I attended the Virtual Worlds 2007 Conference in NY and was first struck with the amount of euphoria in the air. Standing room only, sold out event. No, it wasn’t filled with a bunch of 3d artists and science fiction geeks. It wasn’t filled with reclusive hermits with no lives. It was wall to wall business people from fortune 500 to 100. There were major publishers of interactive and broadcast media. There was foreign media coverage. And there was a predominant amount of agencies present that were not going to make the same mistake they made when they didn’t integrate on the web in time.
The excitement and euphoria was real. You could slice it with a knife. Keynote speakers ranged from Matt Bostwick, SVP Franchise Development Group, MTV to Tor Myhren, Executive Creative Director, Leo Burnett. It also had a nice balance of those “realists” as they can often be labeled who can’t see past the ROI in order to get from here to there.
Those skeptics were here to find out what all the fuss was about and to naturally try to bring some sense to this euphoria. They brought up all the cynical questions that we hear out there, (ironically from those that haven’t even created an avatar) and was humbled to hear and see for themselves actual case studies that will soon be archived and benchmarked as some of the basic platforms on which virtual world marketing will continue to prosper.
This is about virtual worlds. It is not about Second Life. Although SL is getting the predominant press and usage, there are numerous platforms available for virtual worlds to exist. Platforms such as There.com, Multiverse, Entropia Universe. SL happens to have an easier cross platform for both PC and Mac, plus the features are more flexible than others.
Virtual worlds is an extension of all media. It is not an end all be all and must be integrated with all your media. It is a natural extension of the web, but does have it’s own business models.
1. Brand awareness
2. Subscription based
3. Product/service sales
But the key value points that virtual world’s offer apply to all business models. Those ingredients are:
• Colaboration. Allow your audience to truly be a part of your brand.
• Entertainment ecosystem. People use virtual worlds for engagement on a different level.
• Cultural connector. Enable all cultures around the world to connect to each other.
We are all in an R&D phase right now. Not necessarily ROI. The reason is this. As early adopters, ROI is defined differently. You cannot immediately hold all current ROI benchmarks onto a new medium. It is not only unrealistic, but short sighted. ROI in this medium would naturally be defined based upon your business however more general in terms of stickyness, PR, brand perception. Ironically, recruitment has the most tangible means to benchmark; number of leads, resumes and hires as well as brand perception.
Watch out for how Universities will be able to harness virtual worlds into actual virtual campuses that enable theory and practice to live.