Why Second Life will fail

Second Life is a massive, multi-player online “game,” only it isn’t a game; its living your life precariously through your computer. Does that sound dumb? It is.

I’m an avid gamer. When I play a game, I play with one intent: to beat the game. In World of Warcraft (arguably my own double life), there isn’t an end to speak of, but there are still in-game achievements. I log in to get better gear, to explore new instances (dungeons), or fight against other players (PVP). There is a social aspect as well. My friends and guild mates on WoW have bonded through the game’s experiences. We are all playing to get to the next level, get that uber-weapon, or obtain a higher PVP rank. I’m playing with a purpose and there is a method to my digital madness.

Second Life does not have goals. You wander around with no real reason to do anything. There is no next level, and no purpose. Why aimlessly wander around in a poorly rendered, often laggy version of your real life? The non-virtual reality is people don’t want to. Second Life can’t get people to log on for more than 12 minutes a month. Those 12 minutes a month are the average, and not the median. That means there are a bunch of people that log in for about 30 seconds and a few outliers that log in for the duration of the month that inflate the amount of time spent in game. I would fathom a guess that those outliers are people working for Second Life.

Another difference is virtual economy. In WoW, you earn gold by completing quests. This gold is used to make your character better – hence the reason to continue playing; virtual gold earned to buy virtual property. In Second Life, you pay someone real money (read: U.S. dollars) and get virtual money to buy virtual property; money earned in your real life is used to buy virtual property. To put this in perspective, when you give someone money at Chuck E. Cheese you at least get tokens that represent wasted money. In Second Life, your money is just gone. You’re not getting it back, unless you sell it to someone. The economy also suffers from inflation. In the real world, each country has a finite supply of money, hence its value. It’s supply and demand; a limited supply of dollars keeps its value a constant. If the market were suddenly flooded with $100 billion, you’d keep a supply of it in your bathroom because toilet paper would be worth more. Since there is an unlimited supply of money in Second Life, the more people that buy into the game, the more inflated prices will become and the more Linden Dollars (Second Life currency) will be needed to buy property. Your money depreciates every time a person “invests” in Second Life dollars. A search for Linden Dollars on eBay reveals that no one has an interest in pissing actual money away on virtually (and literally) worthless currency. The exchange rate for U.S. Dollars to Linden Dollars is about $45 to 10,000. Unfortunately, to go from Linden Dollars to U.S. dollars is about 5 billion to less than 1 cent. You’re stuck with your worthless currency. Sounds like the communist Soviet Union in the 1980’s, doesn’t it?

So why is there hype for this new virtual space? There is potential for having a virtual community. People can make contacts and friends, learn about new things or spend money. Absolutely anything can be created in this world; imagine having a 3-D Amazon.com, but Second Life’s pay to play model isn’t going to work. As with newspapers and subscription sites (ever hear of classmates.com?), Internet users will not pay for something they can essentially get for free (more traditional social networks, such as Facebook or Myspace, are a lot easier to use too). Faster computers and Internet connection speeds are also needed to make this world more accessible. Second Life software is horrible to look at and runs extremely slow. If Second Life, or similar program, could be played right in your web browser it would probably be a hit. I think that downloading and installing a very large program is beyond the capabilities of a lot of people.

There are many reasons people play MMORPGS, most of them being an escape from the tedium of day-to-day activities (i.e. work and school). In an MMORPG, you have spells and can kill bad guys. In Second Life, well, you can try to earn stuff by working – exactly like you do from 9 to 5. And in this second 9 to 5 grind, you will never be able to translate your efforts in cash. Instead, you will regret blowing your money and wish you would have listened to me.

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8 Responses to Why Second Life will fail

  1. Mace says:

    Pardon me while I laugh out loud.
    If SL was going to tank it would have done it in the first year. Your “facts” are a little confused. You are trying to compare apples and oranges. You cannot even begin to compare SL to another MMO, it is a completely different paradigm. Other than the simple fact they are both 3D virtual worlds. Let us start with the goal issue.

    Yes WoW has goals and I admit I log onto Undermine or Feathermoon when I need brainless hack and slash goal attainment. Like any MMO designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator in online entertainment it is totally repetitive level based game play. There are only three basic quests you can engage in. Carry something, the standard “mule quest” of any RPG virtual or table top. Kill something, the standard of today’s game play apparently. Last but not least the Find something quest. That is the total extent of WoW. You mix and match all the aspects of those three things, combine them with low poly 3D mesh and voila. I don’t think it is a bad thing but it seriously lacks imagination and every MMO (other than SL) is based on this three item buffet. The WoW dev teams strive to make it more immersive by adding a few fun macros and changing up the environment or adding seasonal goodies but the game play never changes. It is just a 3D version of Diablo. This is true of any MMO you can name. WoW, CoH, SWG, DAoC, GW, you name it, they are all the same game with a different paint job.

    SL isn’t poorly rendered. Take a look at some of my snapshots on flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/7784257@N02/2038873336/
    Some areas may be poorly built but it is obvious you didn’t spend much time looking around. Nor do most of the residents wander in an aimless manner. Yeah there is a good deal to explore and I often spend a night just looking through places I have not been. However, your derision is misplaced once more. Every single day in SL there are lectures, live music, classes, discussions, parties, role-playing events and social opportunities. It so happens that within SL there are several level based combat RPG settings too. For something that is wholly driven by user created content those internal game application are getting more and more sophisticated each month. If your SL experience was lag ridden I recommend you upgrade your system. Linden Labs are very up front about the system requirements. It is not an environment for the casual gamer.

    Economy is an interesting sticking point. One can argue that WoW has no economy because it is in fact virtual. Due to gold farming and external sales all MMO’s have a real economy. You can by gold from eBay as well as a dozen other online sales sites. A high level toon can rake in gold, sell it on ebay and make the game pay for itself. The downside is that thanks to various hacks and cheats many MMO’s are cracking down on this practice to regulate their “economy”. But you do indeed need to shell out cash to buy WoW and you need to pay a monthly subscription to play WoW. SL does not require purchase at any time unless you want to buy “land” form Linden Labs. None, zero, zip, zilch. Many of us feel this is a bad thing as you get a high population of grievers this way. But look at it this way, you can create content, sell it and cash out your virtual money for US dollars and not ever pay LL a red cent. LL also limits supply. A resident can only buy so much at a time and can only cash out so much at a time. People make enough money in SL to live on. The top texture merchant on the grid cashes out roughly 2K USD a month. Yes you don’t see L$ on eBay much because of abuse and hacks and credit card fraud only a few external exchange sites handle L$ to USD conversions. You should do more research on this before you comment.

    Your population information is also skewed unfortunately. That 12 minute average is caused by two things. The number of morons who log on only to grief and so have their accounts axed then need to create new accounts to continue shitting on someone else’s good time. Also, the number of people who maintain alternate avatars. These throw the numbers way off. The simple fact is that there are several hundred thousand paying residents who are online for an average of 4 to 6 hours a night otherwise the whole endeavor would have collapsed. You are fantastically uninformed about the particulars of SL.

    Yes you can network somewhere else for free. You can go to myspace or facebook and deal with possibly malignant cyber stalkers trying to send you pictures of their cock. You can wade through the plethora of boring 2D forums and messenger applications and you get the percentage of brainless morons as anywhere else. Or you can log into SL and have a myriad of choices for entertainment ranging from dragon slaying to race car driving. You can converse with real people in a dynamic attractive environment and have an online RPG experience that actually includes people in character and playing a role rather than just swinging a sword or unloading a clip from their machine gun into hapless monsters. You can go listen to live music or just sit and shat with friends.

    The short answer is that you are incorrect. SL may evolve but it has not failed since the launch and will not fail in the near future.

  2. statixc says:

    Thanks for a thoughtful response, Mace! I’m happy to see that you’ve come to defend your favorite past time.
    For me, I don’t see the point of SL or investing money into virtual property.
    I wasn’t aware of SL RPGs, and that is a cool addition.
    But I still don’t see the point of logging in. I’m no more inclined to attend a virtual concert, lecture, etc. than a real one. Maybe I’m missing something. What drives you to log in?

  3. Mace says:

    I have made some awesome friends on the grid and I own a business (textures and buildings) which often offsets my expenses. The vast quantity of activities has an appeal and I am sort of old school RPG guy. I started pre internet in about the 4th grade playing D&D so the personal interaction offerd in SL RPG settings has a strong appeal. I love live music and lectures and discussion so that is just gravey to me. This way I can catch a live show from a performer in Dublin, Japan or New Guinea. I won’t blow smoke up your butt, SL isn’t for everyone and some nights I prefer to sit and play guitar hero and drink beer. But if I had to choose between SL and anoter MMO I would go with SL. The available experience, warmth of freinds and potential for interaction is much greater.

  4. statixc says:

    Mind showing me around SL sometime? I’d like to catch a glimpse of what you like about the game. My experience has been less than rewarding.

  5. Mace says:

    I would be happy to point a few groovy places out to you. I would say that the bulk of the population have a story of “I tried it, didn’t like it, then someone showed me the good stuff”. I was the same way. I ran through the orientation in Nov of 2006. Didn’t do anything for me. This last June some friends got me out of there and into some areas with more meaty content.

  6. kabalyero says:

    Unfortunately, it’s not a game! Those who enters Second Life thinking that it’s a game leave it disappointed. 😉

  7. statixc says:

    Hey Mace, I’m traveling for the holiday. When I get back I’ll send you a message and I’ll meet up with you in SL for a tour.

  8. Mace says:

    Sure thing, just look up Mace Maverick on the grid. I am usually around after 6pm PST.

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