$345 million invested in virtual worlds so far this year

"There's gold in them thar

online worlds!" That, at least, is the diagnosis of the guys over at TechCrunch Virtual Worlds Management (they're actually the ones who did the research for second quarter) -- they tallied up all the money given to virtual world developers this year, and ended up at a whopping $345 million. That is a lot of investment dollars sunk into worlds that don't exist -- about the gross domestic product of Western Africa's Guinea-Bissau. Which, come to think of it, doesn't sound quite as impressive as we'd hoped, but still, venture capitalists clearly think this online thing might have staying power.

Turbine was one of the big winners so far this year -- their $40 million investment will give the Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online developer lots of leeway in their "business strategy shift." But 9You, as previously reported on this very site, was the biggest cash-in so far this year -- $100 million was passed out to them to work on its product called GTown.

Of course, investment only means so much, and there are only so many hours in the day people can spent in virtual environments. Some of this money is being thrown away. But we're only halfway through 2008, and deals are being brokered left and right -- it's a virtual world boom!