Wednesday, October 10, 2007

THIRTY virtual worlds in San Jose

First the good news: virtual worlds are experiencing their own dot com boom. Now the bad news: virtual worlds are experiencing their own dot com boom. Tomorrow and Thursday, the second Virtual Worlds Conference and Expo launches in San Jose; the first one went off last March in New York, when just nine worlds/MMOs were showcased. Six months later, thirty of them will be on hand, many you've probably never heard of, and if past history is any guide, just as many you'll probably not hear much about, afterward. Seven slated for the show are kid-oriented, including Zwinktopia, Gaia Online, and Habbo Hotel, all of which have been featured on GigaOM; with the continued growth of MMOs for minors, this isn't surprising. But then, four of them are virtual worlds designed for enterprise solutions, including Forterra, Unisfair, Project Darkstar from Sun Microsystems, and something called VT&T, a stealth project from a team of developers formerly of AT&T.

Like the original dot com boom, the Expo is an awkward convergence of traditional media corporations like Disney (new owner of Club Penguin), MTV/Nickelodeon (announcing eight virtual worlds), and Turner (which recently bought partnered with Kaneva), scrappy start-ups like Metaplace and Ogoglio, and lumbering into the proceedings like they always have, Microsoft with Virtual Earth and an unknown MMO set to be announced there.

And if the last boom's trajectory of hubris and greed is followed, most of these are destined for obscurity– or acquisition by their wiser superiors. While kid-oriented MMOs have the most active users and thus seem like the safest bet, for example, as FoundRead editor Carleen Hawn suggests, they're also fragile ecosystems that can fall apart with too much outside interference and commercialism.

In any case, I'll be there to appear on a panel, and looking for GigaOM stories to file from the scene. If you see me, be sure to say hi; and if you miss me at this virtual worlds conference, you can still look for me at the one in London, later this month.

Disclosure: My Second Life blog New World Notes is a "media partner" with the Expo.


With more than 30 virtual world platform providers participating at our Fall Conference, attendees will gain unique insight into the solutions available to meet their individual needs.

For the first time ever, professionals seeking to leverage virtual world technologies will be able to review and interact with all the major providers in one location. Attendees will be able to discuss business strategy, gain a comprehensive understanding of available technology and learn best practices. The Virtual Worlds Conference and Expo provides participants an edge in using virtual worlds applications to deeply engage their customers, partners or employees.

Virtual World platform companies participating at Virtual Worlds Conference and Expo:

Company Platform Name

Animax Entertainment  
Areae, Inc. To Be Announced
Conduit Labs To Be Announced
Disney Online Club Penguin, Virtual Magic Kingdom and others
Doppelganger vSide 
Forterra Systems OLIVE platform
GAIA Interactive Inc Gaia Online 
GoPets Ltd. GoPets
HiPiHi Co., Ltd HiPiHi
IAC/InterActiveCorp Zwinktopia
Icarus Studios Icarus Platform 
Ironstar Helsinki MoiPal mobile platform
Kaneva Kaneva Platfrom
Linden Lab Second Life
Makena Technologies
Microsoft Microsoft Virtual Earth
Microsoft Entertainment Effort To Be Announced
MindArk Entropia Universe
MTV / Nickelodeon  more than 8 virtual worlds and growing
Multiverse Network Multiverse platform
Numedeon Inc 
ProtonMedia ProtoSphere
Qwaq Qwag Forums
Stardoll Stardoll Platform
Sulake Corp. Ltd. Habbo 
Sun Microsystems Project Darkstar
Three Rings Whirled
Transmutable Ogoglio
Unisfair Unisfair Virtual Event 
View 22 Immersiv Platform
VT&T To Be Announced

The conference has five primary tracks:

Entertainment and Marketing
Virtual Worlds for the Enterprise
Business Strategy and Investment
Community and Customer Service
Design and Development.