What ever happened to the online virtual world revolution? You know, the one where everyone would spend hours every day blinging out their Second Life avatars and crashing weddings in World of Warcraft?
Well, those days never quite materialized. The media fanfare around virtual worlds has transitioned from an initial wildfire of exuberance to essentially nothing, as expectations for growth and revenue failed to pay off.
World of Warcraft, made by Blizzard, does remain successful, boasting over 10 million worldwide users. But only 2.5 million WoW users are based in the United States, and World of Warcraft's relevance outside of the online gaming community is limited. (Of course, a South Park sendup always puts you on the pop cultural map.)
Second Life has around 600,000 "active" users, but it is unclear how many login more than once a month. Once a media darling and the prime destination for online corporate marketing (including, ahem, our own PopSci basecamp) a few years ago, Second Life was anointed to achieve total Internet domination as a destination to create a new virtual life more exciting than your "first life." But the expectations never reached fruition (or a critical mass of sustained growth), as a buggy interface, lack of direction, and a slew of bizarre online activity led to another tech bubble bursting.
Despite this, many companies continue to reimagine how virtual world will fit into the future of the Internet. Developers have realized that completely open-ended online environments don't really pay off, because users have to interact with strangers, often without any context. ("Hi, we're both dweebs flying around Second Life!" isn't really meaningful commonality.) People desire online interaction, but they would rather talk to strangers with some shared interests (i.e. World of Warcraft gamers teaming together for quests) or talk to people they already know (social networking a la Facebook). There is still demand for limited context, stranger-to-stranger interactions such as chat rooms, and, to an extent, Twitter (no, you don't really know Ashton Kutcher), but only in limited doses of time commitment and attention span.
At two recent virtual worlds conferences (The Engage Expo in March and the 3-D Training Learning and Collaboration Conference in April), the future was pinned on creating virtual online marketplaces where users can interact with products, retail staff, and other shoppers, just as in a real shopping mall. The concept is that many people enjoy the social aspects of "live" shopping, but also seek the variety of goods available with online retail. Virtual shopping malls combine the best of both worlds, providing the breadth of options of internet shopping with the interactivity of a real mall. Imagine visiting a virtual shopping center that specializes in electronics, where you can browse gadgets from anywhere in the world and hang out with like-minded techies also visiting from all over the world.
How about tele-shopping? If you're based in New York, you can go Father's Day shopping with your sister in California at an online mall based in Japan. (Dad loves his Hanko watches!) A few companies are also working on 3-D urban guides (imagine a 3-D Yelp) such as this prototype by YouCity.
The folks at Second Life have in turn attempted to re-focus on their core value--the immersive experience of their world--and have been marketing themselves to groups who can use their world for specific purposes. So far, the biggest driver of this new strategy has been businesses using Second Life for workplace collaboration and training. Companies benefit because of its cost-effectiveness and the wide array of collaborative virtual learning tools at Second Life's disposal. It's much cheaper to set up a Second Life virtual training "experience" for a global team than to fly them all to one location for a "real world" conference. Many tech-savvy businesses such as IBM and Intel have already used these Second Life conferences. This past December, the U.S. Air Force came on board Second Life with MyBase, a virtual learning center where the public can learn about the Air Force, fly a virtual P-51 Mustang, sign up for online conferences, and interact with other visitors. The Air Force is planning to expand MyBase to establish classes and virtual operational environments to train their cadets.
Whether this focus on compartmentalizing virtual worlds for niche uses will actually lead to any kind of resurgence in a mainstream sense is hard to judge--the capability for Second Life to be used this way, after all, has been present since the very beginning. So while new IBM hires can enjoy their benefits orientation in Second Life, the rest of us will have to keep waiting to see exactly how (or if) virtual worlds will make their way into our daily online routine.
really the virtual world hasn't taken off like the news media has wanted it to for the past century because really they promised us a second world where we could do everything and more that we do here and it would actually look good.
i've seen better graphics and character control on the sega dreamcast than i have in every screen shot of second life, even when csi new york did an entire episode around it. it felt like if i started playing second life then i would be playing a glorified runescape.
so yes i believe that there is a chance for the virtual world to overtake the real world, it just needs to have better graphics than polygons...
Second life is kinda clunky. it may have hope if there is a major overhaul. I guess I would encourage people to click off the virtual world and move out of mom's basement.
Allow me to tickle your brain!
I'm afraid I must disagree with most of the article. "One of the Internet's biggest disappointments?" Let me ask you this: out of Second Life, Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter, which is the only one that is profitable? Yep, Second Life. I'm a virtual worlds enthusiast, but the Second Life deathwatch is purely a creation of the media - and you're hopping on the bandwagon. Please do better research in the future. You can see some facts here:
The corporations you mention wanted a press release and hype, which they got. They blamed the failure on the platform, when typically, the failure was their ego. For example, Armani and American Apparel (one brand I love, one not so much): both thought they were so cool they could just re-create virtual versions of the flagship stores and people would flock to it.
That's pretty boring fare for a virtual world. You need to do something more innovative, exciting, and most importantly, INVOLVE THE COMMUNITY instead of assuming you're so cool, they'll flock to you. "If you build it, they will come" does NOT apply in virtual worlds!
Another terrible article about the death or 'failure' of Second Life.
The virtual world part of the internet is at a similar stage to the dotcoms after the bubble burst. Everybody lamenting the failure of the hype to deliver what they were expecting.
But if you had bothered to do even a cursory amount of research you would find SL is thriving by any measure you care to choose. Not only is it a very profitable business in itself, but the number of users continues to grow, and the number of projects inside SL that are under development is beyond categorizing here.
The Armanis and the Coca colas left because they utterly failed to understand what SL is and is not, and allowed themselves to be duped into creating worthless SL installations that nobody was interested in.
Gamer kids are not interested because it is not a game.
Gamblers had to leave at the kind request of the US government.
SL is not of any interest to many people, and yet 600,000 people, and over 50,000 at any given moment ( you can leave out the ironic ' ) are using it.
What are they doing there?
There is only one way to find out. Go there and TALK to them.
It is hopeless to just cruise about like a lost muppet. SL is all about groups and communities. If you do not seek out these groups, you are like some foolish tourist standing in the middle of the road in some downtown City saying 'where's the party??? '
SL is the only truly interactive virtual world. You can build and script and do business ( in US dollars ) as you see fit. There is no other. It's potential is only beginning to be realized.
This article will look dumber and dumber as time goes on.
Second life has more choices of what to do than any other virtual realit out there. Plus, do you know of any other virtual reality with sports leagues such as GOHA (Global Online Hocky Association) or even have a television network that it suplys the shows for?