I’ve said it before: if you want to understand the future, go talk to some kids. Watch what they do. Watch their habits. Chances are these won’t change much as they go through life. The emerging generation seems to me best described as the Online Generation. They hang out online in spaces that are virtual. There they form relationships that are very real.
Kids today are joining online social networks at increasingly early ages. At Club Penguin, acquired by Disney last year, they are joining at pre-school age.
The Disney Internet Group hopes to attract kids, then with a series of other online virtual world-based communities continue to engage them. Their portfolio now includes Nickleodeon and Toontown. Most recently came the highly engaging and interactive Pirates of the Caribbean, which mostly attracts boys. Soon Pixie Hollow will come out for teenage girls who can assume a Fantastic little avatar.
Last year Disney bought Club Penguin http://clubpenguin.com/ which now is estimated to have more than 100 million users, some of them as young as age 4. Under heavy security, Penguin members can meet and talk with other children. They can learn commerce by selling goods and services in exchange for virtual money. And as the kids grow older they can transition from one Virtual World designed for them to another, each providing the quality charm of Disney that is part of Disney’s occasionally controversial trademark.
So what happens when this Online Generation grows up and enters the market and takes seats in the cubicles of your business? How will this Online Generation emerge? Will they be the same or different from their own parents in the market and as professionals?
I took those questions with me to Disney Interactive Studios in Burbank recently, where I interviewed a few members of the senior team including President Steve Wadsworth. In their vision, as they express it on this clip. The next generation will be more social, more collaborative and perhaps a better place.
All things considered, I tend to agree.