Virtual World and MMO Universe chart: Tween/Teen segment for Q3 2013

Yesterday we published the Q3 2013 update of the Universe chart, starting with the Kids sector. This chart shows virtual worlds and MMOs with an average user age of 10 and under. The kids chart is here. Today we’re shifting focus towards the Tween and Teen segment, containing VWs/MMOs with average user ages between 10 and 15. Here’s the chart…

kzero universe chart q3 2012 seg2Whereas the kids segment is dominated by a very large world at the upper age range (Club Penguin), a handful of long-established worlds (Neopets and Webkinz) and a smaller (but growing) group of worlds, the Tween/Teen sector is more distributed.

At the younger range of this segment, Poptropica is clearly the leader, with 292m cumulative registered accounts. But, this end of the age range also has power-players such as Moshi Monsters (85m accounts), Bin Weevils (huge in the UK and growing overseas), and Moviestar Planet. Moviestar Planet has quite dramatically grown its userbase in the last 24 months, assisted to a high degree through TV advertising, coupled with localisation into several languages.

Moving older into the age 12 – 14 year old range, Wizard 101, Roblox and Minecraft are slugging it out in the 30-35m account bracket, albeit with different game mechanics.

Finally, shifting up to the 14 – 15 year old segment, girls become more engaged than boys, which reflects the dominance of fashion/dress-up properties such as Stardoll and GoSupermodel, the former just about to hit 250m global registered accounts – and it’s global for a reason as Stardoll has branched out aggressively into new territories.

The full KZero Universe chart is now on Slideshare here.

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Virtual World and MMO Universe chart Kids segment for Q3 2013

Hot off the press, we’ve just updated the KZero Universe chart for Q3 2013. The Kids segment covering virtual worlds and MMOs with an average user age of 10 and under is shown below (and the Tween/Teen chart is here).

kzero universe chart q3 2012 seg1Club Penguin dominates the Kids market for virtual worlds and MMOs and added 20m registered accounts from Q1 2013, taking their cumulative total to 220m.

Other userbases in this segment such as Webkinz, Bearville and Neopets, whilst having large 20m+ cumulative accounts, showed slower growth through 2013.

Inversely, the trio of Knowledge Adventure worlds, namely Jumpstart, Math Blaster and recently released School of Dragons all grew strongly year to date, with a combined total of 26m cumulative registered accounts. These guys are leveraging their expertise gleaned from growing Jumpstart, across into their newer portfolio.

Looking at the newer companies in the kids sector, key themes present include mobile/tablet versions (from launch), cross-platform functionality and real-world brand/IP based plays.

Next up we’ll be publishing the tween/teen segment of virtual worlds and MMOs targeting 10 to 15 year olds. The full presentation is over on Slideshare.

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Latest Trailer for ‘Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return’ Movie (with added KZero goodness)

Here’s the latest trailer for the upcoming Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return movie. Created by Summertime Entertainment, KZero was tasked with creating the virtual world strategy to support the film. Development of the virtual world is nearing completion, coinciding with the pre-launch promotional activity for the film. Watch this space!

 

 

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TV Advertising Ups the Stakes in the UK Virtual Worlds Sector

With above average ARPPUs and paying user conversion rates, the UK market has long been a high-value territory for virtual world companies targeting kids and tweens.

And, whilst the likes of Moshi Monsters, Stardoll and Club Penguin lead the way in terms of user penetration, a group of newer virtual worlds are activating UK TV advertising in order to grow their userbases and take a piece of the market.

At present, Minomonos, Space Heroes Universe, Fight My Monster, Herotopia and Bin Weevils are all buying UK air-time across the major kids channels. Here’s a selection of TV ads shown in the UK.

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Slideshare presentation: Q4 2012 Universe chart

And following on from our last post, here’s the Slideshare presentation for the Q4 2012 Universe chart. The hi-res version can be ordered here.

 

 

Universe Chart for Q4 2012 Now Ready to Order

Back by popular demand, we’ve been busy bees over Xmas getting the KZero Universe chart ready. Shown below is an extract from the Universe chart showing virtual worlds and MMOs with an average user age between five and 10.

As per usual, high res versions of the Universe chart presentation can be ordered here, Also included within this report is our forecast for Active Users as at Q4 2012 as well as Market Penetration rates and the Usage Multiplier.

Here’s the chart for the five to 10 year old segment.

Poptropica remains the dominant player in this segment both in terms of their overall user base size as well as forging into new business development efforts such as licensing – a strategy becoming increasingly popular amonst the larger worlds as well as the more aggresive smaller players, such as Fight My Monster.

Founded in the UK, Fight My Monster used (and continues to use) TV advertising very early after launch. The company has also inked several licensing deals which is quite unique considering their relatively small (compared to other UK VWs such as Moshi Monsters and Bin Weevils) user base of circa 2m.

Neo Geo’s Animal Jam continues to expand in line with year one growth, closing Q4 with circa 9m registered users. Another property with ties back to TV is Toonix from Turner. Toonix has pushed through 1m registered accounts in just over a year.

For the full high-res set of Universe charts as well as other data-sets such as Active Users and Market Penetration rates, order here,

The KZero Universe chart is sponsored by Dubit.

Extracts from this report as well as other KZero insight will be presented at the upcoming Digital Kids conference in New York City next month.

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Lessons in Launching Virtual Worlds. Mistake #3: We’re Going With a Monthly Subscription

This is number three in our series explaining common mistakes made by companies launching virtual worlds.

In the first post we discussed the need for market (or rather user acquisition) budget and the target market range was explored in the second post.

Now the focus switches towards the monetization strategy – the pricing method that users will be encouraged to use.

Most virtual worlds targeting the KT&T marketplace opt for a monthly subscription pricing method – charge users a fixed monthly fee and provide them with enhanced/premium features. These premium items take the form of access to special areas, bundles of virtual goods, additional features and the like.

Worryingly, the pricing decision for a lot of virtual worlds and MMOs in the sector isn’t a decision at all. Instead, worlds just opt for a monthly subscription based on the following thinking:

  • If it works for Club Penguin then it will work for us
  • It provides parents with peace of mind – no unexpected charges
  • Having a recurring monthly subscription is less hassle

You get the picture.

And in principle the arguments above are sound. And indeed, virtual worlds such as Moshi Monsters, Jumpstart, Club Penguin and Wizard 101 all have monthly subscriptions. But, these worlds have become ‘brands’ in the space helped a great deal by spending sizable amounts on user acquisition (see mistake number 1).

However, there’s a much bigger picture that many virtual worlds completely miss.

Firstly, switching costs.

What many virtual worlds do not realize is that users who are most likely to be monetized are already being monetized somewhere else, i.e. a competitor virtual world. In this instance, the new virtual world has to shift the user’s attention away from their existing world and move them to their world. It’s important to bear in mind that the propensity for KT&T to have monthly subscriptions in more than one world is virtually zero, due to the issue of switching costs and an unwillingness for parents to be paying for two at the same time.

Another issue is brand awareness and reputation.

When a new virtual world launches, brand awareness and more importantly brand reputation is zero. Nobody knows and nobody cares. Yet worlds think parents will willingly pull out their credit cards and commit to a monthly subscription. If only it was that easy.

A far better pricing strategy is using microtransactions (MTX) at lower price points than a typically monthly subscription (which, surprise surprise is usually $5.95). Allowing users to purchase a virtual currency (which can be used to buy all the elements that a typical monthly subscription offers in smaller chunks) makes the payment decision much easier for parents.

Not only is the paying amount lower (read: cheaper) but also less riskier than a monthly subscription. This neatly side-steps the concern parents have that their child will get bored playing in world X and move onto to another one (whilst still paying for the first).

Implementing lower -priced MTX has an additional benefit of widening the paying user catchment. In other words, for a lot of users, paying $6ish a month is simply not an option. Whereas paying as low as $1 for a ‘taste of the good life’ is much easier to swallow. You just have to look at the app market for evidence of this. By lowering the paying entry threshold you can go after those users that haven’t been monetized by other worlds.

The bottom line is that pushing users over the monetization line is about showing KT&T whats on the other side of the fence. If you have a great VW then users will want to stay as paying users – give them a really low hurdle to jump over, then focus on raising it once they’re over it.

As a closing PS, another point missed by many virtual worlds is that by having a monthly subscription – a take it or leave it fixed price for premium content, you’re actually setting the upper limit of what users can pay. This means that the really engaged paying power users that reside within KT&T worlds can’t get anymore out of their world over and above the monthly subscription level and benefits. This is a poor longer-term strategy.

PPS: KT&T virtual worlds and MMOs with virtual currency based MTX convert three times as many users as subscription-only worlds and have a monthly ARRPU on average 20% higher.

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Lessons in Launching Virtual Worlds. Mistake #2: We’re targeting kids aged six to 13

This is the second in a series of posts examining common mistakes made by companies launching virtual worlds for the KT&T market. The first post, ‘We don’t need a Marketing Budget’, is here.

We get a stack of business cases every month at KZero for new virtual worlds. Obviously a critical element of any plan is the target market, so here’s some actual extracts from a number of these business cases:

‘Targeting boys aged 5 to 12′

‘Targeting boys aged 6 to 15′

Targeting girls aged 5 to 11′

‘Targeting girls aged 7 to 16′

And my personal favourite ‘targeting girls and boys aged 3 – 14′

Here lies the problem, and the topic we almost always raise first with clients…..

The activities that five year old boys like to do online (and in virtual worlds) differs massively from those aged 8, let alone 12 year olds. They have different play patterns and interests. Now compare boys with girls. Again, even though for early ages there’s a little overlap, once you get to tween and early teen ages, again, user profiles and interests differ greatly.

The point here is that having a wide age range as the target market in a business case may give you a larger addressable market but really, can a virtual world concept proposition engage both ends of the scale? Short answer, no. Only the early movers into the space (the likes of Habbo, Stardoll and Club Penguin) have enjoyed this type of wide penetration and this is mainly due to the massive brand awareness pulling users in in the first instance. Continue reading “Lessons in Launching Virtual Worlds. Mistake #2: We’re targeting kids aged six to 13” »

Lessons in Launching Virtual Worlds. Mistake #1: We don’t need a Marketing Budget

This is the first in a series of posts highlighting some very common mistakes made by (primarily) start-up companies launching virtual worlds and MMOs for KT&T (kids, tweens and teens).

The insight we’re going to share in this series is gleaned from over five years of consulting for and working with a wide range of companies in the sector.

When we speak with Venture Capitalists and Financiers looking into the KT&T virtual worlds and MMO space a comment we hear a lot is that the space is crowded. Indeed, looking at the Universe and Radar charts, its clear there’s a lot of companies in the market – ‘Chasing the Penguin’ as we used to call it.

However, a large majority of these companies have failed to scale and grow their userbases to critical mass levels. We define these levels on a registered account basis as being 1m, 3m, 5m and 10m. We measure these critical mass levels alongside the K-Factor (viral sign-ups as a % of paid-for) and see measurable uplifts in the K-Factor at each level. For example, once a virtual world reaches 5m registered accounts it sh0uld be seeing a ’1 for 1′ K-Factor, meaning the world gets a viral sign-up for every paid-for sign-up.

Virtual worlds and MMOs with insufficient marketing budgets are floating around in the market and failing to ramp up. This isn’t because their worlds are boring or don’t have great games or quests – worlds are not built to be boring. It’s primarily because when initial funding was raised for the development of the world, insuffiicent funds were allocated to user acquisition. Why did this happen? Here are some reasons:

 

  • Arrogance. ‘Our virtual world will be so great that we won’t need to spend much of marketing and acquisition. Sign-ups will be viral’.

 

  • Ignorance. Marketing was an after-thought, only brought up and considered once the world was open beta. This mistake was typically caused when the management team was mainly technical as opposed to commercial.

And, on the topic of marketing and user acquisition, this doesn’t mean banging out a few press releases or having a stand at a conference. Do you see many kids walking around virtual world or gaming expos? No, we don’t either. User acquisition means using measurable and scaleable online channels such as gaming portals, paid-search and the like. There are many worlds using these channels to great effect.

From a CPA perspective (cost per acquisiiton) we deem worlds to be performing well on a paid-for acqusition basis if their CPA is in the $0.50 – $0.80 range. In terms of an overall starting aquistition budget, we always advise at least $750k. Then and importantly, profits from monetization need to go back into the acquisition budget (at least 50%).

And what happens when the companies don’t have a sufficient launch budget? Not much unfortunately. And then they have to go back to the market or existing investors for another funding round. This is a painful process.

In the next of this series exploring Lessons in Launching Virtual Worlds, we’ll be covering off geographical targeting and target market age ranges.

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EDGE Magazine: How children are transforming gaming

EDGE Magazine has just published a great article about ‘How children are transforming gaming‘. The piece contains references to how kids are being drawn to digital brands as opposed to those originating on TV and includes companies such as Rovio, Stardoll, Dubit and Fight My Monster. Dylan Collins from Fight My Monster is quoted as saying:

“The next Disney is going to be a company that can produce really amazing content, but also one that can develop tools for kids to create their own. At some point in the near future, you’re going to see the first 15-year-old millionaire being created – [teenagers] now have the tools and frameworks to create their own games, apps and movies.”

KZero gets a good mention as well:

Meanwhile, Nic Mitham, CEO of KZero, believes that “the majority of new massmarket kids IPs will begin life as games, then port over to other media channels”.

The size and influence of kids’ gaming raises the question of why major social publishers seemingly haven’t embraced the trend yet. “Social game companies do not have direct access to the kids market [because], primarily, Facebook can’t reach these younger gamers,” says Mitham. “Social gaming companies are heavily reliant on leveraging the Facebook social graph and exploiting push mechanics, email, messaging, etcetera. [The kids market requires] a totally different mindset, and requires much more agile marketing and user profiling.”

Full Article on EDGE Magazine.

 

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And the most popular European country for virtual worlds is……

Here’s some analysis showing what we call ‘The Virtual World Multiplier’. This is a metric that compares the total number of cumulative registered accounts against the total addressable market of virtual world users and potential users. We have data on a per age and per country basis for both these variables.

The Multiplier can be used to assess the relative popularity of virtual worlds between countries and the individual ages of users within them. A high multiplier is created by a combination of factors such as:

  • High proportion of the addressable market already playing in virtual worlds
  • Users having accounts in more than virtual world
  • Users having more than one account in a virtual world

Users creating accounts in more than world can indicate a high awareness of virtual worlds in general and a willingness to explore new ones. Users having more than one account in a virtual world is an indication of retention and repeat visits. These three factors combined produce a score that indicates the relative popularity.

The Multiplier is a tool we use when assisting our clients with territory planning – deciding which markets to focus user acquisition into. It’s particularly useful for assessing emerging markets such as South America and Asia.

The full dataset (30+ countries and individual age-centric datapoints from the ages of 4 to 13) can be requested via reports@kzero.co.uk.

Here’s a sample chart showing the European multiplier for the combined ages of five to 13. Interestingly (and surprisingly for some), Sweden has the highest Multiplier in Europe – assisted strongly by Stardoll, as well as good take-up from non-Swedish worlds such as Moshi Monsters and Club Penguin.

Perhaps unsurprinsgly the UK comes in at second place. Moshi obviously assists this metric, as do other companies such as Fight My Monsters and Bin Weevils. Multiplier aside, the UK has one of the highest country ARPPU’s in the world as well as well above average paying user converison rates.

Quick stat: Top 15 Virtual Worlds

Yesterday we released the Q4 2011 Universe chart along with updated market numbers. Extracted from this analysis, here are the top 15 virtual worlds for under 25′s by total cumulative registered accounts.

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Universe chart Q4 2011: Avg User Age 10 to 15

The release of our Q4 2011 data headlined with total cumulative registered accounts reaching 1.7bn (read that post here). Here, we’re showing a segment from the Universe chart for virtual worlds with an average user age between 10 and 15. This age segment is the largest in the sector, closing with 787m registered accounts as at Q4 2011. Here’s the segment.

Stardoll and Club Penguin are the leaders in this age segment both with 150m registered accounts. Following up behind these two are Moshi Monsters and Neopets with circa 70m each.

Looking at virtual worlds with a heavy focus on user generated content, Roblox and Minecraft reside within this age segment with 3m and 18m users respectively. Expect these worlds to post significant increases in users during 2012. Of course, we’ll be following their progress.

Our Facebook page has the full set of Universe charts and you can order the full KZero Universe chart presentation with high-res imagery can be here.

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Virtual World registered accounts reach 1.7bn in Q4 2011

Strong growth in the virtual worlds sector throughout 2011 saw total cumulative registered accounts reach 1,772m at the end of Q4 2011. This growth was driven by booming user bases from worlds such as Poptropica, Habbo, Moshi Monsters, Stardoll and Club Penguin.

Encouragingly, whilst the top-tier larger worlds (with over 50m registered users) continue to attract users and leverage their brands, mid-tier worlds (10m to 50m registered users) such as Bin Weevils, Wizard 101, Minecraft, Meez and Fantage also posted positive increases.

The table below shows quarterly numbers by major age range.

From Q3 to Q4 2011, total cumulative registered accounts grew by 282m (an 18.9% quarter on quarter increase), compared to a 141m increase in users from Q2 to Q3 (a 10.4% increase).

The 10 to 15 year old segment continues to set the pace in the space, closing with 787m total cumulative registered accounts in Q4 2011, with the 15 to 25 year old (average user age) element coming in second highest with 596m total accounts.

The chart below shows total cumulative registered accounts by major age range.

We’ll be posting the Universe chart segments on here very shortly, but in the meantime you can get a sneak peak over on our Facebook page.

The full KZero Universe chart presentation with high-res imagery can be ordered here.

 

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Mechatars launches to link off and online play

Following the trend to link toys and virtual worlds together, here’s a new example of exactly that called Mechatars.

Created by a company called ILoveRobots, spun out of Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, Mechatars is a toy line consisting of three different robots (Alpha, Wrexx and Kodar). The price point is $39.99. And, clearly the company is keen to promote the different ‘attitudes’ of each toy because they even have their own twitter accounts.

Accompanying the physical toy range is a virtual world called the Mechaverse. Progression through levelling within the virtual world opens up and enables additional features from the real world toy. CEO Martin Hitch states:

“We’re the first company that has successfully connected physical products with virtual environments,” he said. “We’re the first company that has been able to make our product evolve over time.”

The play mechanic is primarily ‘battling and fighting’, similar to UK property Fight My Monster. Here’s one of their launch videos and a link to the full press release.

Our latest report – The Golden Triangle, explains the opportunties available for toys and virtual worlds. Here’s an extract from the report highlighting the strategies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kids virtual worlds gatecrash the BAFTA awards

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) nominees have just been announced. Looking through the Children’s Awards Nominees highlights both the growing popularity of virtual worlds as well as the emerging trend to tie film and TV properties into them.

In the Animation category, Muddle Earth from CBBC is nominated. This property has an accompanying virtual world created by Dubit.

In the Comedy category, Horrible Histories is nominated, which also has a virtual world.

In the Feature Film category, Harry Potter and Kung Fu Panda are in the running, with the latter prepping Pottermore for launch and the former already with a virtual world in the market.

In the Interactive category Mindy Candy are short-listed for Moshi Monsters.

There’s also a special Kid’s Vote BAFTA award.

Within this award section Cars 2, Harry Potter, Kung Fu Panda and Transformers feature in the Film category. Cars has an accompanying world called World of Cars and there’s a Transformers Universe MMO in the works being developed by Jagex.

In the Web section we’re delighted to see two of our clients, Bin Weevils and Stardoll nominated alongside Club Penguin and Moshi Monsters.

The British Academy Children’s Awards will take place on Sunday 27 November. Let the voting battles commence!

Our latest report, The Golden Triangle, explains the strategies available to IP owners in the kids TV and Movie sectors. Order it here.

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What Lady Gaga should have done….

Lot’s of newsflow in the last couple of days about Lady Gaga gaining an injunction against Mind Candy, owners of Moshi Monsters.

Moshi developed a character called Lady Goo Goo and placed songs onto YouTube, with plans to release a song on iTunes via their new music division Moshi Music. Here’s the news report.

Unofficial re-creations of brands inside virtual worlds are nothing new. Back in 2008 we identified this trend – primarily inside Second Life with residents (as opposed to Linden Lab) creating and in a lot of cases actually selling these virtual goods. Furthermore, the concept of users re-creating music videos as machinima is another interesting topic.

This case is slightly different because it’s the virtual world company itself creating the unofficial brand as opposed to the users – but it seems the Moshi users really love the character.

In response to the trend of unofficial brands and virtual goods, we developed the ’5 Rules of Virtual Brand Management’ back in 2008. It’s a set of principles that brand owners should consider before taking action. Perhaps Lady Gaga should have read this first. The full report can be ordered here and shown below is a quick summary presentation.

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New KZero report: Toys, Media and Virtual Worlds – Creating the Golden Triangle

We’ve just released our latest report called ‘Toys, Media and Virtual Worlds – Creating the Golden Triangle’.

The report, in presentation format, aims to provide professionals in the toys, games, TV and movie sectors with guidance and insight into the key opportunities and strategies available in the virtual worlds sector.

Importantly, it also recommends how to align all three elements into a cohesive community building and revenue generating platform.

Areas covered include branded virtual goods inclusion, community and awareness building, research and development, character development and many others.

Also included in the report are examples of projects deployed to date. The free report can be requested here.

 

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Some Monsters are for Nurturing, some are for Fighting

Leading UK virtual world Moshi Monsters is getting a lot of the limelight at present with various brand extension strategies such as toys, tv and music. Hot on their heels are Bin Weevils, going from strength to strength from a user acquisition perspective. Now there’s a new contender in the mix, or rather a Monster – Fight My Monster.

Whereas Moshi Monsters leverages a core play mechanic of Nurturing (definition:Interested in looking after their avatar and pet if applicable. Likely to be younger boys and girls, plus older girls), Fight My Monster focusses on pvp battles adopting a trading card style mechanic. Of course, like most other worlds and online games in this demographic there’s also a raft of mini-games.

Fight My Monsters is growing relatively quickly, up to 300k users since their launch in Jan 2011 (91% from the UK). The chart below shows registered account growth (summer holidays are always good for acquiring users in the KT space).

Average session lengths are also on the rise, indicating a strengthening user engagement relationship. Continue reading “Some Monsters are for Nurturing, some are for Fighting” »

Fans flock to Virtual Worlds on Facebook

A year ago we looked at the popuarlity of Facebook fan-pages for a number of popular virtual worlds, including those with users under 13. The results, i.e. the number of respective fans for each virtual world were not surprising, with the larger worlds enjoying a higher number of fans than the smaller ones.

The chart below shows the same analysis one year on. Across the board – increases. But of course that’s to be expected as these virtual worlds (and most others, regardless of target market) use Facebook for a variety of reasons. And, of course Facebook itself is grown.

Some worlds actually use Facebook to communicate directly to parents of their users, whilst others promote events and competitions. Another growth area is using Facebook during beta trials to both recruit new users and communicate progress. Probably the area with the biggest potential is embedding virtual worlds directly into Facebook itself. More about that in a future post.

 

So what do we see here?

Habbo maintains pole position with a huge number of fans (in reality they actually even more fans then we’re showing in the chart but we’ve taken the fan-page with the highest following).

They’ll be breaking through 1m fans and on the tails of IMVU pretty soon. We’ve taken IMVU out of this analysis because this focus is on KT&T.

Gaia has grown massively during the last year with 500k fans now with Hello Kitty Online (note – a young brand) coming in with over 300k fans.

Another future post and supporting report will look right across the spectrum of all virtual worlds using Facebook as an acqusition and retention tool.

Moving on, some of you may look at the chart above and comment that Facebook itself has grown significantly over the same 12 month period so seeing increases in the fan-pages of virtual worlds (and any other group on Facebook) shouldn’t be a surprise. We asked ourselves the same question and did some further analysis. Continue reading “Fans flock to Virtual Worlds on Facebook” »

Age Profiles: All worlds

This is the final post in our series looking at age profiles of popular virtual worlds. Here’s the full presentation:

VW age profiles 2011
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Shown below is the summary chart containing all worlds in the analysis.

Post one looked at Bin Weevils and Moshi Monsters, post two featured Chimpoo, Stardoll and Poptropica and this chart now pulls in age profiles from Habbo and SmallWorlds.

For SmallWorlds the chart shows a fifth of the user base aged 13 then a flattening out at the 7% – 9% level from 15 t0 18.

Interestingly, Habbo shows nearly an exact opposite trend.

In the last post the topic of play profiles and visual appearance was highlighted as a key factor that determined the ages of users attracted to worlds. Shown below are the avatars of the worlds featured.

 

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Age profiles: Chimpoo, Poptropica and Stardoll

This is the second post in this series looking at age profiles of popular virtual worlds (the full report is the next post). This post looks at two of the largest worlds, Poptropica and Stardoll, along with an ‘up and comer’ in the form of Chimpoo.

Stardoll has over 116m registered accounts with a user base pretty well distributed between North America and Europe. Poptropica has over 170m registered accounts and is strongest in the US. Chimpoo has 4m registered accounts with a user base largely from India. Here are the age profiles for these three worlds.

This chart highlights the impact that different play patterns and user experiences have on the ages of users inside virtual worlds.

For example, Stardoll is primarily dress-up, with users (predominantly females) customising their avatars with clothing. This is an evergreen play pattern, appealing to tweens just as much as teens.

As this post from 2008 shows, Stardoll even resonates with the Mothers of users, with over 60% playing Stardoll alongside their children and of this group, another 60% visit Stardoll without their children. Continue reading “Age profiles: Chimpoo, Poptropica and Stardoll” »

Age profiles: Moshi Monsters vs Bin Weevils

We’re a few days away from releasing our latest report on user age profiles in the Kids, Tweens and Teens virtual worlds market. So, in the meantime, here’s a look at two UK-based worlds gaining significant traction – Moshi Monsters and Bin Weevils.

Our age profile analysis visualises the ages of registered users in a simple to understand chart. First up – Moshi Monsters. The chart below compares 2011 data.

The sweetspot user age is 11 to 12, showing a one year increase from last year, indicating that Moshi is doing a great job with user retention – not surprising given the amount of brand-driven marketing they’ve been doing.

The profile has also widened slightly from last year into younger ages. As this brand continues to grow, the virtual world element becomes part of a larger brand framework and therefore kids are interacting with Moshi via multiple touch-points.

This ‘widening’ might also be as a result of increased efforts in the US. Year on year, the US element of their userbase has proportionately grown against the UK. The chart below shows the top eight countries for Moshi Monsters. Continue reading “Age profiles: Moshi Monsters vs Bin Weevils” »

Q2 2011 VW cumulative registered accounts reaches 1.4 billion

With the largest quarterly increase since we started tracking in 2008, the virtual worlds sector now has 1.4 billion cumulative registered accounts. That’s an increase from Q1 2011 of 214 million. Not bad.

Growth has come from several sources in Q2 2011. The big boys of the sector continued to grow strongly, with excellent numbers from Moshi Monsters (up 16m to 50m), Poptropica (up 26m to 170m), Habbo (up 20m to 220),  IMVU (up 5m to 55m), Minecraft (up 5m to 10m) and Stardoll (up 22m to 116m). Encouraging growth all round and also interesting that these worlds span a variety of different play and socialisation types, such as dress-up, nurturing/pets, casual gaming, chat and UGC.

The table below shows the quarterly numbers by age range.

The five to ten year old segment grew 17.6% from Q1 to Q2 assisted primarily by increases from Poptropica and Panfu. The next age segment, 10 t0 15 year olds grew by 16.2%, with Moshi Monsters and Stardoll leading the charge. Next up, the 15 to 25 year olds increased the most with a quarter-on-quarter uplift of 23%. A modest increase was seen in the 25 and older segment – this is a growth area with several companies looking to tap into this underserved market over the coming months,

Here’s the Universe segment for the 10 to 15 year olds.

 

The full high-res versions of the Universe charts can be ordered here. We’ll be releasing lower res versions via our Facebook page shortly and via Slideshare.

 

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New report, Virtual Worlds 2011+ now available

We’ve just made our latest report, Virtual Worlds 2011+ available. You can order it here.

This report identifies and explains the emerging trends in the virtual worlds sector and includes insight into:

  • Kids, Tweens and Teens
  • Platform convergence
  • Music
  • Gambling
  • Online dating
  • UGC
  • Socnet extension
  • Education
  • Virtual goods (consumer and B2B)
  • Mirror worlds
  • Mobile devices
  • Metabrands
  • Branded virtual worlds

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Q1 2011 Radar chart: Existing brands, sports and content creation

After a short hiatus the Radar chart is back with a bang for 2011. The first segment is shown below and contain live and in-development virtual worlds. This part of the Radar shows worlds based on sports, existing brands/IP’s (books, movies and TV mainly) and content creation.

The sector for existing IP’s being turned into virtual worlds is the hot-spot for 2011. New entrants and in-development projects are mainly based on existing brands with a heritage, i.e. they are well-known established properties such as Dorothy of Oz, The Ministry of Silly Games (Monty Python), Star Trek, Tom and Jerry and Back to the Future. These are properties with existing fan-bases, therefore providing major opportunities to leverage the incumbent awareness into active users.

The full Radar chart can be ordered here.

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Universe chart Q3 2010: 10 to 15 year olds

Virtual worlds with an average user age of between 10 and 15 account for 46% of the total market – that’s 468m of the 1.009bn as at Q3 2010.

Shown below is the updated Universe chart for this age segment. Stardoll leads this segment with 69m total registered accounts and has experienced extremely strong growth year to date.

Neopets pops into second place with 63m with Club Penguin in third with 47m, accordingly to our estimates and data access.

In terms of worlds in development (blue dots) there’s some interesting concepts entering the market.

Lego Universe will of course be an interesting one to watch, particularly bearing in mind the client download factor.

The other in-development worlds are largely what we call ‘Vertical’ worlds – virtual worlds themed into specific genres, as opposed to the more generalist casual gaming and socialising platforms already in the market. Adventure in Oz and Star Team (both KZero clients) are examples of movie/IP-led worlds coming to market.

Our complete report covering Q3 2010 registered accounts and all segments of the Universe chart can be ordered here.

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Virtual worlds successfully using Facebook to grow user bases

You might be interested to learn that virtual world IMVU has almost 1.4m fans of their Facebook fan page.

Why do they use Facebook? Lot’s of reasons…

  • It’s a marcomms channel: IMVU communicates the latest news, competitions and user updates
  • Their users also use Facebook: So it makes sense to go where their users are when they’re not in IMVU
  • Rewards: IMVU offers ‘secret sales’ to their followers on Facebook
  • It boosts viral activity: Push notifications from users extend the viral reach

The second point above is the no-brainer of course. But, you might be even more interested to learn that virtual worlds with users below the minimum age requirement (13) for Facebook for similar purposes (and more, explained later). Let’s not kid ourselves – Facebook is chocka-block with under age users. And it’s also full of users at the higher age range end of these kids/tween worlds.

As shown in the chart below (worlds ranked by average user age), whilst these KT&T worlds are not quite at IMVU levels in terms of followers, they’re not doing badly.

Some of these worlds integrate elements of their virtual world experience into Facebook, therefore broadening their reach. Others (most actually) use it is a marcomms channel to speak to their users and the parents of these users (Jumpstart is a great example of this). Others use the Facebook Connect feature to automate the registration process – a great idea.

Continue reading “Virtual worlds successfully using Facebook to grow user bases” »

KZero in The Guardian: Virtual worlds: is this where real life is heading?

The registered population of online communities such as Second Life and Blue Mars is greater than that of the US and Europe combined. Today’s residents of the simulated universe aren’t just socialising but doing big business.

Link to story.

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Animal Jam continues the trend in Branded Virtual Worlds

Demonstrating the continuing trend for existing brands to create their own virtual worlds (Branded Virtual World), this week we’ve seen the launch of Animal Jam.

This property, from National Geographic also highlights another key trend in the sector, channel convergence.

NatGeo worked with Smart Bomb Interactive on development and Jadi Communications for the marketing strategy and execution.

We were tasked by Jadi to review the marketing strategy/messaging and provide a competitive analysis of the landscape in order to ensure correct positioning.

This is a kids and tween play with the benefit of rich NatGeo content.

With the launch of National Geographic Animal Jam, National Geographic for the first time is offering content from its extensive multimedia resources as an integrated component of a virtual world for young adventurers and their families. Players can access video features, photos and facts about animals, plants and insects in a game world that encourages them to move from the virtual to the natural world by exploring nature right in their own neighborhood or backyard. Continue reading “Animal Jam continues the trend in Branded Virtual Worlds” »

Britain’s Next Top (Virtual) Model

Stardoll has signed a deal with Britain’s Next Top Model (shown on the Living channel) to promote the show and give away virtual clothes. Exclusive previews of the series are being shown in the Stardoll Cinema.

Taken from New Media Age:

Living has expanded the deal for the whole series following a teaser video that saw more than 100,000 plays. It earlier worked with Stardoll to promote America’s Next Top Model, which attracted 740,000 video views.

Stardoll has a wide user age spread so this partnership makes sense as it targets multiple ages. Two thirds of Stardoll members Mothers play the site without the daughters.

It’s also another good example of how virtual worlds are moving their brands into new channels.

Stardoll leads the pack in terms of registered users in the fashion space, but they have competition, as shown in the Radar segment below.

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The Brand New Worlds

Here’s a presentation giving an overview of how real world brands are creating their own virtual worlds and MMOs.

For a pretty-much complete list of all brands inside virtual worlds, including third-party activity, click here.

‘Make the world play more’ say Ikea

Playreport is a global research project on children, families and play, initiated by IKEA. They conducted 11,000 interviews in 25 countries and spoke to 8,000 parents and 3,000 children aged 7-12. The report is being promoted over on Facebook and here’s the video.

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 “Young Children’s Play in Online Virtual Worlds” »

Q2 Radar Slideshare Presentation

Kzero Radar Q2 2010

The full Radar Chart report and presentation can be ordered (for free) here.

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

(In and) Out of their World – How Brands are Moving Across Platforms

We’ve highlighted many times the opportunities presented to brands within the virtual world and MMO category, primarily from engagement and monetisation perspectives. Linked to this is another trend we identified of leveraging different platforms to synergise brands. This is a post about how these trends are rapidly transforming and driving the sector.

Real world brands having virtual worlds is not a new concept. Barbie Girls and Webkinz were early pioneers of this strategy, amassing multi-million user bases in short periods – and importantly, in most cases much faster than ‘pureplay’ virtual worlds which at present make up the bulk of the sector.

We’ve just updated our Radar charts showing existing and new worlds and MMOs by genre. Related to this, we thought you’d be interested in seeing how brands are moving across different platforms. This is shown in the diagram below (which we’ll be updating on an ongoing basis).

We’ve placed five different channels (TV, Movies, Toys/Games, Consoles and Books) around the virtual world platform. From here we’ve shown how a brand has moved from one of these channels into virtual worlds. For example, BuildaBear started life as a toy retail operation and then augmented their virtual world proposition, BuildaBearVille. Kung Fu Panda similarly created a MMO off the back of the movie – so on and so forth. Continue reading “(In and) Out of their World – How Brands are Moving Across Platforms” »

Building the (virtual) Yellow Brick Road

KZero client Summertime Entertainment is enjoying our full range of services in support of their upcoming animated movie Dorothy of Oz. We were appointed earlier this year to provide strategic services relating to the development of the virtual world, virtual goods and social gaming elements.

With the movie coming out early 2012, our focus has been on developing the virtual platforms to build pre-launch awareness of the movie as well as provide online destinations for fans (and monetisation of course). All online efforts are designed to bridge the Wonderful Wizard of Oz franchise to a new generation.

We’ve created the end-to-end business plan and model for the virtual world, leveraging both the Dorothy brand and the movie. This effort includes the in-world feature sets and user journey as well as game/questing mechanics, socialisation mechanics and the supporting virtual goods strategies. Now we’re working alongside Dubit to build-out the world and bring it to market Q1 of next year.

Here’s some concept artwork for the movie. Continue reading “Building the (virtual) Yellow Brick Road” »

Dubit report into VW popularity in the EU now available

The full presentation from the Dubit research is now available from our Report Order section. This report looks into the popularity of kids virtual worlds across the EU.

Radar chart Q1: Sports, TV/film/books and content creation

Here’s the second segment from our updated Radar chart for Q1, 2010. The first segment is here and the full report can be order from here.

kzero radar q12010 seg4

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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Kids virtual world popularity across the EU

Here’s the master summary of the Dubit research looking at kids virtual worlds. The countries included in this research were: UK, France, Germany, Holland, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark.

Below is the summary slide ranked by the % of the sample that has played/registered each world.

dubit eu allClub Penguin comes out top with 14.5% of the sample having played it. Second place goes to Barbie Girls with 13% with Habbo in third. Interestingly GoSupermodel beats Stardoll based on this research, albeit by a couple of % points.

Looking at this EU summary from a company-location perspective… Continue reading “Kids virtual world popularity across the EU” »

Virtual world popularity in Germany

This post examines the German marketplace for kids aged seven to 10 and the virtual worlds they claim to have used/played. The first post in this series covers the UK and the second France.

The chart below presents the findings.

dubit germany

Barbie Girls came out top in France and this is also the case in Germany, with 10.7% of the sample indicating usage. Club Penguin is in second place, tieing with World of Warcraft (which didn’t make a dent in the UK or France numbers). GoSupermodel and Jumpstart are in fourth and fifth position respective. Continue reading “Virtual world popularity in Germany” »

Virtual world popularity in France

Following on from our first post looking at the popularity of virtual worlds across the EU, starting with the UK, this post focuses on France. Dubit used a total sample size of 1,145 kids aged seven to 10. The data-points in the charts refer to the percentage of kids in the sample who indicate they have played/registered each virtual world. The sample was given a reasonable comprehensive list of major virtual worlds.

So, here’s the chart for France.

dubit franceWhereas Club Penguin is the most popular virtual world in the UK, in France Barbie Girls comes out on top with 14.7% of the sample stating they’ve played it. Dofus, with a very strong French user base comes in at second place. The average user age for Dofus is 22, so the users featured in this analysis are at the youngest edge of the user base. Club Penguin pops in at third place for France. Continue reading “Virtual world popularity in France” »

EU VW research for kids aged seven to 10

dubit logoOur good friends over at Dubit run regular Internet usage market research into the EU market place (with North America coming soon). Their January 2010 research has been made available to us, which means they’re added to our Xmas card list. You can follow Dubit on Twitter here (for Dubit Informer) and here (for the Dubit Platform).

The entire presentation will be made available on request in a day (update: the report can be ordered here) or so and for those of you looking for a peek inside, this is the first of a series of posts digging into the data. As a side-note, most people don’t realise that the EU market is the most dominant in terms of overall users in the kids and tween sectors, with conversion rates and ARPPU’s also higher than North America. We know why – do you?

The slide shown below presents the UK marketplace for boys and girls aged seven to 10.

dubit uk all.002

Club Penguin leads the pack with a considerable advantage over the rest, although it’s interesting to observe the wide spread of worlds featuring in the UK market. UK-based Moshi Monsters comes in at second place with um, Farmville in third – obviously these kids are playing alongside an older brother/sister who is actually 13 or older right?!  (probably a topic for another post). Mafia Wars also features. The same (kids signing up at an age younger than the TOS) can be said for Habbo of course. Continue reading “EU VW research for kids aged seven to 10” »

Radar chart: Toys/games, fantasy and mirror worlds

Following on from our Universe chart posts for Q4 2009, we’re delighted to release the Radar charts. These charts show, be genre, virtual worlds either live or in development. The chart below shows three segments, Toys/real world games, fantasy/questing and mirror worlds.

kzero radar q409 seg2

For the Toys and real world games segment, we’re expecting a lot of movement. Mattel has lead this segment with Barbie Girls and we’re now seeing Hasbro/EA move into the market with the Littlest Pet Shop Online (LPOS) and Ubisoft with Imagine, launching shortly (Shameless plug alert – both are KZero consulting clients). And let’s not forget about Lego Universe. Continue reading “Radar chart: Toys/games, fantasy and mirror worlds” »

Q4 2009 Radar chart: Music, Fashion and Education/Development

Throughout 2009 and certainly for the majority of 2008, almost all the focus in the KT&T virtual worlds space was in casual gaming and socialising.

Now, we’re seeing a different trend, with worlds catering towards education and development being the hotspot in terms of upcoming worlds.

The chart below shows Education/Development, Fashion/Lifestyle and Music.

kzero radar q409 seg3

You can order the full report analysing growth in the virtual worlds sector here. Our report, Virtual Worlds 2010+ details the major drivers for growth in these categories. Continue reading “Q4 2009 Radar chart: Music, Fashion and Education/Development” »

Q4 2009 Universe chart: Kids and Tweens

As published in our last post, the overall market of total registered users in the virtual worlds sector reached 800m in Q4 2009. Here, we delve into the younger segmented of this market, Kids and Tweens.

Virtual worlds with an average age user between five and ten reached a total of 179m in Q4, up 17.8% from 152m. The chart below contains the Universe segment for this age range.

kzero universe q409 5-10

Commentary on this age range in terms of drivers for growth and upcoming worlds is explained in this post based on the Radar. The full report on Q4 growth containing both the Universe and Radar charts can be requested here.

Here’s the segment for the ten to 15 year old group. This segment (the largest in overall size) grew 6.8% quarter on quarter from 367m to 392m. Continue reading “Q4 2009 Universe chart: Kids and Tweens” »

Avg user ages by country for Habbo

Here’s some insightful data recently released from Habbo. It shows the average user age by country. In the first chart we’ve colour-coded countries by major region. It’s almost per continent but we’ve broken out Scandinavia, for reasons well explained by the chart…

age profiles habbo.014With an average user age of 15.9, Peru tops the chart, followed by Malaysia.

Inversely, the Netherlands has the overall lowest average user age with 13, followed by Belgium.

Can we draw conclusions from this chart. That’s what the colour-coding is for.

It would appear the the Scandinavian countries combined have a low (compared to others) average user age. Let’s remember that the parent company (Sulake) is based in Finland and was launched their first in 2000. This could imply that older target market users in these countries get into Habbo at a comparative earlier age and then migrate to older worlds – they might be a little more familiar with virtual worlds than users in countries from South American for example, that combined has an older average age.

The broad conclusion here being that the lesser developed the country or region, the higher average user age. By lesser developed we mean a lower broadband and PC penetration with a generally less internet savvy population. Of course, other factors do come into play here such as awareness of specific virtual worlds and unique nuances per country.

Here’s the chart showing aggregated average ages per major region in support of this conclusion….

age profiles habbo.015

LEGO Universe trailer and screenshots

Unveiled this week at CES, LEGO Universe nears towards a release at last (it’s been a while). Joystiq has the launch trailer and a selection of screenshots and as they correctly point out, there’s glossy, well-directed promo vids and then there’s actual screenshots.

Over the years we’ve seen some pretty examples of the disparity between the two when it actually comes to the user experience. Perhaps this time around LEGO Universe will live up to the hype. [Insert corny joke about the competition bricking it].