VW 2008: Where are the Virtual Worlds Headed?

March 28 2008 / by Marisa Vitols
Category: Metaverse   Year: 2008   Rating: 3

Broadly popular virtual worlds are a relatively recent phenomenon, and yet have taken the real world by storm. It was just 2003 when Second Life opened its doors to the public – it has now grown to 13,018,921 residents (as of today) with millions of Linden dollars being exchanged every month.

Virtual worlds evolved from basic online communities and chatrooms. From these roots sprouted Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs) and Multi-User Shared Habitats (MUSHes), like the first 3D shooter game Maze War. Inspired by UK-born MUDs of the late 1970s like AberMUD, the first Internet-based MUD, early virtual worlds of the 1990s were solely text-based with limited graphics and often used a Terminal Interface. The launch of CyberTown in 1995, the immediate success of The Sims Online in 2002, and the growing success of Second Life sewed the seeds for a market that has recently begun to skyrocket. Due also in part to the steady popularization of MMORPGs, it didn’t take long for the rest of the world to catch on to the potential of such virtual environments. With virtual worlds popping up everywhere, the roster now includes World of Warcraft, Multiverse, There.com, MetaPlace, Club Penguin and many more.

This year’s Virtual Worlds Conference in New York City promises to be a playground for those interested in the Metaverse. The two day conference agenda covers the business, operations and legal issues for companies seeking to monetize their intellectual property with virtual worlds.

“Virtual worlds are rapidly reshaping the toy, media, and entertainment industries,” said Christopher Sherman, Executive Director of the Virtual Worlds Management. “This year’s Virtual Worlds Conference keynoters are individuals who are leading the charge, leveraging existing content, brands and intellectual property to create new, high-margin virtual worlds that excite, entertain and engage audiences.”

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Thirty three companies will also be exhibiting new products and services. Keynote addresses will be given by Charles Scothon (General Manager & SVP, Girls Mattel Brands, Mattel, Inc.), Rosie O’Neill (Senior Brand Manager, Barbie Tech, Mattel, Inc.), Jeffrey B. Yapp (Executive VP, MTV Networks Music & Logo Enterprise Group), Sibley Verbeck (CEO, The Electric Sheep Company), Kyra E. Reppen (Senior VP & General Manager, Neopets), and Steve Mortinger (VP & Associate General Counsel, Systems and Technology Group, IBM). The full speaker roster and agenda can be found here at the conference website.

Despite their reputation, virtual worlds today are much more than outlets for play and leisure. In fact, their utility and user bases span quite an extreme spectrum. Businesses are increasingly using virtual worlds for meetings, broadcasts and collaborative spaces – artists are using virtual worlds for showcasing their work – children are playing in virtual spaces in their free time – virtual entrepreneurs can be found designing virtual clothing, running discotheques, or even starting virtual schools. Due to the vast array of possibilities for development in virtual worlds, the booming market comes as no surprise – neither does the prognostication that they’ll continue to grow and become increasingly integrated into the real world of tomorrow.

Interested in the Virtual Worlds 2008 Conference? For a MemeBox Community discount of 20%, email me (marisa[at]memebox.com) with your user name and she’ll pass along the discount code.

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