Can Second Life Become the Killer App for Oculus Rift? Only If Linden Lab Goes All In
Following up on his first impressions with the Oculus Rift dev kit, virtual world innovator Jon "Keystone" Brouchoud argues that Second Life is the killer app for the technology, but OpenSim will develop for it first. He offers ten reasons he thinks this will be so, though most of them are actually reasons why Second Life should be the killer app. While I agree with that hope, I respectfully think there's several reasons why it won't:
- Oculus Rift is expensive: The consumer model isn't set for release until 2014, doesn't even have its features locked in, and is slated to be sold for between $200-300. It'll be very difficult to build a killer app from that high a price point.
- Oculus Rift developers are overwhelmingly FPS game-centric: While Jon notes that the Rift will probably induce motion sickness in FPS games, the fact remains that most of the games currently in development for the Rift are FPS. (Read the list here.) With its heavist and most prominent backing from FPS innovators like John Carmack, Gabe Newell, and Cliff Bleszinski, the Rift's has already been framed as a killer app not for virtual worlds like Second Life, but for first-person shooters.
That said, Jon offers a very good reason for pushing Second Life as an alternative model for Rift content:
Rift is lonely. Take a stroll around the Tuscany demo, and you’ll feel it. You’re the only one there. The deep sense of immersion only underscores the fact. The multi-player facility of SL offers the opportunity to meet with others, share your work, take a look at what they’ve been working on, and just hang out.
Second Life already has that architecture in place, and its developers have put tremendous effort into making the 3D experience a social one, as opposed to a gaming environment with some social aspects. However, for Second Life to become a killer app for Oculus Rift (or vice versa), there would need to be enormous buy-in from Linden Lab. It wouldn't be enough to allow third-party developers to add Rift compatibility to their viewers, because that would only insure its limited use only by the most hardcore users. Even worse were it just OpenSim developers working on Rift-compatible applications, because OpenSim steadfastly remains a non-consumer ready product, and a niche within Second Life's niche. No: to be a true killer app, Linden Lab would need to spend millions making sure Second Life was optimized to work with Rift, and even packaged together with it somehow as a consumer product. (Hey kids, buy Oculus Rift today and get a free copy of Second Life with L$1000 Lindens and a free hoverboard!)
Could Linden Lab do that? I believe they have the millions in cash reserves to do so, but it would be an enormous gamble. So I doubt that will happen. Then again, I have a feeling Philip Rosedale is already planning to merge his new VR technology with the Rift.
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