Virtual Worlds are in Good Shape after All: Who Would Have Guessed?

Ever wondered just how many users dwell in so-called virtual worlds nowadays? Here’s a quick visual tool developed by UK-based company Kzero:  total registered accounts, average user age, and year of creation.

VW user census - (c) Kzero 2009
Virtual Worlds user census – (c) Kzero 2009

It’s only a fancy graph, I admit it, and it comes from a market research report. But the point here is that, despite adverse reports, virtual worlds are still in pretty good shape. One would imagine that, after the demise of the 1990s virtual reality craze, and after the mid-2000s half-assed attempt to revamp metaverses, plain non-MMORPG computer-based simulated environments would fall short in attracting new users and end up in the dustbin of history.

Turns out they are still a massive activity, growing in some geographical regions (notably in Asia) and especially appealing  to kids 8 to 13. Also, among older demographics one can still detect major players – Habbo‘s 130-odd million users and of course the high profiled (but relatively small: 19 million users) Second Life, which remains the fastest growing adult (average age: 30+ years old)  virtual world. Another interesting aspect is the relative longevity of some of these communities – again, who would have guessed.. More than 18% of them have been there for almost 5 years, with some dating back to the late 1990s/early 2000s.

Which leads us to another question: how many virtual world dwellers are expected for the future? It is difficult to say. But, whenever it is difficult to say, one can always find somebody (usually a business analyst) willing to drop a figure. So, Harvey Cohen and Barry Gilbert of the Strategy Analytics Consultant Group came up with a projection. According to them it’s safe to say (is it?), that by 2017 there will be one billion registered users – i.e. almost 22% of the entire online population. You don’t believe it? Probably it’s because the graph they use to back it up is not as fancy as the other one…

Virtual world registered users 2006-2017 (as percentage of broadband users)
Virtual world registered users 2006-2017 (as percentage of broadband users) – (c) Strategy Analytics