[photopress:it_Beijing_Cyber_Recreation_District.jpg,full,alignright]This is seriously important and may change the way the world shops. It could have a devastating effect on shops in the high street and could mean true global trading on an individual scale. A true revolution.
If you understand the concept of Second Life – a separate virtual world this will be easy to follow. A similar set up is bing set up by the Beijing municipality is getting in on the act with a site which you might think of as Second Life meets Alibaba. In a big way.
In partnership with private capital (and with help from MindArk of Sweden) is planning a virtual world for around 150m avatars, of which 7 million could be online at the same time. (For comparison Second Life rarely has more than 50,000 online concurrently.)
Robert Lai, chief scientist of the Beijing Cyber Recreation District project, reports that, in truth, it will eventually be even bigger. There are nine similar virtual universes being planned.
China is converting a 100 sq km site (yes, that is a very big space) on a former nationalized steel mill site to house, among other things, virtual worlds able to support not millions or tens of millions but billions of avatars.
This is not confined to Chinese avatars – where an avatar is your online personage – it also allows non-Chinese avatars.
This is where it gets a bit tricky.
On the one hand it will be a game, and a game of a size none of us have remotely, as yet, seen. At the same time it will be connected in real life almost, but not quite, to Alibaba.
That is you will be able to trade as you do now on, say, eBay. If you are buying, say, a piece of gym equipment and it is half the price on the virtual world you can order it and have the real thing delivered to your home.
In other words, China is taken the Second Life into a postion between fantasy and reality. And, in doing so, in some forms of shopping will cut out the middle man.
When asked whether the coming of virtual worlds would be on a scale commensurate with the industrial revolution, Professor Robert Lai said, ‘It will be faster, bigger, more like an explosion.’
At the moment western economies benefit from cheap Chinese manufactured goods and the low inflation they bring while also benefiting from huge wholesale, retail and distribution markups on the same goods. But with this idea of a virtual world they, too, migrate to China.
It is, perhaps, good news for DHL and other express transporters. But it sound like the kiss of death for many retailers.
To give a real idea of how this will affect them regard a small town in Australia. In Quambatook, the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, users on average in September bought and sold on eBay an average of $274 each.
Now extend that transaction to the idea of a super-sized China Second Life and you can see the concern for retailers. Their sales, unless for instant gratification, will start to dry up.
Retailers are already saying the Christmas coming will be very tough. As it will. But not as tough as it will be in ten years time.
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