This year, Linden Lab will launch "some completely different products" from Second Life, some of which "will be very experimental, but all will fit within our company’s proud history of enabling creativity". But what? At least some of them will be deployed on the web and tablets, as Linden CEO Rod Humble has said, which gives us some hint of what they'll look like. Here's my own three guesses, not drawing from any particular inside info, but from an "If I was Linden Lab..." perspective, and from what the company is already doing now:
- MMO Developer Kit: I would expect something like this to be announced in March, in time for the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, with a website and perhaps an SDK that would make use of the game features we've seen in Linden Realms. (Botgirl Questi and Gwynneth Llewellyn have suggested a similar direction.)
- Web/Tablet game with prim-based construction: In 2010, prim-based world construction finally became a huge deal in gaming. It just happened to come not from Linden Lab, but Markus Persson and Minecraft. And while Minecraft remains the indie game champion, it's also created a market for games with similar features. Now that Second Life is slowly but surely moving toward mesh-based building, why not showcase dynamic prim-based construction in an entirely new platform, and market it to people more familiar with Minecraft, than SL?
- Fashion-oriented social game using SL assets. Avatar fashion remains one of Second Life's best and most attractive assets. Unfortunately, these assets are obscured behind a large, cumbersome 3D client. Meanwhile, games like It Girl on Facebook have proven there's a huge market for light roleplaying games with fashion as a mechanic. At the same time, these games are stymied by the cost involved in creating new fashion assets -- something SL has in abundance.
Again, these are mainly just my own personal speculations, though I'm fairly sure we'll see something like the MMO kit launch soon, if only marketed to existing SL developers. But if Linden Lab doesn't soon make games that leverage Minecraft-type gameplay and fashion roleplaying, I think they're missing a major opportunity.