McKinsey & Forrester: Virtual Worlds on the Cusp of Expansion

Does your avatar have a day job?Last year, management consulting firm McKinsey & Company launched a virtual ventures contest in Second Life. Now the firm has published an outlook report on how established businesses are reaching consumers in virtual worlds, and notes that many companies are”ignoring them at their peril.”

Current business uses of virtual worlds extend beyond marketing to training, product modeling, and even system monitoring. It is as if simulator training, long popular in pilot training, has been made inexpensive and ubiquitous.

This post also contains updated statistics on the use of Second Life, and an estimate of current level of business investment in virtual worlds.

The analyst reports are the basis of an article on Times Online:

“A senior consultant at the company (McKinsey & Company), which generally shies away from making public statements because its clients include major high street brands, said that any consumer-facing business “absolutely” had to be “experimenting in virtual worlds” if it wanted to get the attention of under 30s. “

This makes sense, because about 60% of Second Life’s users are under 34.

Use of Virtual Worlds Exceed B2C Marketing
The Times article lists a number of companies making non-marketing uses of virtual worlds: “Trucking companies, for instance, are teaching drivers how to parallel park their vehicles using simulations built in Second Life; Hilton, the hotel chain, is collaborating on a tool to train receptionists in virtual lobbies, and energy giants are developing applications that can help them to train staff on how to deal with a hostage situation on an oil rig.”

Useful Statistics on Second Life
Second Life has posted analysis of users by age, activity, time spent, etc. Having access to data can help put some of the hype around virtual worlds into perspective. Meanwhile, the Times article references Forrester’s recent report that companies have invested nearly $1.5 billion in developing technologies for virtual worlds, predicting that with “the near complete penetration of broadband, an increasingly technology-friendly workforce, and cheap computing tools, the 3D web would be “the next major wave of the internet’s evolution.”

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