The hot topic for this week was virtual worlds. In this post, I’ll elaborate on our class discussions as well as the article Staging the New Retail Drama (Papagiannidis and Bourlakis). I’ll start with the article. Over the last decade, we have seen a tremendous rise in virtual environments. One important distinction to make is that virtual worlds aren’t limited to 3D simulators and Second Life avatars. Some of the most popular virtual worlds are found in Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG) and other gaming networks. They have become significantly more popular than one might think. This has presented a new opportunity to reach consumers, thus creating the new retail drama. You have examples of companies like Coca-Cola and American Apparel advertising real-life products in Second Life. This hasn’t stopped in the video gaming industry, and has only been gaining momentum. Although most of these campaigns in Second Life have stopped, virtual environments still have a significant economy of their own.
The other element of the virtual environment is the accessibility of people around the world. For example, in the video we watched this week, you have employees of IBM working with co-workers over Second Life. This doesn’t sound too outside of the box; however, they have never met the people in real-life. You have a similar situation with gamers of World of Warcraft, who flock to Blizzardcon, the gaming conference. You have gamers who spend up to 20 hours a week working with their guild (an official group formed inside the game) to accomplish in-game challenges. What makes this a new phenomenon is that these people, who are only just meeting for the first time in real-life, feel they have a very deep relationship with their guild members. These virtual environments are creating previously unavailable relationships around the world, but it isn’t perfect. There are very real concerns in the virtual arenas, like: who will police these online arenas, health concerns, etc. Even with these concerns, I think virtual environments provide a huge opportunity in globalization and collaboration. It brings up the similar idea of Jane McGonigal, if we can channel this passion and energy, we can make better the world. Time will tell.