You’ll have noticed I am working my way through Canary’s list of Anxieties of Second Life™ users. See: Are Second Life™ residents anxious about Project Sansar? This post is about item 5: Fewer people in SL.
Several bloggers and podcaster as well as in-world meetings have touched on this sensitive point. If one wanted something to say Canary’s list was not in the order of most worried about anxiety, this might be the one to point to.
I first covered the worry in: Second Life: Sansar Fragmentation Anxiety… and misspelled the title. I hate it when I do that.
However the fragmentation I write about there is not quite the same as the anxiety in Canary’s list. Or at least I don’t see them as the same. In ‘Fragmentation’ I was writing about how Sansar was sounding like it might be a more fragmented world than the Second Life world. The Canary anxiety item is more about Sansar pulling people away from SL.
There is an obvious reality in this worry. I for one have a finite amount of time I can spend playing. If I am dividing my game time between SL and Sansar that means I will spend less time in both than I do in SL now. So, SL looses what Sansar gains. Sort of an elastic zero-sum. It seems reasonable that many others will fit into this scenario too.
The loss of participants in SL has numerous points of impact. For one, we know from university professors’ studies that personal interactions among users is a major factor in player retention for any game or social network. So, could the loss trigger a feedback problem of increasing losses? The fewer people the less interactions to keep people attached so more leave which… I say that is a possibly.
The large number of people in SL is a reason many are willing to purchase land in SL and create and market goods in SL. If the customer base decreases, there is less motivation to do that. With fewer customers it will be more difficult to maintain the sales needed to pay the high land fees of SL. If merchants leave or close shop then there is less stuff to buy and the economy starts its downward spiral. These are basic economic and demographic truths.
The popularity of VR and Sansar may pull more new people into SL. We don’t know that. But, I think the general consensus is it is going to happen. Count that as an ‘IF’.
Will the new incoming people be enough to offset the loss to Sansar? We don’t know. Many hope it is true. But, many fear it isn’t. So, ‘IF’ two.
I think many never think of what I believe is more likely for 2016. Sansar is likely to be a construction area with few places ready for visitors. I imagine it is sort of like a new subdivision. A land owner subdivides the land, builds streets, storm and sanitary sewers, and utility systems. Think of the land owner as Linden Lab. The Land owner may or may not build some model homes to show what is possible. After that is often up to home builders to come in and take over building homes. They often build some models. After all the land development and model building sales start, building proceeds, and eventually people start to move in. It usually takes years.
During that time there will be a need for SL. It has more places ready to explore and things to do. Plus, Sansar likely will not have a complete set of building tools in 2016. I don’t know that. I suspect the in-world building tools will run behind getting Maya and Blender imports working well. I could be wrong.
But, we can see how the Lab is proceeding with Maya builders and handling their needs first. I think Blender is the next follow on then in-world tools. Sure, even Maya modelers will need some in-world tools to move things around and line them up. So, we will likely see some simple object manipulation tools early on. The in-world mesh detail editing tools will be down the road, or so I suspect.
There is going to be overlap in the design process. I doubt it is solely Maya they are thinking about. If that were true they would be likely to find they had painted their selves into a corner, so to speak. I believe they are designing for 3D Max, Blender, others, and in-world all at the same time. Or at least in the planning stages those considerations and corners are being looked at. Or I could be overly optimistic, but I find optimism more fun than pessimism.
There are enough ‘IF’ things in the preceding paragraphs I lose count. But, this train of thinking is getting pretty iffy.
Another offsetting factor is the Lab working to lower land costs in SL. We know they are trying a new financial model in Sansar with low entry costs. We have recently seen them reduce region setup fees. Ebbe has talked about slowly, carefully, and methodically changing the financial mode for SL and working to provide some less costly package for those that do both SL and Sansar.
The Lab wants to at least maintain its income and if possible increase it. I suspect that if Sansar is any kind of success and the Lab’s income increases we will see Second Life land cost decrease and possibly the entire financial model of SL change. There are a bunch more ‘IF’ points in that last round of thinking.
If you have a fear that Second Life will lose enough people so that it goes into a downward spiral, I can’t prove your fear is a false expectation. I too see it as a very plausible possibility.
But, it is not a one sided issue without positive offsets. It is just as possible that both SL and Sansar will increase their user base and both become more successful. Trying to add up the ‘IF’ possibilities, calculate the odds, and compare scenarios is only a measure of our ability to imagine what may happen and what people may do. We can never know if we have considered everything.
We haven’t even started to look at the outside influences. The world is going to war. A number of the supposed knowledgeable are saying World War III is already in progress. We have also had 7 years of the slowest economic recovery in Americas history. We have the highest number of Americans out of work in history, percentage-wise or raw-number-wise. (The current posted rate of 5.0% is the u4 rate. One needs to look at U5 and U6 plus the participation rates and demographics of those working and the nature of new jobs to see the reality.)
Terrorists are affecting economies and striving to break them. While no one died in Belgium during the lock down, the hit to the economy is significant. For Daesh that is an effective attack and a leveraging of Paris.
Depending on how any number of world events go, the economy could worsen or improve. That will affect of us and have some influence on what we can do within virtual worlds. That affects how successful the worlds can be.
My point is we cannot know the future. If you’re an optimist the world will right itself and both Sansar and SL will grow. As a pessimist… the sky is falling. Which is more likely just a matter of what you think.