Metaplace’s out of business; will Blue Mars outlast it?

On the same day, I got hold of two bits of news from the metaverse front: first, Blue Mars announced their pricing. Oh, all right, I know I’m behind the news… the point is that this relaunched the Second Life® vs. Blue Mars debate once again. I started following the SLED (Educators in SL) mailing list and how the academic community was not impressed — neither with the pricing, but much less about the requirements to run Blue Mars.

Then, several hours later, another bomb dropped in my mailbox. Raph Koster’s brainchild, Metaplace, went out of business, terminating operations on January 1, 2010.

If you remember late 2007/early 2008, you’ll remember what every “virtual world expert” was saying: the Metaverse would happen inside the Web browser. The future was supposed to be embeddable 3D VW applications, hopefully inside Facebook. Kids would be using virtual worlds like crazy, and a huge growth in that area was predicted. While nobody was really claiming that Second Life would disappear overnight, they were expecting a big shift towards completely different audiences and technologies, namely, Flash.

And people believed them. The Electric Sheep Company moved out of Second Life and started doing their own Flash-based virtual world — and made a few sales (yes, one was for a company wishing to embed it on Facebook). Raph Koster gathered venture capital and made a big splash about his notion of a virtual world with 16-pixel-high avatars on isometric landscapes which would become the next revolution in user-generated content — specially because you could use SketchUp for building things, or even just copy 3D objects from Google Warehouse and immediately upload them to Metaplace and start having fun. And of course they were not the only ones. A bit all over the place, companies and opinion-makers started telling us how everything we thought about the “metaverse” was wrong, and that concepts like Second Life/OpenSim were simply outdated and had to evolve or disappear.

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