Interesting Wall St. Journal article about virtual worlds and businesses. Apparently they don't mix.
The article, "Businesses Take Avatars, Go Home," (available at http://blogs.wsj.com/biztech/2008/05/15/businesses-take-their-avatars-and-go-home/?mod=WSJBlog), found that 90% of businesses fail within 18 months, according to Gartner.
I'm not surprised that so many virtual world initiatives fail. Most people go to virtual worlds to avoid the real one. There was an amazing Journal profile last year of a man who spends hours and hours in Second Life, spending time with a woman who is not his wife -- even though he's married, in fact something of a newlywed. (His real-life was none too happy about his past time.)
What I did find surprising is that Gartner predicts that 70% of businesses will have their own virtual branded worlds -- and that these will be more effective than placing a brand in the context of some other company's virtual world.
Makes sense from a branding perspective. But that means there are more virtual worlds trying to grab people's attention. There are already too many social networking sites.
My prediction: the future will belong to mashups that combine social networking sites with virtual worlds.