Marketing Second Life®

Clearly – and despite Tringo’s success – this is not what Second Life is going to be. The technology is simply not there yet. Tons of good ideas are in SL: the bare-bones of the “harm”-based system – but sadly incomplete; really fast messaging between prims in an object – useless because they can’t “talk” to other objects; a physics engine which works, but uses the obsolete Havok 1 engine; vehicles which don’t work properly on the ground, except for short dstances (airplanes fare slightly better); no way to change the user interface (although 1.7 will have “HUD attachments”); crippled mouse-look interface (you can shoot, but you can’t touch on anything); very hard to keep track of statistics, levels, skills, and equipment – you have to completely redesign a script-based system just to provide some entertainment. Darklife and Portal Wars are very interesting examples, but let’s be serious, nobody is going to drop WoW or EQ or SWG or whatever is the trend in FPS MMORPGs these days to join SL and play those minimalist “games”.

So, if we don’t have a gaming platform, what remains? Socio-economic simulation. A few US banks seem to have noticed this aspect of SL, as well as dozens of colleges and schools, and quite a few academic types. But controlling SL’s economy is not for the faint of heart. Last year, we had a peak of the L$ value (at GOM) because land was scarce – but users complained. In January, LL dropped the support for non-educational events and reduced the amount of money received by stipends. In a few weeks, ratings will simply not affect the weekly stipend at all, so everybody will receive much less money. On the other hand, L$ will be able to be bought for US$ in-world. But at the same time we are going to have an influx of new users with free Basic Accounts. There is no way to predict how successful that will be, although from these unofficial statistics the rate of new users per day has grown perhaps 100%, which will mean around 5,000 new users per month or something pretty. Remember, all these will get L$ 250 to spend, so it’s over an extra L$ million that is minted every month. As said, nobody can predict if the economy is going to remain stable or wildly fluctuate. So is this really the “best” platform for doing economic simulations?

As to “social experiments”, LL has tried to encourage a few, but since then, they rely more and more on the residents to do their own “experiments”. They haven’t attracted many groups willing to do that. But they appear spontaneously. Still, it seems that Philip’s dream of “One Metaverse to Unite Us All” is going the same way as any other Moreian utopia – back to the drawing board.

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