By Reyne Rice, Toy Trend Expert and Youth Market Specialist
First posted on the YourToyCom.com blog forum and community website serving the toys, games and childrens’ technology industries, on behalf of the Spielwarenmesse. Spielwarenmesse is the leading and largest International ToyFair in the world, held annually in Nuremberg, Germany in early February.
According to the Virtual Worlds tracking study by KZero Worldswide, virtual worlds crossed the 1.4 Billion cumulative registered users mark, with the largest quarterly growth in Q2 (the most recent data available) since KZero started tracking these worlds in 2008. This represented an increase of 214 million since Quarter 1 2011.
Second quarter 2011 growth came from a variety of sources, especially from the larger virtual world sites that are targeted to kids, including Moshi Monsters (up 16m to 50m), Poptropica (up 26m to 170m), Habbo (up 20m to 220m), and Stardoll (up 22m to 116m). These kid-focused virtual worlds represent a variety of play patterns, including role-play, pets/nurturing, casual gaming, chat and user generated content. The table below shows the quarterly growth numbers by age range.
For the toy industry age targets, the following two age groups grew quite significantly: The five to ten year old segment grew 17.6% from Q1 to Q2 assisted primarily by increases from Poptropica and Panfu. The next age segment, 10 t0 15 year olds grew by 16.2%, with Moshi Monsters and Stardoll leading the charge.
Top Virtual World Sites for Kids in the USA
More recent data from November 2011 revealed the Top 10 Virtual Worlds in the USA for kids, based upon unique visitors in the month of November 2011.
- Wizard 101
- Club Penguin
- Moshi Monsters
(Sources: 360 Kids, Compete.com)
The Top 10 listing is surprising in a number of ways. Wizard 101, the top-ranking site, is also a website where kids and families play together. After a deeper dive into the site, it was revealed that many families are using the site to engage in intergenerational play, where parents and kids battle side-by-side, especially while one parent may be travelling. It allows kids and adults to stay connected, across distances, in a shared activity. Also grandparents are joining in, and setting up virtual playdates where they can connect with their grandchildren, who are also Wizard 101 fans.
Moshi Monsters, though wildly popular in the UK and other countries since 2009, has just entered the US marketplace in 2011, and is gaining in popularity. In 2011, Moshi Monsters registered user base grew from 30 Million in Jan 2011 to over 50 Million by year-end, quite a phenomenol growth curve.
This top 10 list represented nearly 42 percent of all unique visitor traffic in the USA, in November 2011, from an exhaustive list of 350 tracked websites, with content for kids.
This is just one slice of the data available on kids’ virtual worlds. In this increasingly popular play activity for kids, toy & game manufacturers and entertainment & licensing companies are all watching and learning. Multiple virtual world models are still being tested, including free access, subscriptions, virtual currencies, games for exchange of in-world points and more. For many kids, brand loyalty is a factor, as they build comfort and status within a world, and also join their friends for virtual playdates. As more and more physical products are being licensed from these virtual worlds, lifestyle brands are being created and offer that elusive link between physical play and virtual play.
Many more virtual world connections for kids will be revealed at the Spielwarenmesse 2012 International ToyFair Nurnberg. Please post, if you are joining this segment of the business, so we can learn about new sites.