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Monday, January 26, 2009

Virtual Worlds...The rumors of their death have been greatly exaggerated



Articles like Second Life's death knell tell of the lack of interest in virtual worlds with a recant of the death of Google's Lively and the pulling of the Reuters Second Life in world reporter.

But, to mis-quote Mark Twain, The rumors of their death have been greatly exaggerated. According to Virtual Worlds Management, a leading virtual worlds trade media company, over $594 million was invested in 63 virtual worlds related companies in 2008. The number is significant but, in the spirit of fair and balanced reporting, the number does point to a continued downward trend for investment in the virtual world space but less investment does not equal death or the end of virtual worlds.

While $595 million is small change compared to the TARP $700 billion dollar bail out, it is hardly a death knell for virtual worlds. I've written about this before in The Metaverse Hype, Decline and Realism Cycle--We've Seen It Before

And while they may have slowed down in the consumer sector. Educational and corporate uses of virtual worlds and interest in using virtual worlds for learning seem to have increasing, at least in my personnel experience.

Virtual worlds allow for rich educational experiences like providing multiple perspectives on a subject, geography or situation; they provide situated practice and experimentation and they allow learners to practice skills that can be transferred to real life situations. They also allow for practice of coordination among multiple geographically dispersed individuals.

So, let's not set a time and date for the Virtual World Funeral just yet... In fact, virtual worlds seem to be just entering the Gartner Hype Cycle area of the Trough of Disillusionment but eventually, because some people will stick with it, the use of virtual worlds for learning, marketing, etc. will enter the Plateau of Productivity.

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2 comments:

Dave Ferguson said...

I'm with you, Karl -- there was a lot of hype, and a lot of froth, connected with Second Life. And it's hard to sell people on having virtual business meetings if the mental image is one of furries and people wearing orange-and-purple wings.

And Second Life as an example is like Wikipedia as an example: the site's specifics can get in the way of how a particular group could apply the tools to their own setting.

Karl Kapp said...

Dave,
Thanks for the comment and great analogy of Wikipedia to define wikis and Second Life to define virtual worlds...I'll have to use that:)