Generally defined, virtual worlds are online digital simulations of physical locations in which users interact with each other through fictional avatars in real time.
Attention in this space peaked roughly between 2006 and 2008, fueled for example by Disney’s purchase of kids’ virtual world Club Penguin for $700 million, Google’s ultimately unsuccessful launch of a virtual world called Lively, and ongoing media buzz over Linden Lab’s Second Life.
But given the triumph of Facebook and its paradigm of an online, asynchronous network of real friends, many industry analysts have assumed that virtual worlds are no longer relevant.
However, SocialTimes Pro finds this isn’t the case; rather, many leading virtual worlds from the 2006 through 2008 era have to a large degree evolved to use Facebook as an acquisition, promotion, and revenue generating channel, sometimes even integrating their assets to run within Facebook itself.
Considered together with virtual worlds that were launched from the beginning as Facebook products, this category still enjoys an extremely large user base that has grown during the last few years, and has significant potential for continued growth and leveraging opportunities.
Population Is At Least 27 Million
SocialTimes Pro conservatively estimates that there are currently at least 27 million monthly active users in Facebook who are associated with at least one virtual world. These include interactive apps embedded within Facebook itself, such as:
- Monster Galaxy from Gaia Online: 15.4 million monthly active users
YoVille from Zynga: 5.5 million monthly active users
Habbo from Sulake: 2.4 million monthly active users
Ameba Pico Virtual World from CyberAgent, Inc.: 575,000 monthly active users
Sanalika from Oyun Stüdyosu Ltd.: 577,000 monthly active users
TinierMe from CyberAgent, Inc.: 245,000 monthly active users
Then there’s Facebook fans of the official pages for virtual worlds located elsewhere:
- IMVU from IMVU, Inc.: 2.2 million Likes
Second Life from Linden Lab: 153,000 likes
This 27 million estimate is conservative for several reasons: The number of monthly active users on all the apps listed on AppData.com in the virtual world category is well over 55 million. However, there is some ambiguity among Facebook developers and analysts as to what should be classified as a virtual world.
Leading developer Wooga, for example, classifies its games Monster World and Happy Hospital (with 7.5 million and 3.65 million monthly active users, respectively) as virtual worlds, even though they don’t include user-to-user interaction in real time.
Similarly, CrowdStar’s It Girl, with 6.4 million monthly active users, also has several virtual world-type attributes, such as avatar customization and a simulated city environment, but lacks real time interaction.
To better understand this space, how it is evolving, and opportunities it might offer in the near future, SocialTimes Pro conducted in-depth interviews with several industry leaders and surveyed a number of top worlds. Learn more about how virtual worlds are adjusting to the Facebook era by clicking here to read the latest report from Social Times Pro. If you’re not already a subscriber, click here to become one or buy the individual report.