It's April 1! But this isn't an April Fool's post (though there are plenty around). It's April, so it's Spring! Literally and metaphorically we seem to have come through a long hard winter. At the end of 2007 here on TN I wrote about the possibility of a virtual world winter, and Bruce Damer wrote similarly in 2008. Since then there have been some hard times, as well as a huge amount of growth in online games -- just not so much in virtual worlds or traditional MMOGs. In that area World of Warcraft continues to dominate, while other major efforts struggle and dwindle.
Over on my blog I've been posting more frequently recently, including some thoughts on the end of this virtual world winter -- punctuated by the demise of three different and significant virtual world efforts. My conclusion is that yes, we've been through a tough winter, and now it's coming to an end -- but the new growth blooming all around us isn't perhaps quite what many of us, steeped in prior generations of virtual worlds, would have expected.
We're certainly seeing unprecedented growth in online games, though many of these remain fairly primitive (and early examples were sometimes ethically questionable). I don't believe we're going to return to the days of huge multi-tens-of-millions-of-dollar-budgets any time soon (though they aren't all gone yet), or to the all-inclusive all-immersive MMOGs and VWs that many here have come to know, love, research, and even defend vociferously.
I believe instead that this new generation brings with it new forms of growth, just as MMOGs and VWs were once new. These new games and proto-worlds are primitive just as many early MMOs were, but are also developing in fascinating ways, from both economic and psychological perspectives.
Welcome to Spring.