Don’t fret. Second Life is very likely not going to shut down within even a year’s time. In fact, the recent buyout looks like a good thing!
Change is scary, but the extra cash flow might be what gives Second Life its… well, second life. If Linden Lab makes its move to the cloud by the end of the year, it can sustain its userbase for a while longer until it finally crosses the threshold of being unprofitable.
So for now, the game is safe! You should enjoy it without any worry. Of course… there are some things that can shorten SL’s lifespan in the long run. Can you guess what I’m going to say here? Let’s go over them again, and zoom out a bit to see what else might be a contender down the line for the Lab’s income.
Social Gaming In The Time of VR: A Round Of Musical Chairs
Social games are in flux at the moment. Altspace opened and, at first, seemed like it might be a cool place for Second Life users with VR headsets to build their new homes in. As of now, despite them finally creating a more interesting avatar system, the game is struggling with its numbers.
Sinespace, initially thought to be a flop, is doing pretty okay for itself? If it can hang in there, it might gain more users over time. Sansar failed and was bought off by Wookey; the jury’s still out on how it’ll fare. Tower Unite is now home to some Second Life expats, but might end up shuttering if they don’t find a way to continuously feed their server costs.
Rec Room, being a minigame catch-all and available on all platforms including iPhone, has its own in-game store to sustain its health. In fact, it just recently opened a marketplace for its users to earn their own tokens for inventions they create. According to its user stats, Rec Room’s numbers rival that of Second Life’s.
VRChat is the main successor to Second Life’s general feel and legacy, but needs to open its marketplace quickly. NeosVR would be VRChat’s “Opensim” counterpart, but with better graphics and more experimental features.
And what about IMVU? We don’t talk about them much here, but its aesthetics have been far-reaching and have influenced music artists and even a Kim Kardashian campaign. It’s more accessible than Second Life because it’s available on both desktop and mobile.
The Wave, a VR music-based social world and performance venue, is gaining traction with djs and popular music artists such as John Legend. I’m not sure how long it’ll last, but smart business methods might keep it around for a few years before it shutters.
This year, a new contender is supposed to enter the social gaming ring. It may not be wildly successful, but it won’t need to be. Its parent company’s endless capital will ensure everyone knows what virtual reality is when it’s released. This will be the start of a new era in social gaming.
And that’s when the real trouble might start.
The “Facebook Horizon” Deadline
If you run any social game at all, you’ll want your features nice and tidy before Facebook Horizon hits mainstream.
Facebook has so much cash, it’s able to withstand major advertisers boycotting its website. It also has a considerable VR headset brand under its wing to tie portions of Horizon into, so that it becomes a seamless experience to join and be a part of. If it proves to be popular and there’s enough demand, it might go to desktop and mobile.
Second Life must be on the cloud by the time this happens.
Why? It’s to retain the userbase! Second Life will then be going up against Horizon’s endless capital for marketing, as well as its outward-appearing success (no matter how well it’s actually doing for a while, you think Facebook would admit to stuff like that?).
Horizon won’t have the realism Second Life does, but that won’t matter if Horizon manages to encourage your friends to get a headset and log in there. Double this if they enable desktop and mobile play. If your friends go, you’ll go.
And therein lies the problem. People are less likely to leave a social world if their friends are still present there, but if they all move to another game? It might signal a steady exodus, which can put the Lab’s budget in trouble.
The way to counteract this is to up Second Life’s marketing on what sets the game apart from others. You can raise animesh kids/pets here. You can go exploring a giant Sim-like neighborhood on Belliseria. Tour the ruins of old Mainland towns. Play up the uniqueness of Second Life, and then when moving to the cloud is complete, see about implementing VR controls in the game somehow.
Oh, what, you think Horizon won’t be all over tv when it debuts? Look at this commercial they made. Money. To. Burn.
Some games will definitely not survive Horizon’s arrival, such as Altspace. Rec Room might take a hit if there are enough appealing minigames on Horizon to keep older users entertained. Second Life will not suffer at first, but as the standard for social gaming changes, this aging platform might have to take a worrisome look at its wrinkles.
My final take: Second Life’s investment is good and new features are very needed to keep the game alive. But Linden Lab needs to hurry, because the big contender is soon arriving and won’t care what companies it takes down in its wake.
Facebook Horizon is rumored to go into open beta in the fall. Will your game be ready?
Agree with my take? Disagree? Let me know! Thank you for reading!