Second Life was the pioneer of virtual worlds, possibly the first example of the metaverse. Launched in 2003, and still popular with diehard fans, Second Life has fallen out of favor and other virtual worlds have overtaken it. These include gaming environments such as Roblox and Fortnite, which now boast hundreds of millions of users. Second Life only has about a million active users, although there are 73 million registered accounts.
But Second Life appears to be maneuvering towards a comeback. Does Second Life need a revival and, if so, can its owners upgrade it to modern, metaverse standards?
Does Second Life Need to Make a Comeback?
It’s an interesting question. Some diehard users feel that Second Life is awesome as it is and doesn’t need to change a thing. However, bear in mind that, for the shareholders of Second Life, it is a business.
To continue giving decent returns to its shareholders in the face of the oncoming onslaught from the metaverse, it must improve. From their perspective, a comeback is just what the doctor ordered.
To that end, Philip Rosedale, who founded Second Life in 2003 and left in 2010, is returning to serve as a Strategic Advisor. His return will bring with it an investment of both cash and patents into Linden Lab, which owns Second Life. He will also allocate a task force of seven people from his VR software company, High Fidelity, to Second Life.
Can Second Life Change to Meet Modern Standards?
Second Life began in 2003 as a nondescript island with some trees on it. Then, players—known as residents—showed up, bought land, cleared the trees, and started building a whole new virtual world. Second Life is a virtual world that its residents built from the ground up, literally.
Second Life is not a game, unlike Roblox or Fortnite. In Second Life, there are no goals or objectives for residents to achieve. Second Life is a place where people hang out together and buy and sell virtual items to each other. In that sense, it is not competing with the game-based superstars of the metaverse.
Second Life also hosts a significant virtual economy. According to Linden Lab, it has an annual GDP of $650 million with 345 million transactions of virtual goods, real estate, and services.
It may generate a significant amount of revenue, but Second Life is relatively old. Its keyboard and mouse controls, and blocky graphics, look old-school today. Second Life is miles behind the high-tech worlds that Facebook and Microsoft will deliver via VR headsets.
Can Second Life upgrade to modern standards? Can it get inside VR headsets? Yes, it can. To protect its revenues, it must do so. It appears that this is exactly what Rosedale and his team, all VR tech experts, have arrived to do.
In an interview with Spectrum, Rosedale implied he will focus on adding 3D audio technology from High Fidelity into Second Life. This makes sense since the industry hasn’t yet fully developed the VR technology that moves avatars around physically. Once they have, residents will be able to have real-time audio conversations just as they would in the physical world.
Second Life Must Upgrade and Differentiate
With Rosedale’s arrival, Second Life is on a path to upgrade its audio and graphics, eventually deploying into high-resolution VR headsets. The virtual world is still a fairly successful business, but it will stay small compared to the new kids on the metaverse block unless it upgrades.
Second Life also needs to differentiate itself sharply away from its metaverse competitors. Philip Rosedale has indicated that he is looking to build on Second Life’s subscription-based business model. It’s the exact opposite of what he called, in a Linden Lab press release, the “ad-driven, behavior modification dystopias” that Meta and other big players may deliver.
If he pulls that off as well, Second Life will be an oasis for millions of people who value their privacy and will be a formidable force in the metaverse.
Despite launching in 2003, people still play Second Life, inhabiting the virtual world long past the peak of its popularity. But why?
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