I got a chance to read over the interesting but sobering Virtual Worlds Management Industry Forecast 2009 which came out earlier this week. This report collected responses from over 60 industry executives, analysts, observers, and "thought leaders" on what the coming year holds for the virtual worlds industry. (Notable companies not represented in this survey are Linden Lab and There.com.) Among the general conclusions from the forecast:
- 2009 was going to see a continued downturn in investment in virtual worlds,
- enterprise-solutions will focus on virtual worlds as more cost effective in comparison to other training, meeting, and collaboration solutions,
- ad dollars appear to be drying up, while virtual goods are still a possible business model
- and that the web is the way forward for virtual worlds, building upon tools that users are already comfortable with.
I have pulled a few excerpts related to education from this forecast
for my own purposes, but thought that others might be interested in
For the full report, see http://www.virtualworldsmanagement.com/2009/forecast/overview.html
James Bower, CEO and Chairman, Numedeon
Sorry to be negative but:
- Continued re-evaluation by the marketing/educational industry of different virtual world products — and the development of more sophistication in making "buys" especially in light of global slow downs.
- Slowly growing scrutiny by governments of virtual worlds with respect to business and marketing practices.
- Significant reduction in the number of "operating" virtual worlds, as development dollars are used up and income models don't work. This will especially occur for the large number of virtual worlds launched aimed at children following the Club Penguin acquisition, now having difficulties getting "shelf space." Most will simply stop operating, some will merge, and others will be aggregated.
Justin Bovington, CEO, Rivers Run Red
- Divide & Conquer – Clearly defined entry points for the market; Education, Enterprise, Entertainment (the 3E’s). Currently the 3E’s are under the catch-all phrase of "virtual worlds." The wider market has become numb to the term "virtual worlds," the overuse of the vernacular has led to misinformation and generalization.
- Solutions, not platforms – Specific, tailor-made solutions that are built to deliver relevance around a business objective. Platforms in the past years have provided tools, but not solutions. In order to survive, we will have to be more aggressive in putting out the “bread” (products, solutions) rather than leading with “flour & water” (tools).
- A platform shake out of the kids virtual worlds – Entertainment worlds will continue to gain audiences, but will struggle to measure and present ROI due to an over saturation of platforms. The "first footers" (e.g., Habbo, Club Penguin etc.) will dominate even more as a result. On a broader note, the platforms who have promised to deliver over the last three years, must actually deliver this year to remain relevant. I.e., enough talk, stop sniping from the bushes, let’s see some action.
Ron Burns, Founder and CEO, ProtonMedia
- In 2009 the virtual world industry will continue serving two markets – consumer and corporate with corporate having two focuses, training/HR and workforce collaboration. The consumer space will see increased competition across the board with 2D, 2.5D and 3D worlds being launched for various consumer demographics. The key to success and long term viability in this area will, as always, be the successful balancing of the three-legged stool – revenue, “game” play, and stickiness.
- Corporate use in training and HR will double in 2009. Economic pressures will cause organizations to reduce travel expenditures and improve effectiveness. This trend will result in an increased need for computer-mediated training and information transfer for tasks like employee on-boarding. Virtual worlds will be used in pilot projects and full implementations based on trials conducted in 2008.
- Workforce collaboration will be the bright spot for virtual worlds in ‘09. Companies will realize the value and effectiveness of VW technology in bringing people together from across the country or the globe to work on projects and teams. Travel expenditure reduction and the desire to become more “green” will drive the increased use of all collaboration tools – from web-based meeting tools to telepresence systems.
Bruno Cerboni, CEO, Virtual Italian Parks
Growth of the enterprise-focused virtual worlds for Collaboration and Education &Training. The slow economy will force companies to cut costs and the Immersive Internet fits this requirement. Using the Immersive Internet, companies can also start to replace meetings & conferences, simulate business activity, manage human resources. In addition using the Immersive Internet gets the trips down helping to save the planet by reducing the carbon emissions.
Bruce Joy, CEO and Founder, VastPark
OpenSim will gain traction amongst influential early adopters in the education, training and corporate markets. This will damage Second Life long term.
Jeffrey Pope, Executive Vice President, ngi US
Enterprise / Commercial focused virtual world offerings will see broader adoption: Fueled by the current economic condition as well as recent improvements in technology, many companies, universities, organizations and institutions are likely to opt for low cost distance collaboration tools which do not require substantial changes to their existing IT infrastructure. Invariably, total cost of ownership will be a primary determining factor for those desiring a behind the firewall solution. Additionally, if the security is not a major issue, then there is likely to be a significant niche opportunity for fully-hosted on demand virtual environments capable of providing pre-created spaces for training, meetings, and events. This type of service will be ideal for those who require space for a one-off event or an ongoing arrangement to accommodate meetings that happen with some frequency.
Browser-based virtual worlds will proliferate: I see this already happening primarily in the children's virtual world segment with so called "2.5D virtual worlds." However as the technology evolves I believe we will see further integration with existing SNS communities, not to mention the inevitable uses in educational, enterprise and other fields.