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Kids See Potential Beyond Gaming for Virtual Reality (Part 2)

This is the second half of our summary review of the Oculus Rift kids/tween user testing research. In part one we covered research areas including headset comfort, game perspective preference, favourite game genres and game ideation.

As a recap, the research objectives were as follows:

  • Gaming Usage – how they reacted to wearing the Oculus Rift headsets, how they acclimatised to being in a virtual reality environment and their reactions to the games they played.
  • Game Design and Ideation – how well they could come up with new ideas and genres for games suitable for VR.
  • Branding – which companies they thought should sell virtual reality headsets.
  • Pricing – how much they should the headsets should cost.

Here’s what else we explored…

Pricing

We asked the kids how much they thought a headset like the Oculus Rift would cost. The average answer was £430 GBP / $720 USD.

Additionally, when we placed the Oculus Rift alongside a variety of other devices included a PS4, XBox One, a smart TV and an iPad, they ranked the headset as the most expensive. A boy aged 10 said ‘it’s the best out of all the others and it’s better than any other game‘.

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Distribution and Branding

We gave all groups a large selection of company logos, ranging from game and software developers through to global technology manufacturers, toy companies and social networks. None of them were aware of the Facebook acquisition of Oculus VR. Continue reading →

Kids See Potential Beyond Gaming for Virtual Reality (Part 1)

In March we conducted what we believe to be the first ever qualitative user testing research with kids and tweens using the Oculus Rift. The research (in conjunction with Dubit) was a series of six one-hour play sessions with pairs of boys and girls aged seven to 12.

Research Objectives

We wanted to investigate the following:

  • Gaming Usage – how they reacted to wearing the Oculus Rift headsets, how they acclimatised to being in a virtual reality environment and their reactions to the games they played.
  • Game Design and Ideation – how well they could come up with new ideas and genres for games suitable for VR.
  • Branding – which companies they thought should sell virtual reality headsets.
  • Pricing – how much they should the headsets should cost.

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We’ve got a Slideshare presentation here or a free summary report of our findings can be ordered here. The first set of our high-level findings are as follows: Continue reading →

KZero Radar chart Q2 2011

Hot off the heels of our updated Universe chart, we’ve just released the updated Radar chart for the same period (you can order the Q2 Radar here). The Radar chart shows virtual worlds by category and stage of development. Here’s one of the segments showing Education,/Learning, Fashion/Lifestyle and Music.

 

 

Major developments this quarter (and year)….. Education and Brands/IP are leading the charge in terms of new worlds in development. Continue reading →

Young Children’s Play in Online Virtual Worlds

This is a great article by Jackie Marsh from the University of Sheffield. The piece, ‘Young Children’s Play in Online Virtual Worlds’ is taken from the Journal of Early Childhood Research. If you’re in the kids virtual world or MMO space I’d recommend taking the time to read this. I’ve ‘bolded’ the parts that I think are particularly interesting.

Abstract

Virtual worlds for children are becoming increasingly popular, and yet there are few accounts of children’s use of these worlds. Young children are spending increasing amounts of time online as technology continues to create significant changes in social and cultural practices in the 21st century.

Some of children’s online interactions can be categorized as playful in nature; however, play and technology are frequently positioned as oppositional. In this article, I explore the tensions surrounding the relationship between play and technology and relate it to similar discourses concerning the concepts of ‘real’ and ‘virtual’. I then move on to consider the growing popularity of virtual worlds with young children and examine the way in which the worlds have been marketed to children and parents/carers on the basis of their propensity to offer online play in a safe environment. The article provides an overview of two virtual worlds currently targeted at young children and draws on a survey of primary children’s use of virtual worlds in order to identify the nature of play in these environments.

One hundred and seventy-five children aged 5–11 completed an online survey and 15 took part in group interviews in which their use of virtual worlds was explored. This article focuses on the data relating to 17 children aged from five to seven years who used virtual worlds. Findings indicate that virtual worlds offered these young children a wide range of opportunities for play and that the types of play in which they engaged relate closely to ‘offline’ play. The implications for early years educators are considered. Continue reading →

Q2 Radar: Brands and Learning dominate new entrants into virtual worlds sector

We’ve updated our Radar Charts for Q2 2010. These charts show both existing virtual worlds and platforms in development (closed beta). This time we’ve included MMOs into the Radar charts and we’ll be building out this list over time.

As a whole, the virtual worlds and MMO marketplace is changing quite dramatically. Whereas 12 months ago a concept we called ‘Chasing the Penguin’ was the main thrust of activity. This related to completely new companies setting up shop funded on the basis and excitement caused by the Disney acquisition of Club Penguin. This led to a massive influx (60+ new worlds) entering the marketplace going after the lucrative kids and tween sectors.

Of course, there’s only so much time kids have available and only so many times these kids can convince their parents to part with their hard-earned cash – we’re seeing casualties now.

As our last post explained, the virtual world and MMO marketplace is now shifting to being brand dominated as companies with existing customers, channels and operations see the value in sliding the brands and offerings into immersive environments.

The uplift in new platforms being developed as a result of these brands can be seen in the Radar segment shown below.

The other key segment seeing increased activity from new entrants is Education and Learning with a wide range of companies across many different educational areas developing their offerings. Continue reading →

Updated Radar charts for Q1 2010

Here we go folks, our updated Radar charts for Q1 2010. On an overall basis we’re seeing a shift from ‘Chasing the Penguin’ and now we’re seeing efforts in the following areas:

1. Learning and education. Expect a growing number of virtual worlds entering the marketplace focusing on various elements of learning, education and self-development. These are focused around the eight to 12 year old segment.

2. Real-world IP: We’ve discussed this particular segment in length for a long time. This relates to existing popular brands creating virtual worlds to accompany movies, toys, TV and other IP-led properties.

Here’s the first segment (Education/Learning, Fashion/Lifestyle and Music). The full report can be ordered here.

kzero radar q12010 seg3

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Updated Radar charts for Q3 2009

Earlier this week we published the updated Universe charts for Q3 2009. You may have noticed we’ve slightly changed the format between the Universe and Radar – the Universe chart now only shows live or open worlds. Worlds in development, semi-stealth and closed beta are now only shown on the Radar chart.

In terms of new virtual worlds, growth is slowing down in the casual gaming and socialing segments for KT&T.  This is actually a good sign because there’s some over supply here, caused by a rush of VC money into the space in late 2007/early 2008 – we call it ‘Chasing the Penguin’.

Segments seeing an uplift in terms of pending worlds include fashion (Chasing the Stardoll?), education and development (here’s an interesting podcast on this theme) and thirdly branded worlds. We expect branded worlds to be a dominant force in 2010 – real world brands creating virtual platforms for their IP. In fact, we’ve just completed a business planning and strategic project for Ubisoft in this category – more about that later.

Here’s a segment from the Radar chart. The full set can be seen and high-res versions ordered here.

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kzero radar q309 seg4

Talking with RezEd about education in virtual worlds

rezed_banner0222Our friends over at RezEd continue to be great ambassors and advocates of the VW space – their speciality being educational usage. RezEd  is an ‘online hub providing practitioners using virtual worlds with access to the highest quality resources and research in the field to establish a strong network of those using virtual worlds for learning‘.

I was interviewed for their latest podcast, discussing growth areas in the educational virtual worlds space as explained further in our latest report – Virtual Worlds 2010+. The podcast also features Raph Koster from Metaplace.

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Growth forecasts for the Virtual Worlds sector

We’re excited about the growth in virtual worlds, very excited in fact. As we release our forecasts for the sector, perhaps it’s time to have a quick look back over a frantic few years…

In an unfortunate way, the global credit crunch got in the way a little (the understatement of the year – not just for VWs of course). Late 2006 was the start of things. Sure, worlds like Habbo, There and Second Life were around pre-2006, but it wasn’t until brands started moving into SL that media awareness grew and, of course, users began to notice the metaverse.

Without a doubt, 2007 was the year of Second Life, with over 100 brands setting up islands. This created major attention, good and bad. And nevertheless, while No Brand is and Island, this marketing surge took virtual worlds mainstream. Linden Lab has a lot to be thanked for – Virtual Worlds were on the map in 2007. Additionally, we can’t forget about the Disney acquisition of Club Penguin – the catalyst for Kids, Tweens and Teens (KT&T) related business plans to pop up at an astonishing rate, ‘Chasing the Penguin’ as we call it.

2008? This was growth across many segments. Mirror Worlds came into play, more KT&T worlds were launched and suddenly the sector was rocking. The longer established worlds continued to grow their multi-million registered user bases and the new worlds started to battle it out.

Then we moved into 2009. Everything was looking rosy until the economy stepped in and slowed the launch of new worlds due to lack or drop-off in funding. Interestingly, ARPPU’s didn’t really take a hit, as users continued to spend money in-world. However, generally the growth and momentum seen in the sector upto the end of 2008 was impacted. But, as we start to move towards 2010, what does the future have in store? One thing’s a dead cert – we’ll be producing lots more charts – you can see them all here.

Lot’s of brand-new concepts in the VW space is one area that’s really exciting. More KT&T worlds? Absolutely – we think this age segment will continue to drive growth. And we’re optimistic about older worlds catered towards adults (in an ‘adult’ sense as well as propositions aimed at more mature audiences), with learning and education plus gambling being key genres to watch.

Here’s our forecast for the growth in the number of virtual worlds. By the end of this year we’ll be at the 150 mark for total worlds. We forecast this number to double by the end of 2010.

A rapid increase, driven largely by media sector companies creating IP-driven platforms for the toys, TV programmes, films and other properties. Just as almost every KT&T property has a website, we expect them to have a VW or at least presence in virtual worlds – along the ‘Theme-Park’ approach discussed in the past.

We expect growth past 2010 onwards to come from multiple areas. Education and older age ranges will supplement KT&T growth. Also socnet extension from ‘pages to places‘ is a natural movement. Combine all of this and we get to our 2012 forecast of 900 virtual worlds.

Continue reading →

Opportunities and growth in the educational sector

We get asked a lot to offer our thoughts on growth areas in the virtual worlds space. This presentation, delivered at the London VW Expo from the end of last year outlines at a high level where we see this growth coming from.

Specifically for the educational sector, I’ve just done a podcast for RezEd produced in conjunction with Global Kids. Here’s the link to the podcast.