Recently I've been thinking about the in-world stores I visit, and how much smaller they seem to have become. Back when I started playing SL, the world seemed to be full of unnecessarily large stores and malls. When Armani came to Second Life they took this trend to an extreme, building a massive store with only a single room of items actually set for sale. These days massive stores are still around, but definitely in a minority even among "successful" brands... And often these behemoths are older brands, maintaining what's familiar. Beyond that, designers that can afford a sim will often design an entire shopping and exploration experience even while their own shop will only be a small segment of that space, cozy and crafted.
The massive, modern spaces that were entirely too common are in sharp decline, but why? I have a few theories.
One possible answer is the fact that the increased cost of owning land in SL has made sprawling shops far less sustainable, but Second Life land has never been terribly cheap, either. Large stores with spread-out stock were a status symbol, a way to showcase how much land you could afford... But I don't think that's changed. Owning your own sim is more or less the same thing, and although many store owners are choosing to rent rather than buy I don't think that effect has changed that much over time.
Beyond that, there was always a practical aspect to having a massive store. Before the SL Marketplace was an official extension of Second Life, XStreetSL and OnRez were our browser-based shopping choices, and although both were popular among fashionistas, neither really had the kind of universal acceptance that could be used to supplement an in-world presence. Designers who still wanted to sell their older work generally had to keep them in a space in their shop. Now, with the integration of the SL Marketplace into the Second Life experience as a whole, it's much easier to direct customers to your Marketplace storefront for your "extended" inventory while keeping only your newest and most popular releases in your in-world location.
And then of course there's the fact that smaller, cuter, more carefully curated spaces are more on-trend right now. Much like reading nooks build in under staircases and all those other little clever uses of space you see floating around on Tumblr and Pinterest, cozy, homey spaces are incredibly popular.
But maybe that's a stretch.
Ultimately it's hard to be sure why stores seem to be shrinking... And maybe it's all in my head. Maybe I'm falling victim to my own confirmation bias. What do you think? Have you noticed this shift over the years? have theories of your own? As always, feel free to share in the comments below!
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