Second Life: very much still here and relevant

by Lee Hopkins on August 4, 2010 · 4 comments

in Uncategorized

girls in second life office

For all of you wondering ‘what ever happened to Second Life’, please be assured that it is still around and still very relevant.

Erik Sass over at MediaPost has a great article about a virtual environment that continues to grow, albeit slower than its heady heydays.

Some key points made by Erik:

Zooming in on active users, defined as those who log in several times a month to spend at least one hour on the site, the numbers increased from about 25,000 in 2005 to roughly 700,000 in 2009-2010. In 2010 there have been peaks and valleys (with the number of active users ranging from 680,000 in February to 820,000 in April) but that still puts it in the 700,000-750,000 range — stable, maybe even growing a little bit.

Active users spend an average of 100 minutes on the site during each visit, and some of these people are crazy, with reports of hardcore users spending 12 hours a day or more in-world. According to the company, users create about 600 million words in text messages and other content every day.

Then there’s the money: Sales of virtual goods continue to increase at a remarkable pace, making Second Life one of the largest markets for virtual goods next to Zynga games like Farmville and Mafia Wars. Total dollars spent on virtual goods in Second Life increased steadily from $30 million in 2005 to $344 million in 2008, then jumped again to $567 million in 2009, and so far they are up about 30% year-over-year in 2010, putting the site on course for over $700 million.

I think this is an important fact for marketers to bear in mind as they deal with the continuing — indeed, accelerating — proliferation of social media. Because reach and scale aren’t everything, especially online, where the audience is highly fragmented and likely to fragment further. In this arena a small, highly-engaged niche audience may be more valuable than a large, apparently indifferent one (Facebook, I’m looking in your direction).

Erik’s point about engaged micro niches and attention is something that all marketers should consider. The days of the broad sweep advertising campaign are approaching their end as the most profitable way to reach, engage with and influence audiences.

  • Bethiepowell

    Lee, thanks for the summary. It's very interesting as I noticed that second life was very big here about 2 years ago and then suddenly went quiet. There was an interesting opinion piece in the SMH July 24/25 by Ian McIlwraith about the marketing potential of multiplayer online games – his summary: “The MMOG … has become a massive money-spinner”.

  • Debs

    Thank you for sharing your opinions Lee. There are very much aligned with mine too.

    - Debs

  • skribe

    The issue with Erik's points are that they are all macros which don't translate to niche operations. They also don't translate well in Second Life because it is incredibly difficult to target those micro niches in world because of SL's technical limitations and also because the niche target are so 'geovirtually' diverse. So, while the macro numbers are big they offer little real information about SL's relevance to a niche marketing. I feel quoting that data is actually harmful to the case whether SL is relevant or not. Current case studies offer a far more accurate picture.

  • TheShadow

    I really wish people would not post numbers like this without checking them out first.

    These numbers are cooked. I know it from being in SL for 4 years now. Traffic is through the floor, nobody can operate with the new viewer, since they laid off a third of their company customer service takes a month to fix even the smallest issue (even for somebody running the most trafficked academic sim in SL for 3 years straight, like me), and open sim is getting a big growth spurt as they siphon away all of Linden Labs creative assets. Where do you think the recently laid off quarl linden went, and all his buddies who left the company? They went open source.

    If you believe one word of those numbers you are falling for the reality distortion field Philip Rosedale has around him. I only hope you don't invest money because of these numbers, because you will loose it in the end.

    You want to follow what secondlife is becoming? The secret is, it's not with linden labs anymore. It's open simulator. OSG might not have the content yet, but it is getting very close now, and it's infrastructure is almost as robust as the world wide web (don't laugh, Berners-Lee started out just like these guys are now). Once it hits the point where it is as easy to set up a sim as it is to set up a word press, and it's all at the cost of a $5 a month web hosting plan, then you'll see what all the fuss was really about.

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