Second Life Still Going Strong

    March 16, 2012
    Chris Richardson
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Remember the video game/simulation Second Life? A few years ago, it was a big topic of conversation, as droves of people and companies looking to expand their marketing base scrambled to develop Second Life accounts and avatars. While it may have been viewed as an online version of The Sims, the social networking aspect made Second Life even more than the game that perhaps inspired it.

Almost as quickly as its popularity rose, Second Life star appeared to be falling, at least in regards to it being used as a social media marketing tool for major brands and companies. When these reports started appearing, the assumption was Second Life would die a quiet death. In fact, two years ago, the company responsible for the game–Linden Lab–reduced its workforce, and saw the departure of then-CEO, Mark Kingdon. All things considered, the end of Second Life looked like an inevitability.

Fast forward to 2012 with a new CEO is in place (Rod Humble), perhaps the reports of Second Life’s demise were a little premature. In an interview with GameIndustry.biz (via Rock, Paper, Shotgun), Humble’s responses reveal a very active user-base for the simulation, and, more importantly, the title is financially solvent, generating over $75 million a year in revenue:

“I was taken aback by just how big Second Life was,” [Humble] recalls. “To be honest, it had fallen off my radar until I got the call offering me the position. And I looked at their numbers: this is a world that has got 1 million people logging in every month, generating well in excess of $75 million a year – it’s extremely profitable – and it was the kind of company and the kind of product that I had been thinking about going away and working on anyway, on my own. It was kind of a perfect fit.”

While the existing user base is still going strong, Humble’s challenge is finding–and keeping–new users, who apparently find the game difficult to manage:

“I’ve walked into big franchises before, and the very nature of big franchises is once you’re inside the Cathedral you tend to tune out things like the rickety stairs, the door that squeaks. So in the first year, just because the product had been out for a long time, I wanted emphasis on usability, service, and starting to get the basics right.”

Thanks to the focus on usability, Second Life has seen something of a resurgence in new members, with over 20,000 signing up daily, about which, Humble says, “that’s not Facebook numbers, but 20,000 a day…. that’s a lot, right?”

Considering the product was considered dead couple of years ago, such a resurgence is pretty amazing, and with the corporations focusing on other online marketing ventures, perhaps the stain of overt marketing attempts will avoid Second Life this time around. Considering Second Life’s bounce-back, the lack of chatter on Twitter about the game was slightly surprising. Personally, I’m wondering if Second Life’s scourge of flying penises are still scaring people away, or did they patch that particular feature?

What say you? Is your Second Life avatar still going strong or have you abandoned it for other simulations? Let us know what you think.

  • Achem

    I think Humble is brilliant. By making LL into a cutting edge game company which puts out new role play games on a regular basis, he will ensure the survival of the company and Second Life.

    This means different income streams and new customers who might only want a light 2D game but who nevertheless might eventuall try out SL for a more immersive experience. Also, the technology is improving every year, so I expect that a lot of the existing technical problems with SL will be solved.

    When I read about people criticizing SL over the sex aspect, I find it pretty ridiculous. A company provides people with tools and that’s what they create. Why not blame people for liking sex. It’s rather stupid. In any case, SL has a zoning system now for adult activities and you can get banned for not respecting these rules.

    I have been in SL since 2006 and I never saw any period in which it going to die. SL has a lot of middle aged higher incomes customers. In fact SL’s user base is larger than some countries, most of whom have higher levels of disposable income than the general population.

  • http://draxtor.com Draxtor

    While it is good to see the press jumping on the excellent Humble interview it is nonetheless hilarious and a bit sad how the web “journalists” continue to claim that SL’s death was an “inevitability” or regurgitate the penis stuff while there are so more interesting stories are happening every single day in SL> Our involvement brought: an Emmy nomination for PBS [with Sandcastle Studios developing a game about alternative energy], the Kansas To Cairo Project with the US State Department bringing Egyptian and American students together in the real-time building of public spaces and last not least with the advent of mesh import our own “Flufee on a Meshion” comedy show, which is gaining popularity.
    Anyway – in many ways I am not surprised by lazy journalists slightly altering their simplistic narrative of “marketing departments declaring failure therefore death” but nonetheless folks: embed at least some cool newer pic maybe from THIS YEAR? Or a machinima from 2011 instead of 2007? Thanks so much! Let’s hope the new AI features Linden is working on will eventually replace REAL internet “journos” so they can spend more time with their family :)

    • Chris

      “regurgitate the penis stuff while there are so more interesting stories are happening every single day in SL”

      It’s part and parcel of SL’s history. As is the money-making the sim clearly still does, something else this “internet ‘journo'” pointed out. Does that not count? Or is the penis video the only thing that matters?

      “embed at least some cool newer pic maybe from THIS YEAR?”

      If you’re talking about the lead image, that screenshot of the SL graphic was taken the day it was published. Meaning it is from THIS YEAR.