Market research firm Gartner predicts a bright future for virtual worlds. According to one of their new reports about 80% of active Internet users will have a second life in some sort of virtual world.
In the past year, investors have put $1 billion in 35 virtual-world companies, according to a report advancing the Virtual Worlds Conference, being held Wednesday and Thursday in San Jose.
Some companies included in the report are more game-oriented than virtual world-oriented, and therein lies one of the debates for the nascent industry. Some draw the line between virtual worlds and games such as World of Warcraft, in which millions of players pillage and battle each other to advance. Others contend that the massive multi-player games nevertheless take place in an online world where participants don't necessarily have to follow the arc of the story and can create an avatar just to go inside and meet other people - or orcs.
"It's definitely a changing landscape," said Chris Sherman, executive director for Virtual Worlds Management, which conducted the study.