Saturday, June 26, 2004

The Huddled Masses

Influx of newcomers from There and CNN viewers fill Second Life to the rafters

It’s hard not to notice the influx of new people into our virtual world. What has influenced this new surge of people? There are several factors.

One great wave of new players arrived on Second Life’s shores when a competitor cast doubt on its future as an online game.

The online game industry is a very competitive business, and companies strive for their share of the player base. When one company’s product is doing well it attracts new players from other products. When one company’s product is not doing so well – or perceived as not doing so well – it loses subscribers to other media.

The online world known simply as "There" made an announcement on May 21 that it would make drastic changes to how it handled its product. Although they didn’t say they were closing their doors, they also avoided saying they weren’t.

To answer the question "Is There going to close?" they replied: "No. The company has just received new funding and will continue to operate; only we will now be focusing most of our resources on building out our platform."

Asked specifically about the consumer service, they replied, "… [We] will be evaluating its financial performance on an ongoing basis."

They followed up this notice with a drastic cut to service and support, and the most dreaded notice of all: "We will no longer be making regular updates to the software, and we will not be fixing bugs."

So, Therians flocked to Second Life like never before. Abandoning There they came to Second Life to start anew.

In the words of Prelisa Casinova, who’s taking her first steps in this online world, "This is an incredible game. It’s everything Will Wright envisioned for The Sims Online, but better than they were able to successfully implement."

But Second Life’s new residents are not only from There. Some of them are taking their first steps in an online world. Others are arriving from The Sims Online or other platforms.

What could have fueled this portion of our new residents?

One possible reason for the arrival of these new players is the article that
appeared on CNN’s Website on June 3. Though not a game review in the traditional sense, it made the Second Life name be heard around the globe.

The article compared the acquisition of Second Life real estate to that of real life real estate. People are willing to spend hundreds of real dollars for a piece of virtual real estate, or spend thousands of in-game dollars, which can be translated into real money like a commodity that some people watch as closely as any real-world commodity.

Regardless of the reasons, there’s little doubt that more people are trying out Second life than ever before. As other games struggle to retain their players, Second Life is experiencing a snowball effect: more people refer more people who in turn refer more people.

It’s a winning situation for the producers of Second Life, and – in the long run – it could be a winning situation for those of us who think of this virtual world as our second home.

Lifer for life: A There refugee wins a lifetime membership to Second Life


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