I am working on one of my papers about the institutionalization of virtual worlds and I once again want some sort of clear statement about the size or scope of virtual worlds to quickly convince a reviewer that this is a “real” issue worth studying and that the hypecycle boom and bust around Second Life was a distraction from the real growth trends.
There is the widely cited Gartner figure of 80% of active users having an avatar by 2011. Many missed the adjective “active.” Gartner rightly, I think, was focusing on innovators and early adopters. It is still an eye-opening number.
There are academic papers documenting the dozens of worlds, as well as attempts to classify them along some variation of the following axes: overt gameness, ownership model, user-generated content, focus, or demographic target.
There is Castronova’s estimates of 20-40 million active users and economies on the scale of mid-sized countries (although this includes all those pesky MMO games).
I need to source this post better, but at least I have identified a few leads.