Friday, January 19, 2007

Virtual Worlds Get Their Own Conference

Virtual worlds have been getting a lot of attention lately. It seems that people are realizing that digital property can translate into real world profit. In the past year, we've seen companies like Dell make announcements in Second Life and even some politicians like George Miller and Mark Warner have held events there as well. We've seen ideas about the taxation of virtual property, and even companies that run online worlds help real world police find criminals and victims.
The amazing thing about this, is that all this has started to reach a watershed after World of Warcraft announced that it has over 7 million (with an "M") subscribers. Even recently, they announced that they just reached the 8 million mark. Good for them! They deserve it.

With the attention focused on virtual worlds, it seems as if companies, marketers and even the government are all scrambling into a multi-billion dollar industry because they all smell profit. While I have nothing against the free market, I can almost see the gaming community start smirking and waiting to pounce on the poor bastards who make stupid mistakes while trying to communicate to an educated, creative, intelligent and highly defensive and protective community.

Even Sony, the makers of the PlayStation and some of the best games around were pounded mercilessly for their ill-conceived "All I want for Xmas is a PSP" campaign. If there was any company that had some good will stocked up for all its done for us, Sony would be one of them. Nope. They were humbled and shamed into submission for its miserable and, in my opinion, patronizing campaign.

It's been announced by Digital Media Wire, that there will be a virtual worlds conference, to be held in New York. From the article:

"Fortune 500 companies seeking to understand and maximize marketing, entertainment and business strategies within virtual worlds."
I wholeheartedly support the efforts to embrace and understand virtual worlds and the people that inhabit them. I hope that the conference will educate those Fortune 500 companies that they need to do their homework first. I hope that when those companies enter our digital domains that they do so contextually, appropriately, entertainingly and respectfully.

However, I know that not all of them will. I predict that in the next year, there will be a company that jumps into a virtual world, hoping to connect to the gaming community and will get slammed against a wall with such force, other companies will think twice about entering our domain again.

Games marketing have come up with some real nuggets of pure advertising dren, and the good folks at 1UP were kind enough to share some of the worst with all of us. I would like to think that the worst is behind us, but I seriously doubt it. I would like to say that the conference will educate the people of the Fortune 500 to tread carefully, do their homework and for god's sake... talk to us first.

The topics to be covered in the conference will include:

understanding consumer behavior patterns inside virtual worlds; technology and design issues; and the benefits of standalone immersive corporate worlds versus destinations within "Second Life."
While I think that this would be a fascinating, exhilarating and educational conference. I have a hard time believing that these companies are there to understand a rapidly growing social phenomena. Instead, I think that they might just be there to learn how to profit from our virtual worlds.

We'll see if they gain credibility, I hope they figure out a way to enter the virtual world and not make asses of themselves. But we all know that at least one of them will do exactly that this year. I wonder which one it will be?

1 comment:

Randy H. said...

You already know my opinon on this. But I agree, it is going to happen and we can only hope they do it the smart way.

Like I posted in my blog a few months ago about this topic, the corporations better educate themsleves about who exactly is going to be playing thses games they want to profit from. If choose unwisely, they will see themselves slandered all over the biggest industry and may never be able to recover. Gamers are the finickiest consumers besides the "valley girls".