Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Thoughts on closing

The same week Linden Labs unveiled a huge improvement to their Second Life service, another service, announced its shutdown, a very sad day for all.

ArianeBrodie in MTV Laguna Central

Lots of differing views on virtual worlds in the blogosphere at the moment.  Raph is down on virtual worlds as a whole, Hamlet Au takes a more positive stance.

My take?  The whole argument that virtual worlds are doomed, is I think invalid.

Virtual world features and attributes are being more widely adopted than ever, both in pure social environments as well as gameplay worlds.

At the end of the day, it's fun and will always be fun to escape into a fantasy environment where you can roleplay, party, hangout, be creative, meet new people and do whatever you want.

That won't change, and bodes well for virtual environments, especially as the 3d hardware continues to spread throughout the user population

However, several things have changed in the years since was first developed. Expectations are higher:

1/ people want to jump in the action straight away from anywhere, barriers need to be low
2/ they expect their 3d games now to look great
3/ people are spending more time in facebook and in the browser (and so, less time out of them)
4/ people want to see diversity, new things, a sense of aliveness (the "stream" of new content)

Looking at it through this lens, struggling is understandable:

1/ a large download, then learning many functions takes patience(!) (which users now don't have)
2/ avatars looked dated compared with other platforms like IMVU that continued to innovate
3/ can't tap into where people are ie- on facebook and in browser (fundamental limitation of clients)
4/ UGC works best when there are less limits, just look at the amazing catalog in Second Life

Personally, I think the future belongs to those 3d games and worlds platforms that can get new users into the action in seconds, be exposed to diversity and give them the desire to engage more (and spend money!) 

Everyone needs to lift their game (our own world included), and that's a great thing for users and the industry as a whole...

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