Are you part of the 70%? - Will Second Life survive?

I am not one of those who blame Linden Lab for all what is going wrong in SL. As software provider they have done a great and revolutionary job. In my first 2 blog posts about the fun of travelling in SL, I wrote about lousy performance of shop owners and sim owners in SL. But more and more I see Linden Lab acting like a dying company as I sadly had to see more than once in RL. Behind such sceneries are often owners who lost their believe or/and financial force.

Today is my second Birthday in SL. I am very young here. Much has been written on the subject SL and many people know much more about all than I do. Please correct me if I write false facts. The subject is so vast and complex. With a look at my blog you can see, that I am a passionate resident. But a company only will survive if it makes money, so I'll try a view on the subject from the side of marketing. Be ready for some provoking words:

Why SL failed

A group of visionary software designers who had no clue about marketing offered a product to marketing experts with had no clue of 3D software. Software developers and marketing people are living in two worlds. Second Life is the result of a huge vision. A virtual world without borders! Reaching each customer at home! With this claim met Second Life the world economy. I remember well as this idea was presented to me by the Internet agency. A lot of companies have taken the chance. They have jumped on the hype without exactly knowing what to expect and it had to be a failure. Why? Because a maximum number of 50 avatars on a sim is a number of simultaneously present customers which is much to low for companies in the consumer market. In addition to this 10 years ago, the quality of rendering and the pace of the Internet was much to low. This vision of a second economic life was a mistake from the beginning due to the technical possibilities.

What I don’t understand at all, is why LL with its original vision of SL does not provide economic data of sales to merchants and the sims owner no visitor statistics. That would have been the minimum requirements, which could also be easily programmed. Professionalism in market requirements was absent in the whole project from beginning of SL and has not improved so far.

This vision has burst and nothing new took its place, although today much looks so much better. And THAT is the biggest problem of Linden Lab. Is there any vision? Check out the website of LL.

Sorry, but that is how losers present their company!

Why SL yet survived so far

Linden Lab failed to conquer the whole world. But it has (not planned) well established in some market niches, like the creative’s and at a certain user group, which I will try to define: 35 or older, above average force of imagination and aware that they cannot fulfill all dreams in their real life. Second Life offers the opportunity to slip into an additional live without the constraints of pre-rolls.

And SL succeed with such perfection that we, the residents, LOVE our 2nd life! Marketing experts say today that brands more and more lose importance  in the market Successful companies of the future need enthusiastic customers who love the product, a Lovemark! Folks, YOU are the greatest asset of LL and they do not even understand. At my beginning, I was wondering why SL does not publish market data. I think now, there is a simple explanation. The described average user does not fit in today's marketing goals. The user are simply too old to be interesting for advertising and it would show that SL is a niche product. And I believe that exactly this is the great capital of SL. Well occupied niches are stable markets and customers over 35 have more money and are much more loyal customers. (That is btw. the secret behind the stable and ever successful economy in my home country, Germany.)

The great problem is that obviously not a single decision maker of LL is a passionate resident itself. Have you ever met a Linden inworld? Many believe that a blogger has a close relationship with Linden. People like me advertise day by day for the product Second Life. No, my dear friends, they do not even take notice of my existence. I have to find out on my own, what is new and interesting in SL. I attended last year several events of great importance for the Second Life community. NOT ONE has been visited by a Linden. So, they do not understand at all why we are here. It does not matter whether we have paid or free accounts. The money comes to SL through dealers and rent.

Sorry, but a company that does not know the customers and does not hold contact will die sooner or later.

Why SL is no longer growing

Linden Lab seems to believe that SL is based on the product life cycle stage of the cash cow. It has stable profits, but lose in the near future more and more market share. Therefore, it is invested only a little and half-heartedly. In the medium term SL will be replaced by the new products which has been already announced. This strategy arises from the grandiose misunderstanding of the nature of use and market opportunities of Second Life. Second Life as virtual platform does not underly a product life circle. There are niches in the market for which SL could be quite interesting, like smaller architectural companies, designers, interior designers, e-learning... I am convinced that there lies a huge potential for growth. Go for it!

But additional we have a problem with the viewer and the avatars. Do not get me wrong. It is good and I would not give up a single function! But even after two years I still do not know everything. We need customized, easy viewers with avatars that are simple for certain applications and which allow a satisfactory performance for the desired occupation without learning.  And that may have a small price. So please create a tour viewer, event viewer, visitor viewer, e-Learning Viewer, a gamer viewer, a sex viewer with penis.... Do not laugh! Sex is also a major industry in SL. And it could certainly used for good PR, namely by applying the good protection of children. The more it would be pointed out, the more it would heat up to the fantasies of what's happening behind the virtual walls and attract visitors.

If SL wants to earn more money, it needs more visitors. They come through good marketing, media coverage and multipliers which talk and write good about SL. So to raise the tier for edu sims was the most stupid and short-sighted of LL. These are the Sims, which gain positive coverage. Of course there is not making money there, but also these residents want to look good and so on and spend money for it.

Sorry, but who do not know why and how customers use the product will perish!

Why SL supports the arts

Many believe that LL shows his big heart for the arts with the more 30 LEA sims. I say no. Inside is an entirely different reason. The artists are the actual beta-testers of the software. Few want to believe it, but not even one of the Linden knows how to work properly with mesh. They expect the artists to explore the possibilities now as unpaid staff. And they are the ones who improve the quality of buildings, textures, Windlight settings, and ... and. ... and. The artists work thus influence and enhances the daily life of all residents more than they can imagine.

And therefore it is a scandal that Bryn Oh's Immersiva and Kiana Writer's MadPea get no support from LL after the loss of Dusan Writer as patron. Both are tireless working in SL, are diligent and both created brands, one in the art and one for games. Actually they are unpaid and therefore to some extent exploited staff of SL. But the Lindens probably do not even understand it, because they do not know the whole world from inside. Thanks to the huge marketing mistakes by LL it is still hardly possible to live from work in SL even with the hardest efforts. I understand that not all artists can be supported. Contracting a good choice of them as free staff paid with Linden Dollar would be a mutually acceptable and discreet solution.

And another topic: Musicians and writers need more than 20 oder 50 visitors at events. The maximum number of avatars must be increased dramatically. And it must be easy possible to stream live videos out of SL. Artists and LL at the end have the same goal: Public awareness! Why is there no cooperation in professional PR? Where is the the PR for LEA in RL at all???

Sorry, but who sees only his own gain and does not create win / win situations, will fail at the end.

Has SL a future?

Many hope for the new CEO Rod Humble. I do not. He had success with gaming platforms. The real magic of SL he most likely does not understand. I see in games a great source of income and a first destination for residents. But only if they will be passed to the real SL! And there I have my doubts. And are the owners willing to do the desired investments? There I have my doubts too.

There is so much to do and discover in SL. But what LL is doing to make residents aware of it? Almost nothing. Only in the Destination Guide, which is more than lousy edited. If you want to get in there, just invest in a good photo and a nice text and you will be listet. That the places unexamined get in there, I have shown in this example. I is disastrous for noobs, because they need to get started a guided performance. I imagine games with a learning effect over the possibilities of SL, where there is a chance to earn Linden. Zynga is apparently very successful with it.

There are so many good things in SL that LL still has a small chance of survival if they improve quickly and effectively their catastrophic marketing performance. I think it more likely that similar to the “Rigged Mesh Case” one day the residents will be called, to operate SL on their own. That would even include the opportunity to test new social models. After all, would we have another chance?

What if we all were suddenly homeless? Quasi died? An important part of your life just gone? What a dreadful vision!

So, that is my first aid rescue plan for Linden Lab:

1. Understand and define Second Life from inside
2. Create a vision and publish it
3. Identify and fill market niches in a professional way
4. Offer simple viewers and sims for Noobs to guarantee satisfying visits at the beginning
5. Offer orientation games with learning effect and the chance to win Linden for noobs
6. Increase the maximum number of avatars on Sims
7. Publish user profiles, economic and traffic data
8. Offer simple customized viewers for specific requirements
9. Offer business evaluations for sim and shop owners
10. Offer live video-streams out of SL
11. Create a good sim guide 
12. Negotiate with social networks like facebook to have avatars accepted as especially marked members

Comments and critics are mostly welcome!


CaliforniaJim Langer said...

Good ideas.

Marmaduke Arado said...

I just read carefully this post now, I'd just glanced at it. Your analysis and suggestions are absolutely excellent. I'd spend hours if not days commenting on it, but as i can't I'll just say that you Quan should be running Linden Labs!

Laurina Hawks said...

You are so bloody well right with all you have written. We are in SL since the early days, raised up a huge community, worked our ass off in building, scripting, managing...and at the end of the day a dream is over, because...no one cares.
Especially not the Lindens.

Janus Sands said...

Hi Quan, your text makes the situation closely. I think it's a good idea to send this text as an open letter to Linden Lab.

With friendly greetings

PS: Please excuse my bad English.

sinergy flux said...

well, you know how CEOs are- they are great in barking, but doing it, very few can actually do it.

Anonymous said...

Aloha Quan ;)

Totally agree with your post. It's quite curious how the marketing of LL has change in the last 5 years to worst. I create my account in Second Life cause in 2008 they have certain advantages (addressed to prices for land mostly) for non-profits projects. Now...

For me, as media artist and science and culture communicator, fails a lot the care for content creators as well as the interactions with RL.

I know the original idea is to "live a second life", as a social game, but virtual worlds that allows creativity, research and education as SL must be consider as a powerful economic channel also for develop serious games and media projects addressed to both worlds. Some of us use SL for projects in RL too!

But LL doesn't seem interested in this, so if you want, per example, to get a grant or sponsorship in RL to develop a project in Second Life targeted to both worlds, their marketing and presentation doesn't help at all. So isn't strange that people that don't use SL, don't believe in its potencial.

And as you say, the general perception that we have, the content creators in SL (artists, educators, business creators, designers, writers, builders,...), is that we haven't enough value for them (well, just as testers, as free content creators and to obtain taxes from our works -land, market, ...-).

A hug Quan!

Noke (aka Noke Yuitza in SL)

Anonymous said...

I think the initial stance LL had was very hands off, and it think that was a correct stance to have at the beginning of what was an experiment. SL is a great, user created world because the Lindens let it alone. But as you have so eloquently pointed out, that stance is no longer productive. This is not the time for the LL to butt out, it's time to start actively promoting SL and doing some real research and development, instead of tweaking what already exists. SL started 10 years ago, and in that ten years the whole world has changed. If SL doesn't get a new vision it will stagnate, even die someday.