According to Sweden’s largest newspaper Dagens Nyheter, Sweden is planning to set up an official embassy in Second Life. Modeled after the House of Sweden in Washington, the building is to be the virtual world’s first official embassy.
In reality though, the facility will not deal with passports or visa applications like a normal embassy, but rather acts as a marketing outpost for Sweden designed to reach the digital generation. The idea is being developed at Swedish Institute instead of the Ministry of foreign affairs.
A critical piece by Randolph Harrison recently highlighted the fact that inaccuracies in the media hype surrounding Second Life may be leading individuals and organisations to make bad investment decisions. Dagens Nyheter says Second Life has close to three million residents, while the actual number of users is probably much smaller. Which number did Swedish Institute base their embassy plans on?
After a long season of astonishing news like this one, the buzz is that Second Life and other 3D worlds along with it may be in for a bit of a media backlash. This would be unfortunate for Second Life, since companies setting up marketing operations in-world have been a big driver for the pioneering platform.
Big virtual property markets like World of Warcraft or Cyworld will probably not even flinch though, driven as they are by consumer demand borne out of individuals’ social behaviour in the user community.