Second life…on life support?

Ah Second Life, I remember a few years back when it was all the rage. We were all going to create our own avatars, walk around a cyber world and interact with other avatars. Along the way we could purchase goods and services, explore the edges of the cyber world and allow ourselves to be lost in a land of make believe. Okay so this never really took off…Second Life does have a following but less than a million…a far cry from what Facebook or Twitter can boast. So has Second Life been relegated to 2nd tier or even 3rd tier status in the land of social media? In one word: Yes…for now.

Let’s think about this for a moment, the whole premise of Second Life was to take social media and combine it with a Simcity style format. On the surface this appeared to make sense, take a fast growing technology/trend that is social media and combine it with  very successful game – Simcity – and voila you have a powerful combination interface for the mass audience. Unfortunately what was seen as a strength became their weakness.

The intrigue of Second Life was that it was whatever you wanted it to be…your a 45 year old accountant, be a 16 year old surfer in Second Life….you get the picture. Want to walk around, buy land, go to stores, meet people…go ahead. But there was never an end game, never a define purpose for what your avatar was looking to achieve.  You could do a lot of things…but also do nothing.

Similar sim like games, from Zynga -FarmVille and Mafia Wars – are all wildly popular. Why? To me it because they all give users a purpose, while that purpose and goal  might appear silly to some it is entertaining and addictive to many others.  To the point where real money is being spent and real sums of money are being made –  I have heard that the virtual game economy will be in the billions of dollars, that is not chump change. So what does this mean for sites like Second Life? I think there remains a future for the platform, but it needs to focus on what makes it attractive to potential clients. Could they have areas where you can play FarmVille? Or maybe they can find ways to partner with video game makers to integrate Madden 12 into SecondLife – avatars could come watch a game being played on line through XBoxes and PS3s. Maybe Second Life and the Wii partner so that when you are doing the Wii work out it places you in a virtual class in Second Life with a real trainer…cannot go to a class at the gym join one on Second Life via your Wii. Get focused on how to attract and retain your customers, being anything and everything to everyone is not an easy way to profitability.

Second Life is not dead, not challenging Twitter or Facebook for Social Media icon any time soon, but there maybe life left in Second Life.

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3 Comments

Filed under Social media, Virtual Worlds

3 responses to “Second life…on life support?

  1. Well, the attraction of Second Life, for hard-core users like myself, is its free-form nature and lack of pre-defined end-points.

    The problem that Linden Lab have had is that they won’t accept that the appeal of SL is to a niche market. They have a potentially good business catering to the million or do people who are into it, but instead they have been chasing a non-existent mass market, in the process alienating their core customers.

    The worst thing they could do would be to try to shoehorn SL into some sort of social-media model. They should concentrate on keeping their current paying customers happy. Even if they do though, things may already be too far gone.

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  2. /me agrees broadly with johnny… the ‘grow or die’ idea of business is surely to blame for their downfall.

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  3. Daniel Smith

    Dont confuse the idea of SL, the virtual world, with the poorly managed company behind it (Linden Lab).

    OpenSim will rapidly add users over the next few years, and many of them will be brand new to virtual worlds.

    I could sum up the failures of Linden Lab in two words: Pricing and Polices. It is fortunate that the community possesses all three puzzle pieces (server software, the ability to form grids, and viewers) to forge ahead.

    SL was a walled garden, our training wheels. Many of us are taking the next step.

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