Second Life is falling off the mainstream radar, ironically Linden Labs is making a potentially hazardous move to try to become more mainstream. I have to ask: Is the party over in SL?
SL’s Declining coverage
I am noticing a major shift in the attention that Second Life has been getting lately. Mainly it is getting a lot less of it. I have an RSS aggregator dedicated to SL which pulls stories from the biggest and best SL outlets I can find.
I used to feature Reuters, they dropped covering SL. Same with Wired. Electric Sheep Company seems to be pulling out of SL and blogging less. I yanked them all.
Of the ones that are left, they are still covering SL, but at a reduced rate. Former Second Life Herald, now Alphaville Herald (thanks to trademark enforcement) is shifting to Metaplace and other VW coverage. Massively, a site dedicated to all online gaming that bought up SLNN for more SL coverage, still has the occasional SL story, but only when there is some interesting development. They no longer seek out the stories themselves. Of the other blogs I list, only New World Notes continues to blog regularly. To keep the aggregator busy I added Koinup popular places and the Second Life Bloggers group at ning.com.
Mainstream press in general no longer seems that much interested. Part of me suspects that when SL was being judged by the number of accounts, the tens of millions generated some interest. Now that the “active” account number seems to hover around 500,000 and hasn’t grown much in nearly two years, its considered old news.
A couple of years ago the announcement to section off a continent for “adult content” would have gotten a few mentions in the mainstream press. Today nary a blip. The last SL story to get mainstream press coverage was last November’s headline of a real world divorce over the husbands SL “cybering” with another player. It was a strange human interest story, but that kind of thing happens a lot more often than you think. That story reinforced SL’s reputation as a “cyber sex” haven. The recent “adult content” announcement was an attempt to lessen that reputation.
“Adult Content” Continent
As I have said before, the age verification is a game changer. There has been quite a confusing discussion about what exactly counts as “adult content” and many players are upset that Linden Labs is engaging in censorship.
What LL is proposing is a new mainland continent where adult content will be allowed reachable only by acconts that have been age verified or that have used a credit card for billing. The general consensus is this will be a “ghetto” continent, which could eventually be closed completely if LL decides it is necessary.
Personally I have a suspicion that this may backfire completely on every level. First of all, you are going to lose some of the 500,000 active players who no longer want to have anything to do with SL, best case is that they are replaced with new active players not looking for adult content.
But from my perspective, there are unforeseen benefits to this island. Adding verification for admittance means there will be no “kids” on this island, no “alts” or “alt griefing”, the vast majority of people allowed will be paying customers with lindens to spend, few “noobs”, few free accounts = no lag due to “camping”, and no one complaining about the content there, because everyone goes in knowing what to expect.
No doubt the immediate focus of this continent will be on the adult content, but these other ancillary benefits may actually drive more really active players there, possibly making the adult continent more popular than any other continent, possibly making the rest of SL the “ghetto”. A recent NWN post agrees with my assessment.
If Linden Labs sets the adult content bar real low (like no nudity) and strictly enforce it, this will almost certainly be the outcome. If this does occur SL’s reputation may continue to sour. New players will find new obstacles to the “good content”, ultimately driving a wedge into the community as a whole.
On the other hand, If they set the bar real high (like no XXX porn anything less is OK) and don’t enforce it much, it will change SL not at all and then LL can tell anyone interested that they are doing “something” about it without really doing anything. The new adult only continent really will become a “ghetto” no one wants to go to. Unfortunately, lax enforcement will lead to more player complaints ultimately driving a wedge into the community as a whole anyways.
Either way the community loses. Linden Labs has put themselves in a tough position that will affect every player one way or another.
Based on interviews at NWN and reports from the SL forums, there is lots of contradictory info coming out of LL’s offices. If they hope to have these policies in place by the end of summer, they got a lot of work ahead.
A divided community is an unhappy community, opening the door to the next cool thing taking away LL’s business. The party in SL will truly be over, moved to another venue.