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A billion virtual world users in 10 years

Research predicts huge growth.

New research by Strategy Analytics - reported at GameDaily - predicts that registration to virtual worlds will undergo major expansion over the next decade.

The report suggests that 22 percent of all broadband users will register to a virtual world by 2018. That's one billion people, which Strategy Analytics estimates as a market worth eight billion dollars.

It all sounds very impressive. But consider that the figure of virtual world registrations is, according to the same report, already at 14 percent of broadband users, and that World of Warcraft - not a free virtual world, but an online game that requires a subscription - already has 10 million users. Suddenly these projections look almost conservative.

Either way, Strategy Analytics thinks the potential for advertisers and marketeers in particular is huge. "Despite a multitude of challenges, virtual worlds present a unique marketing opportunity to target a highly sought demographic, and virtual worlds should be part of a company's marketing portfolio," said president Harvey Cohen.

Is Second Life the future of big business or an irrelevant leftover from 1980s cyberpunk novels? Only time, or the comments thread, will decide.