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Virtual worlds are strictly for kids

"I didn't ask to be virtually realised! I hate you all!"
"I didn't ask to be virtually realised! I hate you all!"

New research predicts a huge increase in the popularity of virtual worlds in the years ahead - but mostly from tweens and teens.

Market research company Strategy Analytics says that active users of simulated worlds are increasing by 23 per cent a year.

Today virtual worlds are home to about 187 million people, with that number ballooning to 638 million - the equivalent to twice the population of the USA - by 2015.

At least they won't be out robbing shops instead

Over half that total (400 million) will be tween and teenagers, although the biggest growth area will actually be among younger children aged between 5 and 9.

Virtual worlds will be increasingly funded by microtransactions, with over $17 billion (£10 billIon) being forked over by the little rascals in return for them pretending to be online pirates or princesses or whatever.

Harvey Cohen, President of Strategy Analytics, said, "Virtual worlds have largely overcome restrictions in terms of broadband access, computing power and ease of use, and are now experiencing significant interest among major brands, as well as traction among targeted demographics."

But probably not elsewhere: a virtual world inhabited by 400 million tweenagers? Not my idea of fun.