John Bohannon has quite a lengthy article on the logistics of organizing the first science conference in World of Warcraft.
via Duncan Hull's FriendFeed
You can find more information about the guild they created, Science guild, as well as some info about the conference. It is reported that full transcripts of the conference itself (which was on the topic of research performed on and in virtual worlds) were recorded, but I couldn't find them.
If this sounds rather esoteric, consider
Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. announced today that subscribership for World of Warcraft®, its award-winning massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), has continued to climb, recently passing 10 million worldwide. ... World of Warcraft now hosts more than 2 million subscribers in Europe, more than 2.5 million in North America, and approximately 5.5 million in Asia.
World of Warcraft Reaches 10 Million Subscribers - 22 January 2008
That's active subscriber count, at about $15 per month per subscriber.
In other words, this single game is a billion dollar enterprise.
Second Life seems to get more attention in academic circles, perhaps because it is free to the end user, and you can manipulate the environment, creating objects. It took me a long time to "get" Second Life, and my eventual conclusion was that it was like being inside of a programming language. It is not a game in the conventional sense. Second Life is platform, not narrative.
By contrast, World of Warcraft (WoW or just Warcraft)  gives you a huge and (if your computer is up to the task) high-performance, visually-rich environment to explore. I am often somewhat disappointed that most of us have tremendously powerful computers but we rarely are presented with any software that fully exploits those capabilities. Google Earth was the first application in the past few years that I found truly revolutionary. Getting a guided tour of WoW from John, and seeing the endless detail of its cities and countryside, was the second time in recent years that I was truly impressed by the "step change" in what is now possible. The game world is enormous, and completely consistent. Bridges don't stick out into thin air, paths don't run across water... everywhere you go, there is a richly detailed world. In addition, the world is live (and dangerous).
 Technically Warcraft refers to any of a number of games from Blizzard, previous versions were not full multiplayer worlds. I will use it just as shorthand for World of Warcraft in this posting.
I've written a few times about Warcraft, as well as having an entire Second Life category.
August 27, 2007 World of Warcraft... in The Lancet
January 14, 2007 a library quest
January 11, 2007 World of Warcraft has over 8 million subscribers
December 5, 2006 more Second Life, plus South Park [and Warcraft]
If you want to know more about the logistics of holding a Warcraft conference, some very game-specific info is below:
By live, I mean that you are not alone in the world. If you are flying and you see fighting going on below you, this isn't just some game cinematics, it's real people somewhere in the world, playing the game. In the cities, hundreds of human-controlled characters are busy shopping, banking, and selling.
There are clearly very sophisticated proximity and latency algorithms powering an engine in which groups of geographically dispursed players can coordinate on tasks where a second's delay is literally the (game world) difference between life and death.
With a huge cash flow, Blizzard is able to not only sustainably grow the infrastructure of the game, but to continuously add to the game content as well. An entirely new world, Outland, was added to the original world of Azeroth.
Given that this is a complex and mostly unconstrained, live-running game world, it is not surprising that the logistics of organising a non-game event are substantial, and the Science article is mostly about that experience.
Here are a few things you need to know:
* You start off as a level 1 character, in your race's starting location (a location always some distance from a city)
* You can travel by walking, but the amount of aggression (aggro) you attract depends on the level difference between you and your enemies. At level 1, you aggro everything.
* While you cannot be attacked by other human-controlled characters (unlike many games of this type), there are world beasts wandering around that can and will attack. Wandering around is a recipe for a quick death. You are somewhat safer (you generate less aggro) if walking on a defined path or road, but at level 1, even this does not provide full safety - beasts near the edge of the road will run on it to kill you.
* Level 1 characters have so few health points that they die very quickly in battle. Often a single hit will kill them.
* There are two "factions", Horde and Alliance. They have cities and outposts which are guarded by computer-controlled guards who are high-level (usually the maximum player level, 70, or higher). They WILL attack characters from the opposing faction. There are some neutral cities where both factions can meet, but they are in medium to high-level areas.
* Travel in the game takes real time, walking or running is slowest. Mounted travel (e.g. horses) is not available to low-level characters. Any level of character can access flight paths, but they have to go to the flight end points first and they have to be able to pay (there is limited free public transit, such as the Deeprun Tram).
* The game is organized into realms, each realm is a copy of the entire virtual world. Individual characters are bound to their realm, and can only see and communicate with other players in that realm.
* When you die, you can be brought back to life, but it requires either travel (to "get back" to your body) or high-level characters with resurrection skills or equipment
* Equipment (such as better armor) costs money, and is constrained by levels (i.e. you can't give a level 1 character a set of level 70 armor).
* It is possible you may attracted "griefers" who, while they couldn't attack your party directly, can not only run around shouting and being generally annoying, but can also "pull" monsters into the conference area, whereupon the monsters may start attacking conference attendees.
* When they are killed, monsters will "respawn" in roughly the same location shortly thereafter. You can't permanently clear an area of monsters; you have to keep killing them as they respawn.
 Unless you explicitly flag yourself for Player-versus-Player (PvP) or are on a PvP server
So a conference presents numerous challenges:
* If you want a broad attendance, you need to support both experienced characters and newbies/n00bs (level 1 characters) who bring many challenges: they aren't familiar with the game, and it is a dangerous environment.
* Additionally level 1 characters are squishy (easily killed by beasts and guards) and have very little money.
* Experienced players are likely to be scattered across many different realms and belong to existing guilds; they are unlikely to want to change realm, although they might temporarily change guild.
So the best you can do is find a realm with enough high-level players who are interested in helping, both financially and in terms of offence and defence. A conference is the WoW equivalent of an Escort Quest - you have someone you need to protect as they move from location to location. However it's an Escort Quest on an unprecendented scale - in WoW the largest collaborative efforts, raids, are 4 combined teams of 5 players, for a total of 20 people. For a conference, you may have hundreds of attendees. (Although it is true that sometimes groups this large are organised for the fun of e.g. attacking another city, similar to the end event of the conference.)
To do it properly, you'd have to find a defensible position for the main conference sessions. Then you have to get everyone there alive. Then if you want to do tours or field trips, you have to again keep everyone alive. We're talking classic medieval age warfare. In Azeroth they can't be attacked from the air, so you need to form a defence perimeter, with high-level characters clearing away all possible threats, additional high-levels scattered throughout the group to provide assistance for any problems or threats that may pop up inside the perimeter and characters with healing or resurrection powers in case something befalls the low-levels despite all the other efforts. The logistics of it are actually quite an interesting challenge.
Also I forgot to mention that realms are limited in the number of character accounts they will permit, for performance reasons, and high-level characters are more likely to be on realms that are full or nearly full.
For these reasons it seems to me this best option, if it were possible, would be for Blizzard to provide a test server and allow users to copy or temporarily move their characters over for the duration of the event. I'm not saying they should make the environment otherwise any different (i.e. no "holodeck safeties on") but just provide a dedicated conference realm.
If you want to get some idea of the richness of the environment, you can see my World of Warcraft - solo set on Flickr. It's more "stuff I thought was cool" than a comprehensive overview of the world. Here's one screenshot: