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.