Virtual world and MMO pioneer Raph Koster has a long and important post on the future of the medium, reflecting on its place within current trends. In the near future, he writes,
[I] would be betting against all the “native client” worlds — AAA game worlds included. Against anything that involves too much of a fantasy identity. Against anything that relies on people playing together in real time. It’s just not where the action is for the next several years. Virtual places as they exist now cannot be a mass medium any more than a single restaurant can... Short form: virtual worlds are dead, long live the world, virtual. [Emph. his]
This view, as you might guess, includes Second Life:
Something like Second Life struggles to gain mainstream adoption because flatter pseudo-places can offer so much of what it does, and the very real benefits it offers are only benefits to a segment of the audience that wants either the pseudonymity, or the placeness, or the chat.
Much of what he writes there has a lot of resonance with stuff I've been writing about here, such as the importance of integrating Second Life with Facebook. However, my thinking diverges from his in significant ways, for reasons I'll try to explain later in the week. Short version: I think the virtual has a lot more resilience than he thinks. That said, what Raph writes is essential reading.
Pictured: Island Life, the new social game created by Raph Koster's company after his virtual world Metaplace was cancelled due to slow growth.