Second Life can be a great platform for indie games and indie game developers, but does it have a large enough user base to support ambitious multiplayer-type projects from for-profit studios? Likely not, to judge by the experiences of UNIA, the survival horror FPS game from MadPea Studios which launched last April in Second Life (blogged last on NWN here), and has since attracted nearly 2500 players, adding about 50-100 new players every week (according to development lead Kiana Writer). Based on Kiana's estimates (below), the game has earned her and the UNIA team about USD$7000.
Despite that success, however, Kiana just announced that MadPea will no longer develop major SL-based games on a scale of UNIA, which required dozens of developers:
UNIA Part 1 is not going anywhere for a while. It has been a HUGE accomplishment to realize in Second Life. It took us over two years to make and cost over 12 000 USD... With our current resources we could do either one of the two things: Continue developing the UNIA saga or put our focus on smaller adventures such as BURIED and the Collection. Making smaller adventures takes us around 2 months while UNIA 2 would be at least 6 more months of waiting.
Read the rest here. This announcement brings up several concerns: Widely promoted by Linden Lab and Second Life's community/social media ecosystem, 2500 is a pretty good number of players, but not enough to sustain relatively big budget game projects like UNIA. Instead, it could be Second Life is only feasible as a game platform for labor of love, non-profit projects like the popular MMO Remnants of the Earth, or (as MadPea is shifting toward) smaller games created and supported by smaller teams.
To tease out those details for future SL-based games, I asked Kiana more details on her studio's announcement: