Using Google Trends Data to Gauge Interest in Virtual Worlds

Anthony Crider, Jessica Torrez-Riley


Virtual worlds rose and fell in popularity a decade ago, and today's nascent commercially-available virtual reality could repeat this pattern. With sparse data available for gauging interest in technology products, such as virtual worlds or virtual reality, Google Trends search popularity has been used in prior studies as a proxy for global interest. We explore the problems with this approach using data from three virtual worlds: Second Life, Minecraft, and World of Warcraft. We find that Google Trends search volume does not correlate with user purchases or subscriptions, and the single shifted Gompertz function used in prior studies may not be sufficient to model both product user searches and searches driven by media attention.

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