Survival of the Fittest: Will Second Life Be A Success?

While this approach certainly will find fully acceptance on my side of the Atlantic, I expect that the quantity-based US business approach will always “rate SL negatively”. LL should have 100,000 residents by now – like other games with the same “age” – and not a “mere” 15,000. So, from an US business perspective, LL is supposed to be a flop. More than that, this also means that their Return On Investment will take ages, and not just one or two years. Again, the fast-paced US economy will scorn that type of medium to long-term approach on online gaming, since the “usual” way of doing business on online games is launch a new platform, get 100,000 users after one year or so, launch another new platform based on the first one’s success, and so on, and so on. But if you read Philip’s interviews you’ll read things like “in 2007 we will have one million users”. Linden Lab plans ahead. This also means that thousands of residents will simply not understand this model of thinking, and give up on SL since things “do not happen fast enough”. I also believe that this is one of the reasons why the number of non-US residents is growing much faster – we simply have a different approach. We prefer (and expect) quality, and are willing to wait for better quality, and support companies focusing on quality instead of quantity.

Worse – the media seems to believe that most online games are flattening out or decreasing their customer base. Some talk about “the end of the MMOG/MMORPGs – they were a nice experiment, but they are not financially sustainable”. So how can a company talk about “quality of service on a sustained growth basis” when the media don’t believe in virtual online platforms any more?

Last but not least, and despite all limitations, one of the amazing things about SL is it’s customer support. Most (but not all) Internet-related businesses usually have a 500-to-1 or 1000-to-1 ratio of clients vs. tech support personnel. With the introduction of Live Help, plus the Mentor group and the in-world universities doing classes on SL-related stuff, you have around 300 people or so doing some sort of “customer support” (of course there are different levels of customer support, but this is precisely what all companies of the world do). Since there are about 15,000 residents, this means that 2% of the SL population is engaged in some sort of “organized” customer support – or, if you wish, it’s a 50-to-1 ratio. No business I ever saw on the Internet has been able to have that level of customer support when you have a customer base of a few thousand users. You may argue that Live Help/Mentors/University courses are not really “Linden Lab”-based customer support, but you would be wrong. Creating an environment where people actually are willing to volunteer their own time to help other customers is the trick, and it’s incredible hard to encourage spontaneously. The closest thing to this is, of course, the open source community (even the one having a company behind it, like MySQL).

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