Last week's post on Second Life's poor first-time user experience generated a long conversation with a lot of good points -- and also revealed a lot of misunderstandings (understandable as they may be) which are worth addressing. Such as:
"SL's downloading has sped up in recent years, and it takes far less time to install than any client-based MMO I've ever seen...The client is what 56MB on Linux and only 30MB on Windows? Do you know how LONG it takes to download an MMO like STO or LOTRO? Hours! Those are multi-gigabyte downloads."
Actually, two or three years ago, an SL insider told me a large number of new users quit during client download. But whether you take my word (and the source's) or not, the above assertions are problematic for several reasons. Among them:
- MMOs with heavy 3D graphic requirements are a niche market in the West. Best guess is about 15-20 million people in the West, tops, with very very few individual MMOs reaching over 5 million regular users (unless I missed it, only World of Warcraft qualifies there).
- Promoting Second Life to the traditional MMO market would require heavy changes -- and heavy cost. Just for starters: a new client integrated with MMO game mechanics; cached MMO-style content; MOBs; a massive marketing campaign, etc.
- Given Second Life's age and branding problems with MMO players, the risks in relation to costs are enormous. Costs of doing all the above and more? $5-10 million. Chances of earning that back? Minimal.
- Wait, I thought you said Second Life isn't an MMO, so why this market comparison in the first place? "Second Life is not a game! It's not a game! It's not a... hey, do you think people who play LOTRO will want to play SL too?"
All that said, there are online products more accurately described as competitors to Second Life which are also more popular than Second Life, which also require a client download: Specifically, IMVU. But that has much lower requirements to run, and has far less features. Not to mention, if you're already unhappy with SL's bikini-clad marketing campaign, take a look at the IMVU site and decide if that's a way you want Second Life to go.
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