Saturday, January 09, 2010

Virtual Worlds: The Next Ten Years.

It's true, I do my (un)fair share of mocking these yearly predictions. But here's my promise: I will only do this once a decade.

So you won't see another of these until 2020. At which time I may be posting via my brain implant, from my space ship orbiting Mars. But that's another story.

As to my perspective, I've been living in Second Life since June 2004 when it was a lot more primitive (see screenshot), and I run The Wishfarmers. 'Nuff said.

So here we go (drum roll), a few predictions for virtual worlds over the next decade.

2010 to 2013

1. In a fading celebrity's publicity stunt, they'll announce they're marrying someone they've only known in a virtual world. This person turns out to be impossibly beautiful, and the stunt blows up in their faces. But the publicity will finally catapult virtual worlds into the mainstream consciousness.

Alternate: Politician instead of celebrity.

2. Machinima: That's really all I need to say about that one!

2014 to 2016

1. Virtual worlds are more popular than video games.

2. Very few games or virtual worlds are still "shipped" with player characters. Users instead log-in with their global account, and their avatar is automatically rezzed-into the game. Most users have a variety of outfits for different settings (Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Realistic) and a cottage industry of specialized "avatar stylists" has reached $3bn annually.

3. With the exception of unique "3D artisan crafts", nearly all 3D virtual goods are free. Large "content publishers" buy-up most 3D content for popular platforms, brand them for their advertisers, distribute them to users and charge advertisers. The world's most popular virtual t-shirt is worth $300m in sponsor revenue annually.

4. Meanwhile, "Virtual Fine Artists" use technology to create 3D works of sculpture and interaction that have unique value - Richard Branson buys an important virtual sculpture for $1.2m.

5. "Something Awful" creates the first worldwide virtual experience meme, a simulation of being kicked in the face by Chuck Norris.

It is soon available for every conceivable platform.

6. People do not recreate meetings virtually, because that is silly.

But they do use advanced 3D environments to interact with and visualize data, objects and processes collaboratively, because that is productive.

The most advanced I.T. departments have a team of "3D geeks" for simulation systems administration, development and virtual asset management - giving rise to a new form of Uber Geeks with crap on their heads.

2017 to 2020

1. Anywhere you are, you can see the avatars of most people around you - through your phone, or on your tricorder thing - whatever.

At discotheques, giant screens display the crowd as their avatars. Movie theaters show the audience, seated as their avatars, during intermission.

As an unfortunate side-effect, "Hey babe I dig your polygons" is a common pick-up line. It never works.

2. Most business cards have a picture of the owner's avatar - probably animated. Tattoos of avatars, also, are not uncommon.

3. Few people's avatars look exactly like the person they represent. Because that is boring. Those who do are called "standers", because they also tend to stand rather than fly.

Among the cornucopia of avatars that make up the metaverse, approximately 600 million are Furries.

Who Are The Wishfarmers?

The Wishfarmers LLC is a small California design and development studio innovating for virtual worlds since 2004.

Check us out at, and let's talk about your crazy ideas!