I’ve spent the past few days going over traffic stats for Virtual Worlds Review and thought I’d share 2005 world rankings for those interested in the social virtual worlds scene. VWR’s Top 10 Social Virtual Worlds in 2005 were…
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Rankings were determined by assessing which review and gallery pages received the highest monthly average pageviews over the course of the year. Because VWR traffic is primarily driven through search engine results, world pageview totals are affected by review page placements in search engine rankings. Not surprisingly, a Google search for all of the Top 10 world names returns a first-page result for its corresponding VWR review page. A world with a more generic name (e.g. The Palace, The Manor, There, Traveler) may be receiving less VWR traffic simply because a name search does not return a high VWR listing. Yet there are others that do return first-page search results and are still always at the bottom of the list, so I think it’s safe to say that the VWR Top 10 list indicates a persistent general interest in these ten worlds.
One thing that immediately struck me about the list is that it’s an interesting mix of old and new worlds, with decade-old VZones and Active Worlds holding their own against newer, shinier worlds. The newest (and by far the shiniest) world on the list is Virtual Magic Kingdom. The VMK review page was consistently popular in 2005, debuting at #7 in June and coming in at #7 for the year.
Habbo Hotel dominated VWR in 2005. In fact, I would have to say HH generally dominated the social virtual world market, with a mind-boggling *40 million* members. HH pages on VWR regularly received twice the amount of traffic that other worlds received on VWR in 2005. I believe other sites may actually be benefiting from HH’s popularity, as search keyword phrases such as 'sites like habbo' are showing up in the referral lists lately.
While there’s no way to verify the ages of site visitors, I’ve long suspected that kids and teens pwn VWR. Most of the Top 10 worlds target the youth market either directly or indirectly (for example, Active Worlds is all-ages but has a popular AW Teen area and the AWEDU program for educational projects). 2005 VWR traffic is significantly higher during school vacation months. Plus, I regularly get emails from names like 'brittany420' and 'cooldude69' that say things like, 'omg ur site totally rox can u give me free furni?' Case closed.
Speaking of free, 9 of the Top 10 worlds offer free basic access to registrants. Free access = high traffic. What a shocker!
More interestingly, 5 of the Top 10 worlds actively incorporate in-world advertising. In fact, Coke Studios, Virtual Magic Kingdom and Mokitown exist solely to promote their sponsors. Habbo Hotel and Dubit regularly create themed rooms and special promotions for advertising partners.
VWR site sessions were typically between 2 and 4 minutes long in 2005. I’m actually happy about this, as I don’t want visitors hanging around too long. The main goal of the site is to provide newbies with basic information and then get them exploring the virtual worlds themselves. Get 'em in, get 'em out, get 'em avatars.
Overall, VWR traffic increased 22% in 2005, with August being the busiest month of the year. It’s the teens, I tell you. They’re taking over.
My hope for 2006 is that VWR will continue to help those interested in visiting social virtual worlds find new worlds, new experiences and new communities. In 2006 I’d like to see more 3D worlds on the Top 10 list. I’d like to see social worlds become more innovative, with new and interesting features that distinguish them individually while challenging competitors and creating new industry standards. I’d like to see more academic analysis of social virtual worlds. I’d like to see them being taken more seriously in general. While some may write many of these worlds off as 'kid-stuff' 40 million habbos can’t be ignored. If nothing else, I think the popularity of avatar-based online social experiences will continue to grow in 2006. And yes, kids and teens will be leading the way.