You may have noticed that the sidebar of virtual world sites on the left has
been changed. No longer does it include groups for games/worlds with 100,000
or more users, but now just includes an alphabetical listing of some of the virtual
worlds that one or more Terra Nova folks have been to.
This was the subject of a lot of discussion between TN authors and is
something we think is worth discussing here. In short, what's a user and
why do we care?
As discussed in "The Numbers Game" topic recently, there's considerable
debate about how to count users for talking about virtual world populations.
Do you count all registered users? Those who have logged in in the past
week or month? Those who have paid for a subscription or some dollar-level
of items? There's widespread disagreement on this and any number of vested
interests desiring one answer or another.
Further, the question has come up: why do we care what the population is?
The fact is, people do care for a variety of reasons -- people want
to know what's hot, which worlds are shriveling up, and whether their
favorite is popular with others. From a business POV, developers want to
trumpet the growth of their world (again, popularity is important to us
herd-beasts), and others want to know if virtual worlds overall are growing
out of their niche, if their growth comes from cannibalizing those that came
before, or if these worlds are truly edging into the mainstream.
It's fair to say that there's a wide range of opinions on whether number of
users -- however defined -- is a useful measure of a virtual world's value
in any sense of the word. There's been some concern that Terra Nova isn't
the place to rank VWs by population, or to try to define what that
population might actually be given that we have no way of verifying what a
VW operator says.
What do you think? Is VW population important or interesting to know? Is
it something worth pursuing and reporting? Should Terra Nova or some other
group try to come up with an industry standard way of measuring (and
verifying) VW population? Or should we forget about all that and look
instead at which worlds provide the most interesting and immersive
experience along whatever lines matter to each of us personally?