Media Week is reporting that a number of virtual worlds, primarily based on or tied to popular television shows, have been quietly shut down over the summer. Among the virtual worlds getting the axe: MTV's Laguna Beach and The Hills, while the CW shut down it's virtual world based on the series Gossip Girl.
While this may be construed as a "shake out" of the space, and there are certainly are too many virtual worlds out there, I think it's important to realize that virtual worlds geared towards the Club Penguin and Moshi Monsters set are still booming and new virtual worlds are still being launched.
For example Play Label, a division of Electronic Arts, is preparing to launch two new online girl-targeted destinations later this month.
- Hasbro's line of Littlest Pet Shop pets feature a code for the new site sewn into the toy that offers users a 30-day trial premium membership and special in-game rewards. Littlest Pet Shop Online was developed by Electronic Arts with Frima Studios.
- Charm Girls Club is designed to give girls a place to play games, design fashions/accessories, design and collect charms and interact with one another and create their profile page among other things. The site will be integrated with EA's four Charm Girls Club video games for Wii and Nintendo DS set for release in the US on October 20, 2009.
So what happened to older virtual world users? I think they have moved on to casual gaming activities on Facebook (think Mafia Wars or Farmville), playing video games on consoles or computers, mobile, location based &/or social gaming (think FourSquare) or social networking sites that are built around shared interests.
Above all else, it's important to keep in mind that this is a young industry--one that is still evolving and will require us to wait a bit longer for the dust to settle.