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.
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.
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).
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.
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)?