Linden Lab will soon launch a light, game-like experience that’s separate from Second Life that will emphasize the SL values of creatitvity and alternate identities, but architected to run on the web and tablets.
That’s the top news from the keynote just delivered by Linden CEO Rod Humble at SLCC 2011 (pictured). These products will come out in the next few months, said Humble, and will go after the large market of light casual gaming. “As a company,” as he put it, “we have to be aggressive."
Other highlights from Humble’s talk:
- Second Life is still growing, Humble claims, with a slight increase of total monthly uniques, and more relevant to him, a substantial growth of new returning users. Most of these users tend to be from a younger 20-something demographic (historically, active SL users have skewed 30s and 40s), and their in-world activity is lighter. This is why we haven’t seen an increase in total concurrency, he said. After his talk, I pointed out to Humble that IMVU, which has 3 million monthly uniques (compared to SL’s 800K) and a younger userbase, has similar concurrency levels to SL, but as a light social game, has shorter usage periods. He agreed that SL’s new users are closer to that behavior pattern.
- Linden will launch a Linden-made, curated area for new SL users, who will, for example, be able to play an RPG with one click without needing a HUD, along with other immediate entertainment experiences.
- Humble deflected 2-3 user questions about land pricing, refusing to answer them. ("I'm not going to be talking about that," as he flatly put it at one point.) My hope was that Linden Lab would address the problem of their unsupportable land-based revenue model and the continued decline of user-owned private sims, including many noteworthy ones, often due to high tier fees, but that was not to be.
More random notes after the break:
List of improvements to SL introduced in 2011 so far
- Premium accounts will soon come with added value. (I interpret this as a strategic move away from land as their main revenue.)
- There will be an upcoming initiative to deal with griefers, "to make life unpleasant for [them]."
- Addressing merchants, Humble said that at the end of this year, you'll see a significant marketing effort to bring in more users, and also a major press push with Humble and team putting their face out their more.
- The rise of mobile and tablet devices are an important threat to virtual worlds. You will see Linden Lab address this market. (Laptop and desktop sales are flat while tablets grow, "And I think we need to be there.")
- SL still gets 16K new accounts daily; these are people who complete the registration and download the client. (Many big game franchises, Humble noted, would kill for activity like that.)
- Humble doesn't know why SL is still growing -- "And I like that... [there's] something mysterious about that. If I did understand it, I probably wouldn't [have become CEO]."
- Humble originally thought SL would be like The Sims, but quickly learned how off that was. Everyone in Second Life creates in one way or the other, even if that's just social creativity.
- Outsiders ask: What's the point of SL? To Humble, "There's something about us [humans]... we have this need to create. It may be what makes a person."
- The other important part of SL is that this creativity is shared. The last important element is identity. "I really believe in the right to choose your identity", and the right to put various walls between that identity and your real life. He pointed out that there's differences between you at church, at a PTA meeting, and at a sporting event. "And you switch modes" between them.
- By contrast, it "disturbs me... the rise of certain social networks where you share everything."
- Rod himself uses an pseudonym on soccer forums and expresses a different part of his persona there: "Part of my obscenity-ridden rants are about soccer."
- By holiday this year, Linden Lab wants to be able to give their uninitiated family members an SL invite and have them be able to use SL. "Right now we're about halfway through with that little project."
Some interesting highlights raised during the audience Q&A:
- On protection of user's intellectual property: We do have new plans to improve them.
- Voice and facial recognition: Linden has engineers working on that.
- Someone says Viewer 2 was discouraging and they stopped using it: "Fair enough," said Humble. "I recognize that was not an ideal UI... I hope you recognize the achievements we've been making." However, he added, "there's so many new features embedded in the Viewer 2 codebase" and they can't give that codebase up.
- Best way to get in touch with Rod Humble is through his SL profile.
- Before introducing Basic mode, "We were losing 15K [new accounts] a day."
- Asked if Linden will bring back community gateways, Humble asked, "What are those?" SLCC's Frans Charming explained they were branded web portals from a few years back. "Oh," said Rod Humble, acknowledging his relative noob status as CEO (as he did throughout his talk), "that's a good idea."
Readers also at SLCC: These notes were taken live, many of them are rough, so if you think I missed anything, please add amendments in Comments!