Monday, 5 March 2007

Is There A Point To Second Life?

I am not a “Second Lifer” if that is what you call people who divulge, and to be honest I do not really see what the attraction is. Firstly for those who don’t know what it is there is a detailed definition on Wikipedia, in simple terms it is a virtual world on the internet where you can interact with others as whoever you want to be.

I have been thinking about why people would actively take part in Second Life, and as of February 2007 there were 4 million people that do. Understanding that people may be going there to get away from it all, being someone else, leaving your life or troubles behind and linking up with like type people could be plausible reasons. When you then learn that people do this full time, and there is a currency in this “world” I can not really comprehend what the appeal is. Does Second Life not just encourage people to lie about who or what they are? Is it safe to be let loose in a world like this, especially for the young and vulnerable?

Second Life clearly has hit a chord with millions and it has even reached the business world as there are companies and brands entering into this world. I was astonished when I heard that there was a contest running to set up a business plan in the virtual world. I really have to question what is the point of investing a company’s time and money to this venture? If you are interested the winner was a company called Market Truths. What I found interesting was that the main reason that they won was because they have real life experience of carrying out market research for years. Surely Market Truth are only treating this as a PR opportunity which they can use in real life, what other benefit can they be getting from this? The aim is to carry out research on the “people” in Second Life but what is the point? The results will be meaningless as sample segmentation will be ridiculous. How can you make decisions based on research that is captured through surveys of people using real life gender, in world gender, real world age, in world age, race, size etc etc.. But the most fundamental question is how can you trust the responses form a world where lies are common place?

This has not stopped companies like Toyota, General Motors and American Apparel from entering but they really can’t be seriously treating this as strategic marketing activity. Vodafone are one of the latest companies to talk about opening a store in Second Life, but are they doing this with a hope of creating revenue in the virtual world or trying to connect to people that they hope will find an affinity with them in the real world. I would suggest it will be the latter as I find it very difficult to believe real money can be made, for businesses, in Second Life.

As I said at the start I have not ventured in, and I doubt I will in the future. I have however watched an hour long presentation showing a glimpse inside Second Life delivered by Philip Rosedale & Cory Ondrejka. If you want to see it take a look.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on Second Life whether it be from an individual or business usage perspective.

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