Start first by reading my post about Virtual Friendships, which, in summary, outlined the scale of online communities in social media (eg Facebook, MSN) in business communities (industry-specific forums, Linked-in, etc) and online gaming (MMORPGs)... and the potential demand for travel companies to service real-life meetings & events.
This post was almost two years ago (during which period, of course, online communities have been growing even faster!) and the reason I mention all this now is that, around the same time a film/TV documentary about MMORPG players in the USA was being filmed...and was released in American cinemas last Thursday.
Second Skin is a very polished 94-min documentary and for a short while (till 13 Aug), is available to watch FREE at snagfilms.com or Fancast.com (If you don't have the time right now, there's a trailer on the Second Skin website).
It's focus, inevitably, is on the extremes of player behaviour/addiction, but if this is a market that interests you, you'll get a very good sense just how big the MMORPG community is and how much drive there is for getting together in real life.
Most of the players depicted are World of Warcraft (WoW) players - the biggest MMORPG of them all. There are roughly 12 million people playing WoW these days. Second Skin breaks them down into:
12-19 yr olds - 25%
20-35 yr olds - 60%
Americans play WoW on American "realms" (servers). On this side of the Atlantic, the French, Spanish, Germans and now, Russians, have their own language realms, leaving the rest of us Europeans to play on English language realms. So plenty of scope for English speaking friends from all over Scandinavia, the Balkans, Central & Eastern Europe to travel to each others' countries.
It just needs somebody to organise it; to offer a specialised travel service for Virtual Friends. Just like we used to do with VFR** last century.
BTW*** Not all MMORPGs are organised the same way. EVE Online, for example, has all its players playing together in one giant space, as this video demonstrates well. So players in a 'corporation' could be from any part of the world, though timezones would tend to play together.
* MMORPG = Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games
** VFR = Visiting Friends and Relatives
*** BTW = By the way