Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Will the economic crash spell boom times ahead for virtual worlds?

This strikes me as a pivotal time in the history of virtual worlds. Not long after establishing residence in Second Life®, I became convinced that a major act of terrorism would prompt millions of new users - cocooning at home out of fear - to begin exploring the metaverse. I am now thinking that the economic crash may have the same effect, only this time because people will not be able to afford most entertainment, travel and other recreational offerings.

Early and frequent users in my circles were already reporting an acceleration in fresh technologies and creative developments and while the number of new Second Life users may have plateaued recently, as reported by Hamlet Au (aka James Wagner Au) of New World Notes, the people who are active participants are becoming more so.

While I, too, can feel that the pace in Second Life is picking up - though admittedly I can only substantiate this claim by pointing to blogpost after blogpost by my colleagues Hamlet Au, Dusan Writer and Robert Bloomfield of Metanomics, among others - I suspect that wide-spread adoption will be swift and deep when it does happen, transforming every aspect of society as we know it.

In my view, the only barriers to entry at this critical point in history will be the technical requirements to run Second Life. Most of us await further developments with HTML (the web) on a prim, as well as other expected breakthroughs, but I don't believe that they are essential to bringing in hordes of bored and financially strapped new users. I suppose the next question might be... are these the kinds of tourists that the metaverse is prepared to welcome?


Sophrosyne Stenvaag said...

Good point!

My guess would be that it'll make it easier to argue for corporate and education meetings and conferences in SL as an alternative to business travel.

Whether it'll replace atomic-world entertainment and socializing? I don't think the substitution will be a clear and natural one for most people.

Current users may put in more hours, but I don't think any real number of people will choose to substitute digital for atomic socializing.

It'll be interesting to track...