October 21st, 2008

There is a glut of virtual worlds available today. As of May there were over 100 kid-oriented worlds alone out there. Even in a normal market, we’d have to ask, “How many worlds can the economy sustain?” Not only is there a limit to what internet goers can actively make use of, there’s also a limit to the number of dollars that can go into building these games.

Then we have the economic crisis. Where will that leave virtual world development? Will we start to see numbers grow at a slower pace? Or will existing virtual worlds begin to shut their doors? For that matter, does a world ever really need to shut its doors once its initial start-up costs have been taken care of? Maintenance aside, could it run forever?

That brings us to a larger question about what strikes me as the Web 2.0 bubble. Sure, virtual worlds fall somewhat outside that model, but it just seems the current wave of social network start-ups has a lot of parallels with what happened in the 90’s. Does that mean we’re headed for a crash, for a moment when the bubble bursts? As someone who works in San Francisco and gets paid to write about new online projects, I sure hope not, but I guess we’ll have to see…

Sorry for all the questions, folks. Anyone think they have answers?

Tags: up for debate, virtual worlds

4 Responses to “What will the failing economy mean for virtual worlds?”

  1. Duoae Says:

    I’m sure there will be some bubbles burst… which ones is anyone’s guess!

    I’d be willing to bet (like 100% certain :) ) that companies will be more risk averse and as such any products that might have been 60/40 in favour may be shunted into the cancelled bins. Existing projects that are doing well enough to cover costs etc should be left alone.

  2. Eugene Says:

    I am looking for some idea and stumble upon your posting :) decide to wish you Thanks. Eugene

  3. turkmenistan Says:

    If you report on virtual worlds, you should be closer to the answer than anybody. Find out why there are 100’s of worlds. Review WorldsInMotion.biz and look for trends. Do these places support niches, or do they all aim for the mainstream? Which ones are add-ons, product placement vehicles, or pet projects, and which ones really aim to stand alone and become the next Club Penguin/WOW?

    And more importantly, to step back a minute, does anyone care that much about virtual worlds? Virtual worlds/MMOs seem to be niche pursuits, like ARGs. The press often makes the mistake of chasing stories that seem like they should be interesting, without checking to see if anyone’s interested. Is that the case here?

    “Does a world ever really need to shut its doors once its initial start-up costs have been taken care of? Maintenance aside, could it run forever?” Maintenance ain’t cheap. And many virtual worlds have shut down – read Clive Thompson’s article on the death of Asheron’s Call 2. But many others (especially cheap/fan-run ones like MUDs) stay open indefinitely. “What does it take to kill a virtual world?” is an interesting question – maybe you can get some numbers on costs and benefits, and get someone to pin down the calulation.

    Most of all, sources are key. You say, ” … what strikes me as the Web 2.0 bubble” – is that your analysis, or what you’re hearing in the papers? Do you think that’s even the case? What’s happening now is nothing like the thrashing out that took place around 2000 (I know, I was there). Don’t make assumptions – figure out what’s really going on, and then write about that.

  4. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Hey, Turkmenistan, calm. This isn’t an official article I’ve put together. It’s just some musings I’m airing on my personal blog. Think of it as an open invitation to discuss — for all of us.

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