UMBC ebiquity
Companies rushing to build online virtual worlds for kids

Companies rushing to build online virtual worlds for kids

Tim Finin, 10:53am 31 December 2007

Today’s New York Times has a story, Web Playgrounds of the Very Young, on the growth of online virtual worlds for young children. Our children live in the same environment as we do and learn mostly by watching what we do. So it’s not surprising that any significant new uses for the Internet and Web can be adapted to a form that kids will take to.

“Trying to duplicate the success of blockbuster Web sites like Club Penguin and Webkinz, children’s entertainment companies are greatly accelerating efforts to build virtual worlds for children. Media conglomerates in particular think these sites — part online role-playing game and part social scene — can deliver quick growth, help keep movie franchises alive and instill brand loyalty in a generation of new customers.

“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. (src)

The story gives an example, Disney’s Pixie Hollow, that is online in a rudimentary form and set to launch next summer.

“Behind the virtual world gravy train are fraying traditional business models. As growth engines like television syndication and movie DVD sales sputter or plateau — and the Internet disrupts entertainment distribution in general — Disney, Warner Brothers and Viacom see online games and social networking as a way to keep profits growing.

Still, the long-term appetite for the youth-oriented sites is unclear. Fads have always whipsawed the children’s toy market, and Web sites are no different, analysts warn. Parents could tire of paying the fees, while intense competition threatens to undercut the novelty. There are now at least 10 virtual worlds that involve caring for virtual pets. (src)

There are many concerns, of course — privacy and safety, exploitation of our children, promoting consumerism, raising couch potatoes, etc.

6 Responses to “Companies rushing to build online virtual worlds for kids”

  1. Free Flash Games Online Says:

    “There are many concerns, of course — privacy and safety, exploitation of our children, promoting consumerism, raising couch potatoes, etc.”

  2. Madrice Says:

    Privacy is a thing of the past! Our kids are going to be facing this type of explotation and promotion of consumerism to a extreme degree.

  3. patorjk Says:

    Coke used to have something similar, though it wasn’t just for kids, but it was obviously aimed at a teenage / young adult crowd (from the animation, text and styles used). It was a virtual world where you could create character and make music tracks which you could play for people in virtual chat discos/clubs. My little brother got pretty addicted. It was great advertising for coke. The whole place was basically one big ad, and it was free to use. I could see toy companies following in this pattern. They wouldn’t need the fees to keep the site up, since the site could basically be advertisements for their toys.

  4. - Web-Based Flash Games Says: is a unique web-based collaborative game creation and sharing application suite. GameBrix allows anyone ONLINE to Build and Share Flash games and Animations without writing a single line of code.

    Every website is trying to create Consumers, GameBrix is the only FREE site for anyone to transition from Consumers to CREATORS! Why pay thousands of dollars to learn game design when you can learn to create Flash games using videos posted on YouTube.

  5. neodel Says:

    Having travelled all around the world and seen children in many countries, the universal issue that hits everyone is – children are growing up differently. Gone are the days where the kids on the street got together and played on the street the whole day! That is a thing of the past….

    Instead they spend more time on the computer. We need to have them do creative things on the computer. And they need to be prepared to work with strangers on the internet – for that is the way most businesses will operate when the world runs out of OIL!

  6. Dejon Clark Says:

    we are looking for a site that can help us build a virtual world for kids under nine.