Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Serious Games: A Walk On The Virtual Side

Serious Games landing in Second Life


Copyright 2006, Linden Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Extracts from Forbes.com - by Elizabeth Corcoran


Second Life, created by San Francisco-based Linden Lab, is both easy and difficult to explain: Science fiction fans will recognize it as an attempt to create the visions of cyberspace described in novels by authors like William Gibson and Neal Stephenson. Another explanation: It’s a video game, like World of Warcraft or Grand Theft Auto, that lets players wander around doing whatever they’d like.


Copyright 2006, Linden Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved

It is easier to describe Second Life’s growth: Very fast. Second Life went live in June 2003. Last December, it had 92,000 users, and about 4,200 typically played at one time. Now the site has topped a million unique customers and on Sunday crossed the threshold of 18,000 users at a single time. Half are from outside the U.S.; almost 44% are women.


Copyright 2006, Linden Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Those numbers are still tiny compared to Google's (Nasdaq):

GOOG - news - people ) YouTube or News Corp.’s (nyse: NWS - news - people ) MySpace, to name the two most prominent growth stories of the second tech boom. But the buzz about Second Life is growing even faster than its user base.


Copyright 2006, Linden Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Part of that growth stems from Second Life’s virtual economy, which theoretically lets users make money by buying and selling items and land in cyberspace; last week, a user claimed to have become a real-life millionaire based on her Second Life exploits.

Although in practice it might be hard for a single person to walk away with that big a check, users are steadily turning their Linden dollars into real ones. In October, for instance, Linden Lab paid a total of 917,000 real dollars to users in exchange for their virtual ones. Since October 2005, the company has paid out 6.8 million real dollars.


Copyright 2006, Linden Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Marketers love Second Life, or at least the idea of Second Life, as well. About 40 real-world companies have established beachheads, more for pumping up the “cool” factor of their brands than for moving real products. Sony BMG, the music label jointly owned by Sony Corp. (nyse: SNE - news - people ) and Bertelsmann AG, has a spot where musicians perform. In November, IBM (nyse: IBM - news - people ) and Dell (nasdaq: DELL - news - people ) opened big sites; the president of Nintendo of America has been making the rounds as well.


Copyright 2006, Linden Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Overall, visiting Second Life is a kinder, gentler experience than, say, playing the even more popular World of Warcraft online multiplayer game, which boasts 7.5 million users. There’s no question it’s great fun to custom-design oneself. But it’s a place that demands commitment, much like moving to another country means learning a new language and customs.



Copyright 2006, Linden Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved