If i have to hear another presentation touting how great Second Life is, im going to lose it. It is an absolute fact that consumers are flocking to online communities like Facebook, Myspace, LastFM, and World of Warcraft. Yet 2L continues to garner huge amounts of press, for something i see as not all that evolutionary. Everyone from presidential candidates to the Swedish embassy is on Second Life. Yet marketers continue to think of it as the Holy Grail of "virtual worlds" and i think that is wrong.
Connectivity has proved to be THE boon for the expansion of gaming communities with many marketers seeing a growing potential. World of Warcraft now maintains more than 7.5 million people who pay for monthly subscriptions to the site. Xbox Live has almost six million gamers with 80% paying for additional downloadable content. Second Life does have more than 40,000 paid subscribers, but most users use free accounts. Linden Labs makes most of its money from companies that lease space on the site.
Yet marketers seem to think 2L will bring the success that games have brought, often ignoring why games have been so successful. This is due in part to the fact that games are social in nature. Online games allow chat communication, an ability to always be connected and evenly matched competition, highly desirable to a global audience who can simply log on to connect and play. This is exactly why the jury is still deliberating on Second Life. It isn’t exactly a game, there are no monsters to slay or movies to download (yet); Linden Labs only sells its users land with nothing on it. Second Life is more of an open-platform, with everything created by the users themselves.
The biggest activity in Second Life is shopping, and most users don't have the time or inclincation to create their own property. Marketers are creating spaces and things but they aren't properly adjusted to virtual needs. A virtual house branded Adidas or Reebok isn't trying that hard.. A virtual Coldwell Banker will get me a virtual house, but how is that going to translate in real-world sales? I don't think marketers have figured out 2L, and won't until they can better tie virtual behaviors and needs into their real-life counterparts.
This isnt to say 2L is worthless or not a possibly rich innovation space, but I think right now gaming is a much better space to play . Websites like Student of Fortune and Stickam are really interesting social sites that demonstrate consumers clustering around specific social needs or more humanistic interactions, not simulating a virtual world. Real needs being benefited will always be stronger than replicating them. 2L im still waiting for you to show me something....