Have you heard of SecondLife?
Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by a total of 4,333,627 people from around the globe.
I actually only heard of it for the first time about a month or two ago in passing. I originally thought it was a computer game that you could buy in stores and play online, and that it was like an online version of The Sims. While the latter is somewhat accurate, the former is not; instead of purchasing the game in stores, you simply sign up online and then download the 30-Meg software online as well, it’s free.
In fact, even the membership is free. I believe that SecondLife’s company, Linden Lab, makes money by selling items, services, and land through it’s made-up world through the games commerce system of Linden Dollars.
Anyhow, I was not interested in participating in the game… you can’t really ‘play’ it as theres no goal. You simply exist online with others. Instead, I was interested in the massive money-making potential of the game. Apparantly, a lot of people are making mad money from SecondLife. Articles such as this one on Investors.com state things such as:
Second Life users are spending an average of $50 to $60 a week, says HSBC analyst Tristan Louis. Linden keeps a running tab at secondlife.com. As this was written, it said Second Life visitors spent more than $1 million on the site in the past 24 hours.
They’re buying property (an island costs $1,675 for about 16 virtual acres, plus $295 a month for maintenance fees) and lingerie, playing games for money and doing whatever any programmer can dream up.
At the time of the writing of this post, SecondLife stats showed:
Total Residents: 4,333,627
Logged In Last 60 Days: 1,549,396
Online Now: 24,361
US$ Spent Last 24h: $1,469,182
LindeX Activity Last 24h: $228,530
That’s pretty amazing. So yeah, I’ve heard that some people have made several million dollars from the game’s commerce system, and some people a bit less for several hundred thousand dollars. I believe one person was selling wedding dresses in the virtual world.
I also heard of companies buying large islands and continents on the game for millions of dollars. While their purpose was for branding no doubt, it shows that they did the research in that it was a valuable enough place to do so.
My interest was in the land. I was interested in starting off by purchasing an island or two and either developing it or going into the online virtual real-estate market.
What follows then, is my experience after 45-minutes of trying the game out. Please note that I’m no SecondLife expert, and I literally have only about 45-minutes experience of the game. I mave have incorrect information, so be forewarned, and no hate mail from and SecondLife fans out there please
It took me only a minute or two to download the game (gotta love fast connections), and then I spent the next 10-15 minutes thinking of a name to use in the game. You can choose your first name, but must choose from an existing dropdown menu of last names, which really sucks. Anyhow, with millions of users in the game, I had to try many names before coming up with my online avatar: Modulus Slade. I then jumped into the game.
You start off on a mini-island which acts as a quick tutorial, and are then let out into the mainland. Now, I’ve played many games in my life. From ancient Atari games like Joust, to old-school games like Commander Keen, then to games like Starcraft, Halflife 2, and World of Warcraft, and so my learning curve on games isn’t too bad. However, I had a heck of a time trying to learn to use SecondLife.
That actually surprised me as I figured the game would be catered to a very wide, general audience, and thus would have a very easy learning curve. The interface is very awkward and leaves you longing for a game like World of Warcraft, but this makes sense too. After all, the game is only 30-megs and most of it is custom content.
Anyhow, after awkwardly trying to move about and expore the world (you can ‘fly’ right off the bat), and after passing by a naked woman, I found out how to join interest groups. I, unsurprisingly, joined a business networking group and a money making guide group, where I then asked questions to the members of said group. I asked how common it was for people to make money from the game and such, but received a poor quality of response… I don’t think they were knowledgable at all and gave me answers which made me frown… something you’d expect out of a web designer’s chatroom on Yahoo.
I quickly found out that a huge part of the game on SecondLife is sex. 75% of the avatar profiles I randomly saw in the game had something to do with sex, be it pictures of them from a local strip club in the game, or something else. I found out that the sex industry actually accounts for a large part of the economics in the game as well. Who would have thought that old sweet Betty Williams from down the street was actually a bigtime pimp online?
Anyhow, after 45-minutes of the game, I decided it wasn’t for me. As you know, I only like to delve into projects that greatly interest me. I thought that Second Life might, that it might be cool to own land or buildings and such in a world similar to that of World of Warcraft or Oblivion, but the graphics and gameplay in SecondLife is very raw and.. strange. Also, whenever you load a new area, you have to wait quite a while for all the graphics and animation to load, which really takes from the experience.
But, more business-related, I had issues with some of the economics of the game. In the real world, real-estate is so valuable because there is only so much of it. However, online, there is an unlimited amount; if Linden Labs wishes to expand the world and create more space, they can with the snap of a button or two, and what will that do to all your property values?
Also, there’s issues such as ‘instant teleporting’ that really change things from the real world. In the game, you can instantly teleport to anywhere in the game, for free. That takes basically everything away from the ‘location, location, location’ mantra in the real world.
And if you’re interested in creating objects or something else in the game other than land or real estate, you’d have to either hire a team of graphic and 3D modellers, or learn the games scripting language and then try to find a market for it in the game.
I don’t know, it’s just not for me, at least not if I have to spend all my time learning how the VAST virtual world works. I mean, the game is IMMENSE and there’s so much to educate yourself on. Hell, I had difficulty just trying to play the damned thing.
I may be interested in giving it another chance if some Second Life veteran or Guru teaches me the ropes and how it’s done, but to learn all that myself? Nah, it’s not for me.
That being said, I think that SecondLife has huge potential to make money for anyone who is interested in taking the time and putting their entrepreneurial skills to use. The game’s numbers and statistics don’t lie. It’s also a scary look into the future, where people really do exist in a virtual world.
A couple of interesting SecondLife economic articles: