Why Second Life will fail

By | September 6, 2007

For my own part,
I have never had a thought
which I could not set down in words
with even more distinctness
than that with which I conceived it.
There is, however,
a class of fancies
of exquisite delicacy
which are not thoughts
and to which as yet I have found it
absolutely impossible to adapt to language.
These fancies arise in the soul
alas, how rarely,
only at epochs of most intense tranquility
when the bodily and mental health
are in perfection,
and at those mere points of time
where the confines of the waking world
blend with the world of dreams.
And so I captured this fancy
where all that we see or seem
is but a dream within a dream.

~ “A Dream Within A Dream”, The Alan Parsons Project

There has been a lot of flattering coverage on Second Life in the mainstream media, such as FORTUNE (“It’s not a game“, 5 February 2007) and TIME (“My So-Called Second Life“). David Kirkpatrick, FORTUNE’s senior editor, is particularly bullish about Second Life, having sang the praises of the Internet-based virtual world in several articles (e.g. “No, Second Life is not overhyped” and “Coldwell Banker’s Second Life“). But I’m afraid David may have allowed the euphoria surrounding Web 2.0 to get the better of him.

So, for the sake of my fellow media professional, I am offering my second opinion about Second Life. If you haven’t guessed what my second opinion is by now, ask yourself this question: Why have a second life if it’s essentially the same as the first?

Why Second Life will fail 1Some people may argue that Second Life is popular because it allows you to assume a different identity, like in a role-playing game. But RPG is very different from the existing world. Well, at least you don’t get a company like IBM holding virtual meetings or Nike running a virtual store in it. Speaking of which, isn’t it stupid to have a meeting in virtual universe (or “metaverse“, as some prefer to call it) when you can actually meet people via conference call, if not face to face?

As TIME magazine puts it, “The corporate world’s embrace of the place as a venue for staff meetings and training sessions does seem to lend Second Life a layer of legitimacy. But maybe it’s a case of some CEOs trying too hard to be hip.”

Already, we’re suffering from too much “reality” TV. I don’t want to turn on the PC and have yet another “reality” experience. What people should be doing is to get a first life and spend quality time with real people in real life.

Why Second Life will fail 2In fact, I believe a big part of Second Life’s failure will actually be its ability to be used as a platform to sell products and services. Companies like IBM, Dell, Nike, Sony BMG, Toyota, Sun Microsystems, Starwood Hotels, Circuit City, Sears, ABN Amro, etc., have already set up shops in Second Life to offer information about their products and services. Once the landscape is dominated by commercial interests, what difference would the virtual world be from the real world?

Furthermore, what people do not realise is that virtual ownership is no ownership. If Linden Labs goes bust, so will your assets in Second Life.

FORTUNE’s article unwittingly summarises it best:
“And Linden changed its business model. It began generating revenues primarily from the sale of virtual land. …. In essence, customers are renting space on the 1,750 servers that store the digital representation of that land.”

Contrary to the hype you’ve been exposed to, Second Life remains a game, and far too many people fool themselves into thinking it is more.

Related articles:
A story too good to check
The business press turns on Second Life, and boosters fight back

6 thoughts on “Why Second Life will fail

  1. Anonymous

    Why will second life fail? Second Life is already a success! A virtual world with over 50,000 concurrent users interacting, sharing ideas, debating, expressing their creativity and more online at the same time.

    Your argument clearly has no basis and is simply one of malice intent.

    The most your article could do is cover what further growth is there for the virtual world.

  2. Anonymous

    To the first anonymous user,

    You have simply NO CLUE about Second Life or this blog posts.

    First and formally, Second Life was reported to have a user statistic of 4.6 million (http://www.socialsignal.com/blog/catherine-winters/second-life-user-statistics)

    But in the end, it only has what? 50,000 concurrent users? Can anyone say OVERHYPE??

    Second of all, how sure are you that over 50,000 concurrent users are interacting, sharing ideas etc?

    I joined Second Life 6 months ago and I was just roaming around…Not interacting…Unless you work in Second Life, please don’t assume ALL 50,000 users are interacting…

    Last but not least, I agree with the poster that Second Life will fail…

    Come on, even The Sims is much more fun than Second Life..And The Sims started first!!!

  3. Anonymous

    I registered several months ago but only login once in a while because the servers is so sluggish and there are too much fraudulent activities.

    Its a shame because the metaverse is supposed to bring about a new era of technological innovation. Instead we get people who are just bent on ripping off unsuspecting users in the virtual world.

  4. Anonymous

    Anon @10:20pm

    To say that Second Life will fail because of initially teething problems is to underestimate the potential of disruptive technologies such as virtual reality.

  5. trasis

    i still don’t see the value. asking companies to dance a jig in second life to get attention doesn’t seem well thought out. offering games? you can do that better on a webpage. and how many companies are giving out games? not many, good game development isn’t something you can do on the cheap. what else can companies give me on this 3d world that i can’t get from a webpage? nothing to be honest. perhaps an online interaction with an employee, but frankly thats not what most people want to do with their spare time, talking to company spokesman.

    a 3d world based interface is inferior for most things. what people care about is speed and accuracy. hence the success of google. google doesn’t play animations wasting my time on the way to a search destination, it just gives me results. i could care less about walking around some virtual headquarters, i’d rather search for what i want and find it instantly. how does one impliment something like tabbed browsing where people easily juggle a lot of information from different sources in a 3d world? there is just no advantage.

    as for webstores, i could care less about walking down a store isle. eventually some webpages might have a 3d picture of the product you can fiddle with sure, but theres no reason to be standing in a virtual isle to do that.

    theres simply nothing exclusive and compelling a company could give me in a virtual world. i don’t want to spend my time at ford or levi’s headquarters. what kind of lemmings do they think consumers are? people keep bandying about the “value” and “compelling” when being apologists for sl without ever specifying anything viable and specific and something that really justifies having to go to second life to get it.

    the only thing that would get most people into a virtual showroom is cold hard cash discounts. but that basically means its worthless:P


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