It is hard to find good statistics on Second Life™ that tells us what is happening. Nor have there been any exciting ‘statistical’ developments this year. So, I haven’t been writing much about them. I did want to summarize them for 2012. It took me some time to get around to it. But, here they are.
Signups per day tells us something. It is just debatable what exactly. We can’t separate re-signups, those creating Alts, from new users signing up. We can’t even get an idea of how many people may be going for an Alt. My belief is the majority users have at least 1 Alt.
But, we have never known and as far as I can see there is nothing that would have changed the rate of users creating Alts. So, the signup rates are hopefully consistently distorted.
The chart is too short to show any seasonal patterns. I marked December to April as we have to instances where signups slowed. That may be a seasonal thing. Give it a couple of more years and we might know.
2011 was a better year for signups than 2012. We cannot tell what the Lab was doing from the chart. Did they decrease or change advertising? Probably. I can draw a trend line (green) that shows a steady increase over the last couple of years. I could draw another (no shown) that runs from the beginning to December 2011. That would show a steady gain. From there I could draw a line to the end and it would show a steady decline. It depends on what one wants to show.
Regardless of what we want to show, the number of signups in 2012 is less than 2011.
This chart shows the number of people concurrently logged in. It runs from 2009 to January 2013. I chose this chart because it shows a consistent trend over a long period, which is important.
You may remember that Rod Humble said something about use-patterns for Second Life changed. I think that was the reason for the Lab discontinuing hours-in-game reports. Things were supposed to have changed when mesh was released and people spent more time in Blender/3DS/Maya. They were in creative programs creating things for Second Life, but they don’t show in the SL stats, sounds reasonable.
I know that I spend more time on SL projects outside of SL, not logged in. But, how many people actually do that? We have no way to know. But, what we do know is there is no sudden change in this graph. We got mesh in August 2011. I placed a vertical red-line about where I think August is.
Concurrency peaked in early 2010. It has been in a steady decline since then.
Those big negative spikes are typical of server crashes and network outages, which through off the mean and median vales. In the top image in the inset I have a concurrency chart corrected for those crashes.
My tracking of the peak user count cleans out the server crash numbers. I want to know how many people are logging in. Therefore I consider crash numbers anomalies. I remove them and use the next day’s numbers.
The data is a bit flaky this year, meaning my collection of it. I’ve revised the script I use to collect the info a couple of times. I made some significant changes this January. My hope is the 2013 data will be more representative of user behavior.
We can see that for most of the year peak concurrency was decreasing. The minimum number of concurrent users has remained nearly constant. While during the last part of 2012 there is an upturn showing, it is too soon for it to be considered change in the trend. It could be. I hope so.
The number of regions in Second Life has been steadily decreasing since 2006. While there is some stability in Adult regions and even some growth, PG and Mature regions are decreasing faster than Adult regions are growing. So, more are leaving than coming in.
Many think this is a reason to lower tier costs. I disagree. Second Life is the Cadillac of virtual worlds. It is developing and moving forward with technology… it is behind many games. But, it is old and is being updated. This year the hardware was updated to newer, faster models. The software is being updated.
If you look at the OpenSim side, many grids simply cannot keep up. In-Worldz has most of the features of Second Life. But, visiting In-Worldz is not like visiting SL. Linden Lab has the money to rapidly develop SL and it shows. Visiting OpenSim worlds often reminds of me of my first visits to Second Life.
Cutting off the tier source of income would end that development cycle and I believe make users even more unhappy.
I also do not see lower tier bringing in new users. If that were the case, In-Worldz with $75/month tier would be a boom town. Instead it is at a growth plateau of around 1,000 concurrent users… if I remember correctly. Check Hypergrid Business for more information on In-Worldz.
I’m not slamming In-Worlds. It is pretty nice. I has greatly improved since I was last there. But, I am pointing out that it is Chevy world at a third the cost of a Cadillac AND it is not selling that well.
I have not followed the forums stats. This is the only source for this information, that I know about, for the forum. I saw a link to it once on Daniel Voyager’s blog. I am not sure how the data is collected. But, it is being kept up to date.
Obviously it was created in February 2011. I am not sure why the high numbers in early 2011. Whether that is a data collection anomaly or actually reflects user activity, I can’t say. There appears to be a decrease in use about mid 2012.
In September 2012 the JIRA Change was implemented. By the appearance of this chart that has had little if any affect on forum use.
I looked back through my 2012 Review Article: Looking Back at Second Life 2012. Pages 6 & 7 cover June and July. This is when we first started to get extensive coverage of Cloud Party. It is also in this time frame that Google and Bing discontinued free translation services. I can’t see anything else that I think would change the popularity of the forum. It obviously decreased, but I have no clue as to why.
I have not been tracking JIRA use. I would love to have had historical data on the JIRA for the last year. But, I did not anticipate the JIRA Change. We run about 200 to 300 bug reports per 30-day period.
You can click on the Projects drop down in the dashboard to get a page that shows the stats.
The best I can say is Second Life is coasting along. Use probably is slowing. There is no doubt that it is down from the earlier 80k peaks. And there is no doubt that we have fewer regions than we once did. Whether those that are left are better quality or not is hard to say.
I think the RL economy is having an effect on Second Life’s economy. While the media is hyping the recovery, there really is no recovery. You can look at the numbers in this card by Allen West.
The reference sources for the numbers are here, just below the card on the linked page.
The result is that regions not paying their way are being dropped as people tighten their budgets and look for places to cut spending. I expect to see more of this during the next 2 years. Meaning we are going to lose more regions. But, that has good and bad aspects. As spread out as SL is, in some ways it is like living in the countryside. Fewer regions may make it more like a city with denser population, which would lead to more social interactions, which would help player retention.
As any business sees its revenue stream shrink, it will start looking for things to do to improve it. I am certain the Lab is no different. Obviously one step is to diversify, which we have seen with Patterns, Blocksworld, and other spin-offs by the Lab.
I am certain that the great popularity of social networks has not been lost on the Lindens. But, geeks are not known for being highly social. So, getting programmers to understand what is needed for good social networking is an uphill trek. Whether they will try more socialization or more gamification is hard to say.
There are rumors that the Lab may work on chat this year. I don’t mean just the User Interface (CHUI), but the chat services. They need to do something with them. Chat lag is back with a vengeance. There are a number of groups I am considering dropping out of because I can never comment in them. I type, hit Enter, and get and error… cannot establish a connection thingy. That could be a serious depressant on player retention as studies show it is social transactions that keep people in MMOG’s.
I do think Second Life needs the Materials System and a better avatar. While we have what I think are the best looking avatars around many users want to improve them. It is hard to know how important that is to user satisfaction and as a player retention feature. For most games improved graphics does little for player retention. But, improving avatars is not quite the same. Avatars are far more personal and improvements there will likely have more impact.
The Materials System will greatly impact the appearance of Second Life. That will attract those people that like a high quality visual experience. So, I have some hopes for that affecting player retention among new signups.
Gamification… I don’t know. I do think getting the Experience Tools released is important as that will allow game creators in SL to do more and require less of the users. If that does help, it will be long term ‘help’ as it will take time for developers to build the games. Loki is certainly looking forward to getting the tools.
All of these things could help player retention and they will be arriving this year. So, we may see the stats change direction this year.
I like my OSGrid. But… if you haven’t been using a new viewer and playing in the test regions where HTTP, Interest List, the new Render pipeline, and other features are in use you are missing out on some the performance improvements.
After you use the new viewers for a bit, try visiting OSGrid or In-Worldz. It is like rezzing into molasses. So, as much as I like OpenSim and will continue to use it, I don’t consider those grids serious competition for SL. They may become serious competition, but I doubt that will happen this year.
Cloud Party has the potential to become serious competition, possibly this year. It is a beta project for now. But, many of the tools we would like to see in SL are being built into Cloud Party. As always the last guy to update has the best tech. The Lab has to deal with legacy stuff. Only time is going to tell if the Lab can stay ahead of Cloud Party or not.
Cloud Party also has to overcome the Blue Mars stigma. Several people got burned investing time and effort into Blue Mars. I think that is making uptake of Cloud Party slower. Still I do see it as a future competitor.
While Second Life doesn’t really have any competition right now, at least from our perspective, non-SL users have a huge array of games competing for their attention. We will have to see how Amazon and Steam affect the signup and player retention rates.
The stats are certainly not rosey. But, neither are they all that gloomy. The potential is there. If someone comes up with the right spark at the right moment SL could take off.
My hope is by the end of 2013 we will have several new key pieces in place and SL users will be able to build things that will capture people’s interest. With any luck we will find a way to improve SL and get it growing.