Second Look at Steam

Steam Logo (TM)

Darrius Gothly has a new article out about Second Life™ and its coming addition into the Steam Library of games titled: More Steam, Cap’n! I think it is worth a read. Darrius’ biases and frustration with the Lab is in there, but the points made are thoughtful.

I agree and disagree with Darrius on various things… in general not just in the article. But, he always seems to have some  interesting insights. I’m going to cover a number of the points he covers in the article giving my spin on the issue. That doesn’t mean he is wrong, I just see it differently. I could be wrong… nah… not me. You’ll make your own decisions on that.

Category

Steam has game categories. SL fans have opinions on which category the Lab will list SL. We have no clue what the Lab will do. Is SL an adventure game? Is SL a Creativity Tool?

Regardless of what SL is, I suspect the Lab is considering using whatever category they think will get the most people into SL.

I don’t know enough to know whether Steam will allow an entry to be in more than one category. If they do, I would expect SL to be listed in a number of categories.

Only time is going to answer this question.

The Appeal of SL

The appeal of SL is so varied I doubt we can any more define that than we can describe WHAT SL is. Darrius sees the attraction of SL as its creative aspect. It is for him and that is a big factor for me. But, that’s the way it is for just two of us.

Since Darius sees the ‘creativity’ as the single biggest draw for long term SL users, he rationally thinks that is the best way to market SL to others. Some of the Zindra land owners probably see things differently. I am sure the fashionestas see things differently.

I like teasing and messing with the boys. And then there are shoes… love them shoes!

As different as we each are, so too is our attraction to SL. The Lab and university researchers have spent huge amounts of time and effort trying to figure out why we login again and again. So, I’m going to put this in a category we could call ‘we just don’t know.’ That means we also have to acknowledge we don’t know which category to market in to bring in the most new users.

Two Faces

Social Interaction App or Game is the two choices we seem to have for SL, according to Darrius. I suppose from a marketing aspect one would want to sell into one of those markets. But again, I can’t see reality being this narrow. I think things are way more varied.

If Photoshop were on Steam it would no doubt be in the creativity section. Game players would not likely be interested. But, SL fits both groups well, games and creativity. But, then there is art, music, social interaction, politics, drama… er… role playing, romance, kink… fit those in a Steam category!

So, while two categories may be the leading areas to market, there are way more possibilities. Darrius and I agree on this point. The question is what will the Lab do and how do they see it? I’ll bet they are shot-gunning it and hoping for the best.

What Will Steam Bring to SL?

I am pretty sure no one knows. The demographics of Steam tell us something, but… all those players are as varied as the SL users. What they enjoy varies. So, I don’t see that we can predict what Steam will bring or which or how many Steam players will be interested in SL.

I think this is an experiment on the Lab’s part. Did Steam approach the Lab or vice versa? I think we don’t know. But, if the Lab initiated the idea and move, I’m pretty sure it is “this might work, let’s see” type of thing.

The result is we can’t know what marketing in Steam will bring. I am sure the Lab has hopes and expectations. Only time will tell if this is a good, bad, or indifferent thing. All else is speculation.

Complexity of SL Building

If you have not tried to learn game building in Blender, Unreal SDK, Unity, or other game design platforms, you can’t compare the SL building system… well… people do. But, I’m not sure how much they really know.

I think for the instant gratification types, me, SL offers one the best building platforms available. If you are a professional game designer, then the SL Viewer interface and build system is pretty clumsy being an odd mix of simplified tools and odd ways of doing things. It probably feels very restrictive.

For the person new to 3D modeling and building the SL Viewer offers some very short pathways from start to something built. It is possible to build things without having to learn a load of stuff you don’t need to complete your item as you do in Blender or Unreal. Depending on your viewpoint and goal the SL type of learning environment is a good or bad thing.

I think the SL system is unique and a great platform for hobbyists and novice 3D modelers. I don’t see the system getting more complex. I see the added complexity as being at the end of the learning curve and adding features and abilities. One does not have to learn those aspects of SL building until they are ready for it.

I also see the added complexity as adding the features those coming from Unreal or other platform will expect.

Complexity of Finding Things

For one coming into SL looking for a game to play, we have the problem of getting people to the type of game they are looking for. Think about the -io- Team and their Inspiring Orientation build. If you are looking for a game… does that build really fit the need and get a user to where they need to be? I don’t think so. I don’t see it addressing the mind set of game players at all.

If you have looked at the Firestorm Team’s build (Support Island), you’ll probably agree it has the same problem. Oh wait… you can’t see that until the 25th. But, you’ll see when you get there.

This may be a problem of SL user arrogance in that we don’t like SL being called a game and refuse to see it that way. But, loads of people have come in thinking SL is a game. I’m not sure many of us have the empathy to help them and understand their mind set. They left because they could NOT figure out the basic ‘how to play.’ May be we should cater to that group.

It would be nice to send people down different registration paths to unique landing points suited to their idea of Second Life. This is actually easier than many think. Your web browser is loaded with Google marketing information giving marketers an idea of which ads to present to you. For some bucks Google will provide that information to a company. We use it on some web sites. Google certainly uses it on my blog. I see ads for shoes on this blog that most of you probably don’t see. Shoe Dazzle has me pegged and relentlessly stalks me (I don’t mind).

Forcing

Darrius laments seeing people forced into a mold as they come into SL from whatever path. I think it is less forcing than it is: simply not knowing how to determine which people need to see what things. I don’t see how that can be handled inside the viewer… well… not automatically and invisibly as it is on the web. So, the solution to this problem is likely a web design thing.

If Steam allows SL to be listed in multiple categories, I think it would be smart to send each person linking from a Steam category to a specific registration page related to that category. I think it would be smart to work with Google to get access to their marketing data so that targeted marketing could be presented to new registrants. After all, showing me SL shoes, and making it CLEAR these were inside the ‘game’ at the time of registration would definitely have caught my attention.

Summary

This is all speculation at this point. Whatever SL does with Steam, it will be interesting. No matter who tells you what would be smart, including me, they don’t know.

We do know it is not hard to get users to sign up for SL. So, I expect a number of people from Steam are going to play in SL.

The real problem remains: can we keep them interested (player retention)?

9 thoughts on “Second Look at Steam

  1. “The Lab and university researchers have spent huge amounts of time and effort trying to figure out why we login again and again. So, I’m going to put this in a category we could call ‘we just don’t know.’”
    At a minimum we can say people continue to log into SL again and again is because they “get something out of it” — in some way it benefits their RL (or they perceive it to). I choose to call that therapy, others call it recreation, or community, or a creative outlet. Therapy seems to me to be the most inclusive, if not the most popular way of looking at SL in a “big picture”, why-do-we-bother sense.

  2. When the customer base comes up with “I think it would be smart” things for the Lab to do, the Lab usually doesn’t do them from the get-go, rolling out something half-baked.

    -ls/cm

  3. I think the position to take here is to be a “Home” to “Gamers” (“Steamers”)… it covers both aspects of Social and Gaming by positioning itself in the middle and offering solid linking opportunities in both directions.

    Do you remember rumors of Linden Labs being bought by Microsoft so they could make SL the Home for Xbox Gamers (similar to how Sony PS has Sony Home)? Well, Linden has done it without selling out to Microsoft. They will now have access to a huge pool (40 Million) (4 million concurrent) of 30 something computer (not console) gamers who have money to spend.

    Perhaps SL will become the “Home” for Steam users and there are lots of interesting linking opportunities like sitting in your home in SL and sharing a link with your friend to play a certain game…and poof the two of you are transported to the game play direct from Second Life and perhaps back home once the game is over. (SL would likely have to go into some sort of sleep mode).

    It really could work the other way around…or at least as a two-way street. SL users will link to and play games in Steam and return to SL for Social, Learning, Shopping and Adult Stuff. Use Steam for what it is meant to be (Games) and SL for what it is meant to be (Social, Creative, Education) — and create a simple linking system (URL based) between the two.

    There will be 2 groups of “Steamers” who will come to SL.
    1 – Those who know what SL was and is and a thin band of these will return to look again and perhaps some will stay.
    2 – Those who, for whatever reason do not know about SL and a thin band of those will visit and stay.

    But, when you have 40 Million (4 Million Concurrent) users like Steam, the 2 thin bands mentioned above can easily translate into 100,000 concurrent new users in SL and this could double the normal 60,000 SL concurrency to 120,000. What effect would 120,000 concurrent users have on the SL economy? Especially ones with a little money to spend!

    As for Sex and Adult stuff (something that is generally not available in popular Games) , Linden can deny it all they want, but the revenue from users who participate in all things related to sex, kink or just being super sexy (Shoes/Hair/Clothes) is massive and represents a huge chunk of their revenue and revenue made by content creators and providers.

    When Steam comes on line with SL, I think we will see a big boost in concurrent users and those new users will enjoy some of the Adult and Social things they cannot in traditional games…and they will have the money to do it..but to keep them happy and get them to stay, we will have to create an elegant transport system between SL and their games.

    ~ Aprille Shepherd

  4. Sooooo… this was one of the most exciting bits of News for SL in a long time. Where has this gone? Why has SL not been launched on Steam? When will it be rolled out? Abandoned?

    • Good questions. We can only speculate as there is no hard information.

      I suspect that the Lab has considered the Steam ‘presentation’ of SL and realized this is something ‘modders’ for other games will look at. The one thing SL offers that most other games do not is a way to make a living modeling. But, SL is not yet on par with other game engines. In some ways it is ahead of other games and does things they would never be able to do. The most significant of those being the generalization of content. We are not forced to use ONLY highly optimized models and textures. We can be amateurish. But, SL is lacking some things, normal maps for one, and the system lag. Fixing those things is an in progress project.

      I think we will only see SL appearing on Steam after the new bake and materials systems are running well. But, I don’t know that.

  5. So I have a question in regards to this. If SL gets implemented with steam, would you have to have steam to get into SL? Reason I ask is because I personally hate steam, and refuse to install it on my system.

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