Free virtual worlds for kids are booming as more boys and girls flock to imaginative, character-driven non-linear story environments. An expected 53% of children on the Web will belong to a virtual world by 2013, more than doubling the current population, according to recent reports from eMarketer. Industry specialist KZero reports that kids aged 5-10 have created over 320 million registered accounts in virtual worlds as at mid-2011.
Bubble Gum Interactive has developed a browser-based virtual world for kids and an associated set of technology solutions and processes. Entitled Little Space Heroes, this “virtual universe” is a massive, immersive story-driven virtual world that ups the ante with a number of technology advances and a focus on breadth and depth of game play. Kids will be able to play a vast part of the game free of charge for as long as they like, giving them an opportunity to try before they buy.
The core audience includes kids globally aged 5 to 12 years with a fairly even boy:girl split. The game is in the final stages of development in preparation for beta in the coming weeks. A full global launch will take place shortly afterwards with the initial focus being on major western English speaking markets such as the USA, UK, Canada and Australia. These markets alone have an addressable market size of approximately 70 million children, all of whom are hungry for fun and engaging online entertainment experiences.
Bubble Gum Interactive understands the important roles parents play in ensuring entertainment experiences for kids are both fun and safe. Through research, focus groups and interviews with kids and parents Little Space Heroes includes multiple safety features including black and white word filters to prevent inappropriate language, in-game moderation, proactive customer support. Bubble Gum Interactive is also thinking outside the square, identifying ways to encourage good behaviour in kids in virtual worlds.
The virtual worlds for kids market is relatively young and continually evolving giving early stage companies like Bubble Gum Interactive a chance to rival more established brands. Virtual worlds have overcome enabling restrictions in terms of broadband access, computing power, and ease of use, and are now experiencing significant interest among major brands, as well as traction among targeted demographics. With many celebrated recent successes, a sector has emerged focused on building virtual worlds based on a mix of avatar centric communities and casual gaming for younger audiences underpinned by subscription and virtual goods economies.
Key Growth Drivers Kids Virtual Worlds
- Perceived value: Parents are allowing their kids to spend more time in virtual worlds as a fun, safe and social online experience.
- Peer-to-Peer chatter: Kids in the playground are making play dates in virtual worlds with their real world friends.
- Internet brand awareness: Many brands are using the internet as their foundation for development as this medium allows for a social and interactive experience with each-other and the brand.
- Payment mechanics: Consumers are more comfortable than ever in purchasing virtual world products and services thanks to simpler, faster and more secure ways to buy online.
- Value for money: The freemium model ensures that kids can test out and become comfortable with a virtual world before purchasing. Compared to traditional gaming and media content, this makes virtual worlds far more accessible to more households.
- Safety: A walled garden, moderated gaming experience is built with safety as its core. Ensuring suitability in content helps reassure parents through accreditation by ratings entities such as the ESRB.
 References: http://www.kzero.co.uk/blog/?p=4677 and http://www.bizreport.com/2009/05/emarketer_virtual_worlds_to_increase_55.html# and report: and http://www.betterverse.org/2010/10/kzero-over-1-billion-virtual-world-users-half-under-age-16.html