Sometimes I feel like that’s where things are headed, only it’s completely voluntary. We’re spending more and more time in these virtual worlds, kids are becoming involved in these virtual worlds at younger and younger ages, and the next thing you know everyone is going to be running around looking like Gollum from too much computer and not enough sunlight. Ok ok, that last line was a little extreme and I don’t want to come off sounding like a curmudgeon. I’m about as Pro-Web as it gets, but there’s always a danger of these things getting out of hand the second big corporations realize there’s money to be made….
Second Life and other virtual worlds for grown-ups have enjoyed intense media attention in the last year but fallen far short of breathless expectations. The children’s versions are proving much more popular, to the dismay of some parents and child advocacy groups. Now the likes of the Walt Disney Company, which owns Club Penguin, are working at warp speed to pump out sister sites.
“Get ready for total inundation,” said Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at the research firm eMarketer, who estimates that 20 million children will be members of a virtual world by 2011, up from 8.2 million today.
Worlds like Webkinz, where children care for stuffed animals that come to life, have become some of the Web’s fastest-growing businesses. More than six million unique visitors logged on to Webkinz in November, up 342 percent from November 2006, according to ComScore Media Metrix, a research firm.
Anyhow, this is a pretty good article ( New York Times Technology section) about the continuing and growing struggle to capture virtual kid market-share. Click here to read the entire article.