Monday, October 30, 2006

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NEED 4 NISSAN?

Jr_breed_and_kristyn_sinclair
JR Breed and Kristyn Sinclair

When I first contact JR Breed, he's not sure he wants to talk with me.  He's never heard of New World Notes, for one thing, and he's not sure it's worth my time.  "I'm just a guy who likes making cars in Second Life and selling my creations.  No one special," he insists. "Just your average Joe."  But I have to press, because at the moment, JR Breed-- in real life a twentysomething from the American heartland-- has created an SL-based car dealership that's nearly three times as popular as the automotive site backed by a Japanese-based international car conglomerate that earned $39 billion over the last six months.

Nissan_island_1

Produced by The Electric Sheep Company, Nissan's Second Life presence debuted last week, a series of connected islands with a race course and stunt areas, and a witty, building-size vending machine designed to disgorge free Nissans like they were cans of soda.  Taken together, it's an impressive, highly polished presence, offering Second Life Residents a chance to engage with a real world brand in a way that's compelling, immersive, and above all, fun.

The thing is, in the days after its premiere, Nissan island had a Traffic ranking of around 8,000.  (Analagous to web page views, "Traffic" is the SL metric by which aggregate foot traffic-- the number of feet, and how long those feet stay-- is measured.)  It dropped to about 5,000 over the weekend, and currently ranks (as of a few hours ago) at 3925.  By contrast, Breed's automotive dealership of custom-made virtual cars has solidly remained at between 10,000-12,000 in Traffic throughout that period. 

Which is why, when you search for "Cars" in the Second Life interface, among the first listings you'll find is the "Need 4 Speed" dealership of JR Breed.

Or to be more precise: ~CARS~ Need 4 Speed ~MOTORCYCLES~ vehicles Rides Whips PIMPIN!!

Need_4_speed_showroom

The several times I visited, Need 4 Speed was always a hopping place, with clusters of blinged-out dancers strutting beneath giant screens that constantly stream hip hop videos, ringed round by JR's detailed precision cars, modeled after Ferraris and other high performance classics.  Strange as it may seem, JR Breed tells me, when he joined Second Life earlier this year, he had no prior skills to manifest them. "I didn't think I had what it took to build and texture a car," he recalls, "considering I had no experience with any type of paint program.  Of course my first car looked like crap but that wasn't going to stop my new found passion..."  He taught himself to script, learned a graphics program, and over time, began building up a market for his vehicles, especially after he opened the dealership in April/May. "I'm really shocked to see how far Need4Speed has come," he tells me.

The upshot is one of the most popular car-centric sites in Second Life.  ("SILVER MOTORSPORTS COMPLEX", a Nascar-style race track, currently gets nearly the same amount of traffic.)

Since Nissan's site was so comparably low (and declining), I asked Sibley Hathor, CEO of the Electric Sheep, to explain.  In his view, much of that's attributable to a recent Second Life update that temporarily broke the Nissan car dispensor, and hurt the performance for vehicles driving between the linked islands.  "This project is not centered around trying to get traffic," he adds. "Many people came to get the Sentras when the project was first announced, and now have those Sentras in other parts of Second Life; they're still using the product, but not generating traffic at the central  location." 

As of a few hours ago, according to the vendor's "Number Served" register, 1672 Sentras have been given out since last Monday's opening.  (Which would mean-- since 177,954 Residents have come in world, over the last seven days, according to Linden Lab's stats-- that about one percent of them have availed themselves to a free Nissan.)

Pointing all this out is not a criticism of the Sheep's efforts in particular, it's important to add, for it fits a larger pattern that still lacks a convincing explanation.  As mentioned last week, for whatever reason, corporate-sponsored sites are generally much less popular than their grassroots analogues.  Aimee Weber's site created for the American Apparel fashion company now garners 550 in traffic, while Aimee Weber's Midnight City created to sell fashion from Aimee Weber and her friends, earns 7423; another fashion and furniture site, StyleHive Headquarters, created by NWN sponsor Millions of Us Aimee Weber, currently takes a paltry 111.  (This pattern doesn't always hold true:  the HQ for The Metaverse Messenger, for example, now has 247 in traffic, while Reuters' SL island has 1105 in Traffic.)

"As I'm sure you've noticed," Sheep CEO Sibley Hathor goes on, "these corporate projects in SL are gradually becoming more sophisticated, but still aren't to the point where they're providing the level of entertainment that many user-operated locations in SL are.  To make truly engaging content, you have to have people refreshing it, changing it, hosting events, etc."

In that regard, maybe they could learn a lesson from Residents like JR Breed.  As it turns out, one of the larger metaverse companies did actually try to contact him recently, but he chucked the IM without giving it much thought.

"I get so many people trying to do business with me," says JR, "I now just ignore most of it."

Update, 10/31:  Corrected Stylehive credit.

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Comments

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Chicago Kipling

I seem to remember that not so long ago in one of her many interviews Aimee Weber mentioned that she needed to intentionally market to a crowd averse to advertising. So far the corporate efforts I've seen are far from that, which I find quite surprising given the quality of the designers involved. Perhaps it's the fault of the companies that insist on carrying over their FL brand marketing into SL without consideration for the unique audience. Regardless, I don't think there's a huge mystery involved.

I could be wrong as quite the SL newb, but I think the principles of targeting the SL audience need to be taken into more careful consideration.

Corporal Candour

Hmm...what I find curious is there's no real gimmick to relate the real Nissan brand with this playground of an island. Sure it's fun...but how are some free R/C vehicles and vendors going to draw people into seriously looking at Nissan as a company? I think it would've been MUCH smarter if they had the free car vendor have a link to the Nissan web site for the pass code. I just see so much more potential in this than Nissan has. But I'm sure with time it'll be more popular. Although, I have to meet, I'd never heard of it if it weren't for NWN.

Nym Eponym

Need 4 Speed also pays people to camp, and Nissan doesn't. Not a big mystery.

Hamlet Au

I never saw campers there during the times I visited. Nor, for that matter, at the equally popular SILVER MOTORSPORTS COMPLEX.

TrECeNTeRs

You should get to know the people you talk about and get into the scene of racing on SL before you put in opinions and exagorate statements made.

I am guessing you are mad the seleen doesn't come in a crackerjack box...

Just remember you get what you pay for... If you ever want to race me in my N4S car.. VS/ any car on this game I will buy you the N4S car if you beat me. Because you won't... You will be to slow or fly off of the track. Simple as that!

I am guessing you are tryen to make your blog popular by making controversy. Like the damn tabloids of SL...

JR Breed

..............

Nissan is a great company and Im happy to see that they play the same game that I do.

Waves and Smiles! See you in game!!

Humanoid

After one has stared at the pretty objects they paid someone to create, there is no reason to stick around or return. SL is not exempt from the idea that a game must have some replay value in order to be successful. Lots of SL citizens need to understand this- not just corporations.

Forseti Svarog

About 2,200 sentras are out there in Second Life now, which isn't bad for a week-old launch relying primarily on word of mouth. My hope is that people keep on coming back for a really low-lag driving environment... it's something of a luxury in SL.

Yes, there are "camping" spots on Need 4 Speed. As I'm standing here, one person has been there for 411 minutes, one for 412 minutes, one for 137 minutes, and one for 41 minutes.

Not that I think Need 4 Speed is doing anything wrong with the camping spots, but I also think it's ok if Nissan decides not to go that route.

I think you shouldn't rely so heavily on the dwell statistic Hamlet. People were skeptical about its relevance and the obscurity of the formula long before corporations entered SL. As a comparative metric, it's not that effective, and really tells you very little about the quality of the traffic you are getting.

Remember that Second Life doesn't yet have the eyeballs for a lot of companies to start off with a huge project. They want to walk before they run. They want to try things out and try to learn. As Sibley said, projects will increase in sophistication and involvement over time.

But frankly, I don't think Nissan versus Need 4 Speed is even the right question -- they both have a place and serve different needs. Nissan isn't going to be offering the same kind of vehicles Need 4 Speed does, and that's fine for everyone involved. No one is out to kill resident businesses, so your implication that the effort is questionable simply because it's NOT killing a resident business is unfortunate.

I think it's great that JR has done so well and hope he continues to do so!

Nym Eponym

I'm not trying to stir up controversy as much as point out the elephant in the room. Traffic rankings just aren't accurate in terms of measuring how popular a place is, after all if I started a place in second life that gave out L$100 per minute, and had 50 dance pads, it would undoubtedly rise to the highest place in the ranking chain, even if the primary attraction was a picture of goatse.

This is more a complaint about second life's traffic rankings than Need4Speed, they have a cool shop, and if you're in to dub / ryder culture, I definitely recommend checking it out.

Linda Zimmer

Comparing traffic figures without looking at time in world is a very limited analysis. Need 4 Speed has been around for almost a year, Nissan for a little over a week.

Having said that, only sustained efforts are going to increase traffic and engagement. Nissan's initial entrance campaign is overall an excellent effort and in my opinion Electric Sheep's guidance and implementation has served Nissan well.

But any company also needs "presence" meaning there are people inhabiting the space. One of the primary missteps most companies, including Nissan, are making is that they haven't considered "staffing" the sim. They wouldn't dream of opening an office or store or in the real world without people, A vending machine is for commodities - no human being required. Participatory engagement requires engagement.

Just ask the successful ventures in Second Life how much time they spend in-world and correlate that to traffic.

Jr Breed

Actually I started playing in Jan of 06, but I didnt learn how to build cars untill around May and shop opened up in June.

Im not a real corperation. Nissan has been around for decades. If you have never heard of Nissan then your just plain stupid.

I dont own 3 or 4 sims. I own 8000 sq. meters of land in a very crappy sim on the main land. People come buy my rides, the dont want to drive it around my shop o.O. Id have to hit them with my baseball bat. My Shop is to sell cars. Not a driving course. When customers ask "Where is a good place to drive" I tell them "Nissan". Im I generating SOME traffic for Nissan, very possible. Any sim thats built for cars will natually generate traffic due to the other vehicle creators.

Nissan has the history, the money, the sky is the limit for them in secondlife. I dont even see how I am compairable to them.

I really hope they start to hold events there. I would surely attend the party.

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