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Avatars in virtual worlds
In 2001, the American company Linden Lab launched a version of "alpha" of Second Life, a "life simulation" on computers. It was not the first virtual world but received unprecedented media coverage. It attracted individual users, large companies and even government officials. Unlike other massive multiplayer online games such as World of Warcraft, virtual worlds such as Second Life are characterized by their social dimension, and the lack of goals to achieve progress in the virtual life. This was one of the elements of “the sims” pc games that seem to attract the most people, in that one could live a life with no goals whatsoever.

After Second Life, many other virtual worlds have also tried to attract users, such as the futuristic Entropia Universe or Instant Message Virtual Universe (IMVU), which begin to abound about on the PC, between 2006 and 2007, which then appeared on the Sony Playstation 3 a year later. In 2007, the Gartner institute even predicted that 80% of Internet users would soon have an avatar.

But while social networks identify with hundreds of millions of users, it saps the lifeblood from avatar programs. Ten years after the launch of Second Life, Metaverse, they were transformed into virtual deserts. They are not the only company to lose their users to social media. There were several projects such as Vivaty and Metaplace, two ambitious virtual worlds accessible from the Web. Even Lively, designed by Google, have disappeared. Linden Lab, Second Life editor, has experienced significant economic difficulties, dismissing a third of its workforce in 2010.

Second Life now has more regular users thanks to media buzz marketing. In May, Nielsen ranked the creation of Linden Lab one of the top 10 gaming applications most used in the United States. Even if, the media attention is much less than it was in 2006, all virtual worlds continue to grow. According to data from KZero, a firm specializing in the Metaverse, which published its final report in late July, the cumulative number of students enrolled in virtual worlds came in the second quarter of 2011 to $ 1.4 billion. It was a little over 400 million in 2009. It should be noted that the field of study by KZero is wide, and avatar gaming just happens to be one of the many study projects they had going last year.

The key to the growth of virtual worlds is through the fact that it is popular among children and adolescents. According KZero, 10-15 years have the biggest effect on the market, now accounting for 652 million cumulative registered users. In this age group, worlds like Habbo, Stardoll, Club Penguin and Neopets have tens of millions of users. Users aged between 20 and 25 years have the least majority, and those come through IMVU (55 million) avatars through platform (PS3) gaming. A possible explanation for such a massive number of 10-15 year old users is because they are not as susceptible to social media. All of their friends are in school with them, so most log onto Facebook for the games. These games are similar to avatar games (which is no coincidence). The avatar universes do also seem to be aimed directly at children and early teenagers.

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