SpongeBob SquarePants Supports O'Reilly Research Finding

In O’Reilly Radar’s recent reseach report, Virtual Worlds: A Business Guide, we contend that virtual worlds will go mainstream. The most powerful data point supporting our argument is that the most active and popular virtual worlds nowadays tend to be those populated by children. The next generation is growing up playing virtual worlds.

And now one of the biggest purveyors of virtual worlds for children, Nickelodeon (which owns Neopets), is going in deeper. It’s adding more virtual world features to Neopets and developing a virtual world around its SpongeBob SquarePants franchise. Companies not paying attention to virtual worlds are not paying attention to where the market is going.

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  • Virtual worlds in particular, and videogames in general, are the future of information design. Bravo for calling the trend early.

  • Michael H

    I usually take future technology predictions with a grain of salt, and this is no exception, but I haven’t read the report, so you can judge my comments accordingly.

    I guess it depends on how we define “mainstream.” Spongebob Squarepants is a HUGE franchise – it’s about as ubiquitous as Hello Kitty. That it’s being used in a new way shouldn’t be so surprising. On the other hand, there has been a lot of hubbub about Second Life over the past year, not all good. Does this mean Second Life is mainstream?

    I don’t doubt that they will grow, but wonder what shape will they take. Will they be more like MMORPG’s where each company controls the whole universe: you subscribe to their service, they control the client software, the content, the servers, etc; or will they be more more like SL/Metaverse where one company controls the client and servers, but much of the content is created by users? The former seems a bit like videogame consoles, where you need a cartridge or CD for each game you want to play. The latter seems more like 3d versions of MyFaceJournalIn – social and business networking.

    – Also, the Preview Comment doesn’t actually show the comment.

  • There are two different types of virtual worlds: 1 Where there is a mainstream equivalent, e.g. discussion forums 2 Where the worlds can exist only virtually, e.g., Neopets or for that matter the virtual world around the SpongeBob SquarePants franchise. I think that the former will get mainstream first as it will be increasingly tough to distinguish it from the mainstream one.

  • How is this different from something like Second Life or World of Warcraft? The virtual worlds that run in browsers appear to just be simplified versions of MMORPGs. I know my daughter enjoys playing Neopets and watching Sponge Bob. But she plays World of Warcraft far more than doing either of those things. It seems that these virtual worlds for children are basically, for lack of a better term, ‘gateway drugs’. You would then move on to something more substantial and time intensive like Second Life or World of Warcraft.

  • Jose Noway

    Kids should be climbing trees and throwing rocks, not punching keypads. This stuff is a disgrace to the parents who delegate their responsibilities to some freeking 64-bit processor. If you kid has a real life, what do they need a virtual life for anyway? Because it’s easier for attention deficit parents, that’s why. Sometimes the hardware and software industry disgusts me.

  • I agree that kids should not be allowed to spend their entire youth in virtual worlds. The ones who spend their time outside will be a step ahead of the rest when they grow up because nothing compares to the real world!