I recently had a fascinating conversation with an SL insider who dropped a very interesting statistic: Only 30% of active SLers explore the Second Life grid on a regular basis. Instead, the overwhelming majority of SLers just stay in their home location, where they last logged in. To be sure, I'm citing a single anonymous source, but I consider it a credible figure: As I noted last week, the top fifty most popular SL locations by traffic change little from month to month, suggesting that their regular visitors largely stay in that location.
What are some implications to this stat? Here's three, followed by a couple recommendations for Linden Lab:
- Most SLers probably enjoy SL mainly as a virtual chat room hangout. Again, this would be consistent with the top fifty SL locations, which are overwhelmingly sexy, flirty, IMVU-style hangouts.
- Most SLers don't do much in-world shopping. As noted a couple days ago, the Marketplace website seems to be supplanting in-world shopping for most SLers. This trend, if accurate, bolsters a pattern of general stasis.
- SL is not optimally architected for how most SLers actually use SL: Second Life was architected as a contiguous world on a grid, so that in theory, SLers can travel to any publicly accessible location in the world. However, if 70% of users rarely stray from their home location, this architecture is largely irrelevant to them.
So, recommendations for Linden Lab? I have at least a couple:
- Add a download option: As I argued recently, a download option would optimize SL for first-time users who aren't accustomed to a streamed world that doesn't look immediately appealing. But this recommendation applies just as equally to established SLers: If most of them don't leave their last location, why not give them the option to have the graphics to that area downloaded to their client, so they get best from that experience?
- Create a gaming system that incents exploration: Notwithstanding this static user behavior, Second Life was conceived as a world, and is strongest as a world, full of diverse locations designed to be explored by most users, not just a minority. Linden Lab should add an optional gaming system in which users get achievements or points for exploring different sims -- perhaps even a scavenger/treasure hunting system that's constantly refreshed with new content and objectives.
I feel most strongly about the last recommendation; in fact, I'd add a Linden Dollar reward system for people who explore the world, so they also have an incentive to go shopping, too. Just because most SLers don't treat Second Life as a world doesn't mean they wouldn't do so, with the proper encouragement. After all, in real life, most of us rarely stray too far from our homes, unless we have an incentive to do so.