – these are your benchmarks.

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