I think we tend to forget that the problems we experience in Second Life™ are not unique to just Second Life. The growing pains in SL are common to all human endeavors. A current good example of that is the recently release MMOG SimCity™ by EA, Electronic Arts™. Try SimCity Problems on Google, 33+ million hits.
Also, it is interesting to see people’s takes on what is happening with SimCity. Erik Kain, contributing to Forbes, writes:
“What EA and Maxis have done with SimCity is attempt a year-long PR assault to suggest that the online-only nature of SimCity is designed to offer enhancements for gamers,” writes John Walker. “This is simply not true. It’s utter rubbish. It’s a backward step for a format that seemed to be managing for years to offer single player and multiplayer options for games without the universe cracking in two. The idea that multiplayer-only is an enhancement is such an obvious piece of newspeak, such a ridiculous untruth, that we can only loudly and furiously react against it if we’re to not see it incredulously accepted as fact. I do worry it’s maybe already too late.”
Erik is mostly seeing the online only nature of the new SimCity as a Digital Rights Management technique. I suppose it can be. But, that could be applied to other MMOG’s like EVE or WoW and possibly Second Life.
The idea of an online game having benefits to players is evaluated by John Walker as ‘utter rubbish’. Well, I think Second Life, Myst Online, WoW, EVE, and numerous others prove him wrong. Whether EA provided the possible benefits, I don’t know. I see the benefits.
Erik might not be so upset if SimCity worked. But, they have had lots of problems since release. Their game makes Second Life look trouble free. Considering how much trouble I had exploring in SL last night, I am saying something.
The key point Erik is making is that when we buy a DVD based game, it is ours to play as long as we have hardware that supports it. He forgets to mention: that means in 10 to 15 years either the game upgrades to new hardware and technology, like the Myst games moving from old PC’s to mobile devices, which we then re-purchase, or we can no longer play them as our old hardware ages out.
Erik seems to think we will pay our money and then at some point the servers will go down and it is game over. I think he presupposes some inherent unfairness there. I am not so stupid as to believe any game’s servers will run forever. I suspect if you were to read the ToS that discontinuing the server thing is covered in your lease of the game. So, even the mental midgets have an opportunity to make an informed decision.
You do know that you don’t purchases games. You only lease them. So, the terms of the lease for SimCity online will likely exclude an escape hatch for EA, should they choose to close down the servers.
This ‘game over scenario’ is obviously true of Second Life. If for some reason Linden Lab shuts down the SL servers, Second Life is gone.
We have seen Ryzom and Myst Online recover from server shutdowns. In Ryzom’s case players purchased the game and have it running. I played it when Myst Online closed the first time. In Myst Online there is a feeble open source movement that is bringing back fan run servers. For Second Life there is OpenSim.
I think Erik’s thinking this SimCity model is inherently broken is mistaken. I do think we may find that the change from a DVD based game to an online based game may be a change the users are not willing to accept. It may be like going from a free-to-play model to a pay-to-play model. The demographic that plays free games is simply not going to magically turn into a paying user base. Changing the financial model in that direction means giving up the current users. It is not a viable model change.
It is possible to go from a pay-to-play to a free-to-play model. Several companies have done that. This direction is a viable model change direction. This may be what we are learning with SimCity.