Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Investing in Virtual Worlds (for Children)

A recent CNET article explains "that venture capital and media firms have invested more than $148.5 million in 12 virtual worlds during the third quarter of 2008 ... Investors are also targeting the youth market and have been looking for more youth-centered virtual worlds than ever before."

Why are venture capitalists pouring so much money into virtual worlds for children and young adults? I wonder if they are working on getting children hooked early in order to create regular and repeat customers? Or are there more noble reasons for such investments that I am overlooking?

One of the companies that received funding, Gaia Online (for teens), cites the following statistic: "eMarketer predicts the number of teen Internet users visiting virtual worlds will jump from the reported 8.2 million users in 2007 to 20 million in 2011."

What will 20 million teens be doing in virtual worlds by 2011? They will not be in the real world, as by definition a virtual world is an environment that is unreal. It exists in digital form. But what does this do to human sensibilities? Does it help fragment or fortify culture and community?

"O brave new world, That has such teens in't!"

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