Virtual worlds – there’re not dead yet!! In fact the opposite is true. Virtual worlds have passed out of the spotlight in some regards but growth persists, with a heavily youth-oriented userbase. According to UK-based virtual world market research firm KZERO, there were 1.7 billion worldwide registered users of virtual worlds as of the end of 2011. This was more than double the under 800 million users at the end of 2009. As Figure 1 indicates, 97% of these accounts are currently held by users 25 years old and under.
On average, users have four avatars and are active in multiple virtual worlds. Habbo Hotel and Second Life are still well-known virtual worlds, the latter with 20 million regular users. Further, over 100 open sim grids are running using Second Life’s platform software, one of the larest of which is the education-focused Reaction Grid. Entertainment, socializing, and education continue to be application areas of focus in virtual worlds. Premium subscriptions, and in-world advertising and product placement, as well as virtual product and service sales remain the business model.