Monday, April 02, 2007

Virtual Worlds Conference 2007

Here are my raw unedited notes from the 2007 Virtual Worlds Conference. No links, no nuthin'. Just notes.


((600+ people attending))
“We are at the silent movie stage.”
“This is one freaky, geeky 21st century we are moving into.”
“A lot of this is going to happen and a lot of it is not going to happen.”

Companies in this space to pay attention to are:
The Electric Sheep Company
Rivers Run Red
Second Life
Parks Associates
McKenna (?)
Entropia Universe
Proton Media
Project Entropia
Trilogy Studios
Links here:

My personal favorites building companies in this space are
The Electric Sheep Company and Rivers Run Red.

These guys rocked:
Sibley Verbeck
Jerry Paffendorf
Justin Bovington
They were just so full of passion and so authentic that you just had to love them!


SecondLife is not the only game in town., Whyville, Habbo Hotel, Project Entropia are all worthy of attention.
These early virtual world companies were built by technologists that focused on physics rather than people. There will be great opportunity to build upon the relationships and usability.

The question isn’t how do people change the technology, it is how does the technology change people? What are they doing now that they didn’t do before?

Virtual worlds are at the point of being extraordinarily undefined. The incredible interest is in the potential at this point in time.

A big issue right now is that these virtual worlds are islands unto themselves. People want their digital assets to be moveable, if they build something in Second Life they want to be able to transport it to In fact, they want to move seamlessly between these virtual worlds. People want a universal client for virtual worlds. Like Netscape was when it first came out.

Virtual worlds are a communication medium although it has started as entertainment and amusement first. But that’s a lot like the Internet in 1995, isn’t it?

An interesting learning emerges when people of different cultures get together for virtual meetings in-world. Brits and Germans and other people would never think of interrupting someone else in real life...but in-world they will certainly start typing when someone else is talking. That’s interesting.

If someone invented real-time language translation for these virtual worlds you would have one amazing collaboration tool. (Business opportunity)

Adidas has done some work in virtual worlds and they have found that for the same price as 6 minutes of media in other medias they were able to get 11 minutes in virtual worlds. Not sure how they calculated that but it is important because over the last two years 80% of advertising agencies TV budget has been cut. Advertisers and Media companies are scrambling for opportunity.

33 is the average age on Second Life.

Think beyond chat, email, and html. Kids spend HOURS finding out about products. Smart marketers will feed them.

Virtual worlds don’t necessarily need to be 3D. One could argue that MySpace is the largest virtual world.

Media is additive. One new media does not replace existing media, it adds to it.

The goal of marketers like MTV is to fit more media into their audiences' day. They are not looking to eat into the existing media consumption, they are looking to augment it. Watch it on TV, visit the website, visit the virtual world. In fact, their mantra is Watch TV/Live TV.

The BBC saw a 10% drop in viewership last Christmas. The audience IS shifting despite what MTV is trying to do.

MTV/Viacom has found that in-world 85% choose to interact with the brand.

Last month on virtual MTV, 92,170 clicked on “Add to Buddy List”. That’s a big number.

The goal is a deeper engagement model. We want to move people from exposure to engagement. (Note to self: Sell this concept to ad agencies, you’ll get hired in an minute). When you turn off your ad spend, it stays off and your message goes away. Build a community and your messaging lives on.

Here’s the plan. Have our audience say:
I SAW it
I TALKED about it

Buzzword Alert: “Level Up”...taken from the gaming world meaning moving to a higher level. May be used in any context when you want to say “more”.

Open vs. Safe Environments. Second Life is "open" and you will experience all kinds of crazy human behavior and some brands may not appreciate this. is "safe" and more closely governed. Some brands may prefer this.

Neopets has original content and is translated into 11 languages simultaneously.

Netropolis launched on Jan 30th and already has 2.4 million registered users.

Worlds of Warcraft has 8 million paid subscribers and is the 800 pound gorilla in the virtual world space.

It is easy to get money into and out of Project Entropia. It is not easy to get money out of Second Life.

Consultant Chart Alert:

Access > Find > Share > Participate > Collaborate > Co-Create

Consultant Quote Alert:
“If content is king, context is emperor.”
“The avatars ARE the content.”
“Kids love brands but they hate advertising.”
“Enhanced pre-sales activities” (Good euphemism for no revenue yet).

Excellent Random Technology Adoption Observation: “Education is the industry that took 25 years to take the overhead projector from the bowling alley to the classroom.”

Marco Polo is an online portal that educators are paying attention to...also Artid is virtual Shakespeare and kids love using it.

“Use your brand to establish relationships...not necessarily with your brand but rather with one another”.

Ethical Issue: With data, avatars can know a tremendous amount about people in virtual worlds. How much of this data is ethical to use? Should avatars disclose the fact that they know this information? Is it OK to delve into Avatar-Based Marketing? (Kind of a rhetorical card companies use customer data mercilessly).

Books to read: Convergance Culture and Fourth Turning

Marketers are still scared of MySpace.

Girl Scouts of America has an awesome MySpace page.

“Make it market-driven, not marketing driven.” (Disney approach)

Forterra is a company that comes to the virtual world space with experience with the U.S. Department of Defense and the healthcare industry. They are in a different league as they are connecting these worlds with mission-critical business systems.

Case Study:
There was a nursing shortage in the US so there was a huge push to get people into nursing programs. That has been achieved but when they graduate they are required to do 900 hours on on-the-job training but that number of people entering the system would jeopardize the quality of healthcare. Forterra has developed virtual 3D training that gets the nurses the training they need without putting healthcare quality at risk. And, as a bonus, it is a scalable system.

We need taxonomies over virtual data. You can’t find anything easily.

The University of South Florida has a newly created Virtual Worlds Research Center. Rochester Polytechnic Institute also has a program and I think I heard that NYU does also.