Monday, July 16, 2007

World of Barbie-craft: 3 Million Sign-Ups in 2 Months!

… in the first 60 days of its existence, the new online virtual world Barbie Girls has signed up three million members, and they’re adding new ones at the rate of 50,000 a day.

This is staggering growth by any standard, but even more so because Mattel’s MMO is still in Beta.

(”Hey, girl!,” the site helpfully
explains to a horde of pre-teens just getting introduced to the
concept, “‘beta’… means we’re still working on the site to make it even
better.”) By contrast, it took World of Warcraft four months to reach just half
that amount. (Yes, largely an apples-to-Orcs comparison, but in terms
of eyeballs, attention, and enthusiasm, still a fair one.)

The overarching point is how much online worlds have come to be dominated by pre-adults. The GigaOM Top Ten MMO list is roughly half kid-oriented virtual worlds (Habbo Hotel, Club Penguin, Webkinz, Gaia Online, and arguably RuneScape), and doesn’t even include sites like Zwinky, NeoPets, and other child-centric social networks with MMO/avatar-based elements.

Almost all of them, it’s worth noting, are not subscription-based,
but leverage other revenue streams, primarily outside
advertising/sponsorship deals and virtual item sales.
(Barbie Girls employs these, as well.) In terms of huge MMOs, then, the
classic subscription model of World of Warcraft is now in a distinct
minority, and surely in its waning days. (What happens when the fans of
all these worlds grow out of adolescence, and start looking for new
online worlds to play in? Doubt they’re going to find much appeal in
paying a monthly fee.)

Speaking of which, that has to be the biggest opportunity in this
space right now: not adult-oriented MMOs like World of Warcraft or
Second Life, not adolescent hang-outs like Habbo or Gaia, and not even
child-centric sites like Club Penguin and Webkinz. No, the real
untapped potential is in cusp MMOs, for kids in transition.
The online world which can figure out how to steer customers from the
16-18 age bracket into young adulthood, while managing to maintain
their loyalty, will make anything out there now seem sparse.

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