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Thursday, March 20, 2014

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MetacamOh

Fixing Second Life won't guarantee the Lab's survival, no, but neither will diversification. None of the other products are game changers, in fact you could take the stance they just wasted more time and money on stuff other than what actually feeds the company. When other companies diversify they don't leave their bread and butter to rot, and that's what is really taking place. No mobile app or flash in the pan game is going to rake in the cash or have the potential that Second Life has. I feel like Linden Lab is in denial. They are Second Life and they want to be something else. It's a shame really. Sell Second Life to someone who will give it the focus it needs.

Quan Lavender

Highly disagreed! This article proves that Linden Lab until today does not get the market potential of Second Life. As platform SL must not undergoing a product life circle, just the contents might change. I wrote about this misjudging of LL already a year ago: http://quanlavender.blogspot.de/2012/01/are-you-part-of-70-will-second-life.html

cathartes aura

The top 1%r's - Land Barons, Top Builders, etc. convinced Linden Lab to rig the system in their favor - Atlas Land Program, Grandfathered Tier, etc. which were designed from the get go to run off the smaller land owners and smaller builders.

For the first time anyone could design content for a gaming platform/system and run inworld businesses. This was groundbreaking. The idea that the little guy could participate and earn money from a game. This really irked the 1%r's. How dare the "little guy" take what should be their revenue.

This has been the ongoing struggle between the 99% of SL residents who don't get these "goodies" and the 1%r's who do.

The top 1%r's, the SL media, and LL wants to spin reality to have everyone believing it's all about lack of a mobile viewer, lag, etc. They will never admit that they killed the golden goose through their own personal greed.

Quan Lavender

OMG, it was already 2 years ago and nothing changed.

Pussycat Catnap

While I've not cared for any of their acquisitions and my only interest in them to date has been and remains Second Life...

Second Life is a 10 year old video game.

I don't expect it to be a viable business model for them to stick to just Second Life anymore than I would say Atari needs to focus on its core product: Pong. Let alone Pac-Man.

That said, you can remain in a focused business and still adapt. Plenty of Car makers still make cars... but have added variety to their vehicle lineup rather than going into perhaps shortbread or movie-making.

Ezra

"Second Life is a 10 year old video game."

Except it's not a video game, and Linden Lab isn't a video game company. They don't employ writers, musicians, 2d and 3d artists, level designers, etc. Linden Lab employs engineers, they build a platform others can build things on like games, and many other things.

Keeping the above in mind is important when discussing diversification. Game-like things isn't what Linden Lab naturally does which is why they had to acquire companies and existing products to get into games. It wasn't a natural move, it was forced and failed.

I think Linden Lab is better off doing what they do best; building platforms to build on and providing marketplaces for user to user transactions. Instead they've been trying and failing to build on others' platforms and releasing products on others' marketplaces. Its a step back from what they've proven good at. I think this makes something like Desura a perfect diversification, but it seems to be an area they've paid attention to least.

Overall, I think this is one of those faux versus situations. No need to knock down continued improvement of Second Life just to prop up the idea of diversifying the product portfolio. Continued improvement of Second Life is something they HAVE to do, and if it's all they ever do, that's fine. There's plenty of really successful single product companies in existence, especially in software services.

Diversifying is optional, and but fine.

Pep

Stick to your knitting!

That applies to both Yoz AND LL.

Yoz seems to be yet another of those techie types who thinks because he can write a line or ten of code that he understands business. He has admitted he has spent the last six years keeping his head down and mouth shut, drawing a salary without knowing what it was he was supposed to be contributing to the business. And it got canned. Right . . .

And LL has fairly conclusively demonstrated that, in the medium term, it isn't even very good at doing the thing that it's supposed to be good at, so why should it diversify into things that it doesn't know if it's good at, or even worse, that it doesn't know whether there exists a market.

Pep (thinks they should focus on getting SL right, and employing some competent marketers to sell the aspects of it that prospective clients are willing to pay for.)

Slhamlet

"Except it's not a video game, and Linden Lab isn't a video game company. They don't employ writers, musicians, 2d and 3d artists, level designers, etc."

Actually, this is exactly wrong. Linden has or does employ all those kinds of people. (Yes, even musicians -- one of the original founding Lindens, Ryan, was literally a rock star, and worked on SL's audio elements.) Second Life was originally lead developed by a game programmer/ designer (Cory) and was originally launched/marketed as a game (by a veteran of Maxis). Internally it was positioned as a direct competitor to The Sims Online, which was definitely a game. Read my book.

Ezra

What Second Life was for a small sliver of its lifetime originally isn't what it is now. Even Ebbe knows and has stated numerous times now that Second Life isn't a game. Thank god.

Also, previous jobs and side hobbies don't equate to current job titles and what a person is hired for.

http://lindenlab.com/careers

We're all many things, I cook but when I'm hired to program the company that hired me didn't just employ a chef. Just because Linden Lab hired an engineer to build audio tools who happened to have a music career as well doesn't mean they employed a game musician; they hired a guy to work on audio tools. I mean..this is obvious so not sure why I'm having to explain it. Instead of buying your book, where can I buy the Second Life original soundtrack? That'd prove your point better.

Pussycat Catnap

I know we all like to say this is not a video game because instead of killing Elves we have pixelsex and listen to other people's iTunes feeds while sitting AFK on dance poseballs...

Or we could be more generous and call it Minecraft with better graphics.

But from a technical POV... its a similar beast to any other MMO. Just because the 'raid development team' is the underpaid users rather than the overpaid Star Trek geeks on Townsend and 8th in San Francisco doesn't change that so much.

whether patch night results in a 'panty raid' or an 'orc raid'... its still a massive multiplayer online "thingy with 3d cartoons" that is over 10 years old.
- And that's the critical issue. Its 10 years old.

And you wouldn't expect most 'online software businesses' to stick to just one product for a decade.

I'm here for Second Life. But if I was an investor or someone who made my living off of Linden Lab's success - I'd be telling them to at least try and make a 'panty /iTunes raid 2.0' at this point... if not something maybe even a little more interesting than that.

cg

I love Yoz, but I do have to disagree. There one thing, which is experimenting with new stuff and trying out new ideas, playing with things as a side project, and get useful inspirations on how to improve SL as a platform on which you then might be able to implement these ideas.

And then there is splitting your forces onto multiple fronts.

I always believed that while it's totally OK to do the former, it was a tremendous waste to do the latter. Instead, SL as a platform should have been the main focus, the core competency of Linden Lab.

My model was always the "German Mittelstand", which are specialized, highly profitable small companies which serve a dedicate international niche clientele.

That's what SL is and will remain for a while. If the niche becomes mainstream, great! - but it is irresponsible to bet the company on that. Instead, focus on the niche and try to give the best possible service to your most loyal fans.

Sadly, this strategy takes a long time to come to fruition - way too long for our impatient VCs. Hence, I lost this argument, multiple times, violently.

It's ironic that the realities end up forcing Linden Lab's hand, and they might end up where I wished they ended up from the get go, by the sheer force of things. The joke always was: LL can be counted on to do the right thing after exhausting all other possible options.

Yoz

Hey Hamlet (and everyone else), I'd like to make a couple of corrections to what I originally wrote. Any chance you could update the article above (while, obviously, making it clear that the text *has* changed)?

I wrote: Unfortunately, during my entire time on the project, the people who told us to build Dio never gave us a consistent explanation of what it was for, or who it was aimed at. The last time I looked at it, they seemed to be pushing it as a photo sharing system.

And in retrospect, this is more accurate:
Unfortunately, during my entire time on the project, we didn't maintain a consistent vision of what it was for, nor who it was aimed at. The last time I looked, it had morphed into a photo sharing system.

I bashed that comment out far more quickly than I should have, and a reader would understandably infer from my comment that I'm blaming specific people (in particular, people who are not me). Placing blame in that way is neither fair nor accurate. As usual, the problem is more complex and widely-spread than that, and to be honest, some of it was just bad luck. So I humbly apologise to anyone, especially LL folks, who felt targeted by my comments.

Slhamlet

Updated in the text, your comment can reflect the change -- thanks, Yoz!

Botgirl Questi

If what Yoz says reflects Linden Lab’s point of view, it seems to me that it implies one of two things:

- They believe the virtual world market has topped out for the foreseeable future and since they have so much market share, there’s not a lot of upside; or

- They believe their platform has technical issues that can’t be resolved in order for them to compete with the emerging technology it would take to move virtual worlds to more mass adoption.

Yoz

What Yoz says reflects Yoz's point of view ONLY. Working at Linden Lab for six years does not automatically make him an expert on how to save Second Life (or not). More importantly, it's been nearly two years since he left; the company's changed a great deal since then, and the new CEO (who seems like a good and smart chap from what little Yoz knows of him) will likely change it a great deal more.

So overall, one should take Yoz's opinions with a large chunk of salt, especially since he's now spent two paragraphs referring to himself in the third person.

*cough*

There are loads of good and interesting responses to what I wrote, for which I am grateful and humbled, and they are all taking my words far more seriously than they deserve given how hurriedly they were dashed off. Part of me wants to write a proper long version of the bits related to SL, and another part of me wants to stay the hell away and focus on things more relevant to feeding my family.

These, however, are the two main points to note:

Firstly, I wasn't clear enough about Second Life. Many people (understandably) interpreted my words as meaning that SL cannot possibly be turned into a commercial success worthy of being Linden Lab's primary focus. But I don't think it's impossible, merely very very hard and deeply risky, especially if one of the requirements is to make the existing customer base happier. (The key word in my original comment is "guarantee".)

What I meant by "fixing SL" was "making safe improvements to the quality of the existing service that would be acceptable to pretty much everyone". Nope, I don't think that's enough. In the "radical new projects" I mentioned (note: PROJECTS, not PRODUCTS) I would include major overhauls one could make to SL that would make it much more commercially viable. The thing to bear in mind is that these overhauls would still be both a giant risk and likely to alienate the existing customers, as huge overhauls tend to do.

(This all requires much greater explanation, but this comment box is too small to contain it.)

Secondly, I managed to totally bury the lede in that comment. My main motivation for all that typing was sadness and anger at Versu's fate. Taking down the product is understandable: if it's not commercially viable, it's of little use to a for-profit enterprise. But it's of clear value to academia and the large IF community. The burial of this revolutionary work, even if there is a good reason, is hard to swallow.

In short: don't type angry.

Ciaran_Laval

Well I'm in the camp that felt Linden Lab were doing exactly the right thing in releasing and investing in other products. That's absolutely the right thing to do for Linden Lab's future.

When I heard about Dio, I thought it sounded rubbish. When I realised there was far more to it than met the eye, I enjoyed it. However time constraints meant I didn't get to play around with it enough, when I finally went back, it had changed into something else, which was then a lot less appealing to me.

Versu remains a product with an absurd amount of potential and it does fit in with Linden Lab's creaivity angle, the idea with Versu was for people to be able to write their own stories with Versu. This is a product that should not be left sitting gathering dust.

Linden Lab needed to move on from only having one title under their belt, it was long overdue. They have spent plenty of money on Second Life during this period of diversification.

Botgirl Questi

Without knowing the goals of the organization, their financial situation, the state of the platform (as far as what it would cost to make various improvements), etc. it's really impossible to make a valid judgement about their business decisions.

That said, it is certainly legitimate for customers to share the impact of those decisions on users.

Snickers Snook

First, fix the mainstay product (Second Life) from the perspective of the customer, then go after the shinies. I think my analogy with my "Kitchen Nightmares" is pretty good here. http://snickitty.blogspot.com/2014/03/fixing-second-life-wont-save-linden-lab.html
Yes it's your worst nightmare. A blog post about a blog post. Oh well. :)

Snickers Snook

Oh and as Crap Mariner pointed out on Twitter, SLGo is a product no one was asking for, wanted or was even remotely expecting. That it became real seems typical of the Linden Lab approach to "knowing" its customers.

Snickers Snook

And another thought. This sort of back & forth (aka engagement) between Yoz and some key influencers on the customer side here on this blog is what is missing at Linden Lab and has been for more years than I care to think about.

Yoz

Botgirl said:
"Without knowing the goals of the organization, their financial situation, the state of the platform (as far as what it would cost to make various improvements), etc. it's really impossible to make a valid judgement about their business decisions."

+1000

plus.google.com/115193212633394552459

Would Linden Labs ever do an "IPO"? What is LL doing to steer gamers from platforms such as GTAV Online, Minecraft, Elder Scrolls Online, etc. to SL? Are they investing money in the Oculus Rift's R&D--in the actual company? (Note: Is the Oculus Rift team purposely delaying mass production of the headset while hoping for an acquisition by another company, sort of like what happened between Cloud Party and Yahoo). Why is the SL software so heavy and in need of a rather sophisticated graphics cards? Why is LL charging for access to SL via an APP and through Steam when you can just use the Lumiya App for a couple of bucks (Android)? Has Linden Labs invested in an expansion of their servers, reconfigure its layouts and infrastructure? I know there are other questions, but I just picked a few to make my very small and humble (no pun intended) contribution.

Lastly, I still believe SL is a game, an online game of monopoly, sharing of ideas, in-world creation, and self expression. Although there is not an official score keeper, those behind the Avatars keep score via the means of Linden Currency and other means such as an internal barometer or clock to keep things in check--some track its shock or artistic value, other crave Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and strive for Self-actualization.

MetacamOh

Big part of their problem is they constantly get rid of the employees who actually want to be there and are passionate about their products like Yoz, Pathfinder, Qarl, the list is endless. The Lab is just a detached entity looking to milk the dying teet of Second Life.

A.J.

Your World. Your Imagination.

$1000.00 down and $299.00 per month.

Your imagination is our content. Now, get to work and don't bother us with details.

No, the problem isn't their greed and lack of basic , rational business sense relating to their customers needs.

The problem is that their customers aren't sensitive enough to the companies needs. The customers are mean and always thinking about themselves.

Laurence Simon

Want to know what the problem is?

Forget all the talk about product diversity, development, portables, crazy headsets, etc. It's something simpler. And a lot of people have seen it recently.

Linden Lab is heavily advertising Second Life with bimbos in bikinis, right?

Count the number of bikini-clad bimbos there are among the starter avatars. And look at the starter areas... changed to beach-themes? Yes? No?

That's your problem with the Lab, folks. Across the board, whatever product and whatever issue.

*golf clap*

Eliza Wrigglesworth

First of all, I want to say that it's a fallacy that LL haven't improved on SL and continue to do so...or at least try to. It might be a "hit or miss" thing, but it is happening all of the time.

How in the world can they be perfect as far as improvements are concerned? This is all new tech. They're pioneers. Or at least they were. Improving on this platform can't be easy. Just ask any Inworldz or Kitely dev.

I do feel like they make an effort. Ok, not in "M's" time, but they do try.

As far as diversification is concerned; any software or game developer should be continually trying to develop new products. Again, it's a hit or miss proposition, but hits do happen.

IMO, if LL can develop a big enough hit, then they could afford to sink more money into SL.

That's a win-win to me.

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