Monday, April 28, 2014

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Why SL's Client Download is a Huge Hurdle to Mass Adoption

Second Life download problem

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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Adeon Writer

People aren't quitting on download. The massive signups without ever logging in are fourm spambots. LL does not have good captchas.

Jo Yardley

Its also bots and alts, every time you create one the SL website asks you to download the viewer, assuming you're a new user.

Vanadis Falconer

The download toke 6 minutes last time (MacOS). Instead of update I often download the latest version and make a clean install
During those 6 minutes I can use computer as usual.
I´m convinced that the step after the download is the problem.
A newbie needs help to get dressed, to set draw distance lower so he/she can walk, to find someplace to go.
Thats what we veterans have to help newbies with.
And if Second Life has one of its more "dificult days" when nothing works as i should do. Then it´s natural to escape as fast as possible

Guni Greenstein

I wrote it before and I will repeat it again: someone who has a problem with a 6 minutes download will definitely not last in Second Life no matter what.

People who can not download a 30 MB client are simply not Second Life material. They will just fail at the next step. Even if you completely manage to eliminate that download you are going to win nothing.


nothing about this article even makes sense. Six minutes is comparatively fast for just about any game download.

Arcadia Codesmith

MMOs are a convenient standard of measurement because they're also virtual worlds, but you're going to find the same dynamic with any software that requires a download. A huge number of downloads are aborted, sometimes due to boredom but more often due to technical glitches in data transmission.

SL isn't an MMO and nobody is advocating it become one. But the current crop of MMOs have state-of-the-art systems that are very relevant to ANY virtual world, such as avatar creation and customization. If LL isn't willing to keep up with the state of the art, we can watch SL stagnate, shrink, crumble and die. You don't have to copy any of those systems exactly, but you do need something that's just as intuitive and easy to use.

Costs to upgrade: substantial. Costs of not upgrading: lethal.

CronoCloud Creeggan

While SL isn't an MMORPG, it is a client based MMO (massively muliplayer and online), so it has much in common with other MMO's. I'd wager most SL users have played or still play an MMO or two. SL also has, like the freemium MMORPG's, a "Premium" membership option.

Hamlet wrote: MMOs with heavy 3D graphic requirements are a niche market in the West.


Nothing wrong with being a niche. We live in a finite world, the myth that growth is infinite and can continue forever and that triple digit yearly growth is required for "success" has got to go. There's nothing wrong with finding a niche market and making steady money off of it, year in and out.


Hamlet wrote: Promoting Second Life to the traditional MMO market would require heavy changes -- and heavy cost.


You'll notice I didn't say that LL needed to promote SL to the players of Wow or STO. I was comparing SL's install time to that of MMO's. Besides, as I said, there are plenty of SL users that are already in MMO's. There is "some" cross-membership, even amongst the fashionistas.


Wait, I thought you said Second Life isn't an MMO, so why this market comparison in the first place?

I wasn't comparing "markets". You read more into my statement than I intended. I was just comparing the install and start process, since you keep bringing the client download as a barrier, when we all know it isn't.

As was said, alts and bots. besides, as was said. If a user isn't patient enough for the SL install they're really going to have issues with SL itself.

The real reason SL isn't some "mass market more popular than facebook thing" that you and the other "singularity snow crash worshippers" want is because virtual worlds are a niche market. And that's fine.

Ciaran Laval

The problem with statistics is that people can end up drawing the wrong conclusions from them. The idea that people quit during the download of the SL client because of how long it takes is quite a stretch, it's an extremely quick download in terms of client downloads.

This is a different issue from people being put off by a client download full stop. Plenty of people won't want to download a client at all.

The easier it is for people to embrace Second Life the better, but beyond that, as the video recently doing the rounds has shown, once people login, they're faced with a pretty bare experience in terms of what to do, that is the area LL should address first.


Ms. Creeggan is onto it. So what does Linden Lab need to do to cultivate its niche? I've written a few speculations.

Orca Flotta

Oh, are we at that stone old topic again? Yawn yawn ...

I guess I say since 2007 that virtual worlds are a niche market, and it proves to be true. As CronoCloud states that isn't a bad thing. We are a special bunch, let's enjoy that fact rather than grieving over it.

Compare SL to the automotive industry. Of course there is Volkswagen, there is Ford, there is GM. These companies make multimillions with average cars. Why should the Ferrari owner being concerned about Ferrari only selling a tiny little percentage of General Motors? He got the car he wanted, Ferrari made a profit, all is fine.

Orca Flotta

LOL, not saying that LL actually is something like the Ferrari of MMOs, neither the General Motors. But they found their niche, they found their very loyal clientele, they make a profit.

pixeleen mistral

I agree with Guni Greenstein, those that cannot download the client will not last, and I suspect you are also well aware of this as well Hammie.

But that was a nice troll! Keep it up.

Orca Flotta

Zacly, Pixeleen, those who aren't patient enough to sit out that little download will never have the needed patience for becoming productive members of the SL society. Further we should ask ourselves if we really need those people? Me personally, I don't like to deal with n00bs in the first place; imagining meeting an ADHD n00b makes my skin itch. Sorry for sounding arrogant, I have a simple explainification for that: I am fucken arrogant. And I'm not gonna apologize for it.

Orca Flotta

@ Jo Yardley: no, they don't assume your alt is a new member, they KNOW it! As you should know very well every avie in SL is an account of his or her own. LL just don't care who's behind that avie in RL. I think that's great. Levels the playing field and avoids lots of trubbel with perms n stuffz.

Pussycat Catnap

I can download the SL client faster than I download a song on iTunes...

iTunes better fix that or its going belly up.

Rex Cronon

I don't think it has anything to with download time.
Anyway, it is going to get worse because now the installer will refuse to install the viewer for windows xp even though the sl viewer can run on win xp:(

CronoCloud Creeggan

time wget
--2014-04-30 23:22:52--
Resolving (,,, ...
Connecting to (||:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK
Length: 31401072 (30M) [application/octet-stream]
Saving to: ‘Second_Life_3_7_7_289497_i686_Setup.exe’

100%[======================================>] 31,401,072 1.89MB/s in 23s

2014-04-30 23:23:16 (1.30 MB/s) - ‘Second_Life_3_7_7_289497_i686_Setup.exe’ saved [31401072/31401072]

real 0m23.337s
user 0m0.221s
sys 0m1.450s

23 seconds to download the Windows version.

Having to download a file is not a barrier. People download various applications to their PC's/game consoles/phones/tablets All...the...time. I mean even freaking Angry Birds is a larger download than the Windows SL client.

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