If you are not a participant in Second Life or have never checked into Habbo Hotel, chances are that you may not realize the power and reach of the current collection of online game/community universes. It's easy to assume it's fringe. But in the age of the long tail where communication value can just as easily start with engaging a smaller number of consumers vs. trying to find the next TV-size reach medium, online universes are pretty impressive. TrendWatching has a great new report out now - YOUNIVERSAL BRANDING.
It provides a great overview of this landscape. How can brands meaningfully enter these worlds? Is it as simple as plastering a virtual billboard in a cityscape? Here's a quote from the report:
"So while some brand-placements can add realism to a game - and some genres lend themselves more naturally to this - there is a delicate balance between enhancing realism, and obstructing escapism. In-game communication should always facilitate escapism. The difference is perhaps between what looks like advertising and what feels like advertising. The key is understanding the player and the game itself. The purpose and plot of a game, and the particular culture around it, must all be taken into account – in many countries, what happens around a game (such as the PC bang [internet-café-like games venues] culture in Asia) is as important as the game itself. As with all forms of communication, relevance (to consumer, location, and occasion) is essential. Wizards with cola cans or aliens brandishing chocolate bars are almost certainly wrong. [...] The Golden Rule: don't mess with the gameplay! "
You should get the full briefing, it's excellengt. Here are some stats from the study that reveal the size of some of these online experiences:
- Habbo Hotel: 50 million members
- Neopets: 70 million+ virtual pet owners
- Coke Studios: 8+ million registered users
- Virtual Magic Kingdom: 1+ million registered users
- Goonzu: (Korea): 3 million members
- Guild Wars: 2 million members
- Project Entropia: 400,000 members
- Ragnarok Online: 17 million members
- Second Life: 290,000 members
- World of Warcraft: 5.5 million members
And let's not forget about semi-YOUNIVERSES, such as:
- MySpace: 68 million members
- MSN Spaces: 30+ million members
- Cyworld: 17 million members in Korea (= 33% of population). In China, Cyworld acquired 1.3 million subscribers in only eight months.
- Lunarstorm: 1.2+ million members in Sweden (= 10% of population)
- Hyves: 1.6 million members in NL (=10% of population); 400,000+ members in Latin America (mainly Peru!)
- MSN Messenger: 100+ million users
- Yahoo! Messenger: 63+ million users
- QQ Messenger: 150+ million users in China
- AOL Messenger: 43 million users in the USA