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Second Life businesses on life support?

Wherever people gather in sufficient numbers, the unwritten rule is, there’s money to be made out of them. And so it goes that within the virtual world of Second Life, with enough people, the money should flow, right?

Currently, that’s not entirely been the case for those business currently in residence, though enough have tried to make it work.

I’ve never played around with Second Life or any other MMOG (Massively Multi-Player On-Line Game).

Anything that asks a monthly fee from me is just too much of a financial burden, given my work commitments and the intermittent nature of my personal time.

Plus, I like Quake 4 and Halo far too much to make time for the likes of Second Life!

Fools rush in where other retailers fear to tread

You can’t blame those businesses who entered Second Life for being early adopters. They’re the trail-blazers, the ones who walk the commercial path least trodden.

So far, Second Life isn’t working out for them, but that’s the nature of marketing and of business in particular; everything is a test, with no real guarantee of success.

However, any test done properly is a measurable one. So, be your business experiment a success or failure, there will be enough data to tell you why.

Right now, there’s probably not the right mix of people in Second Life to make the whole commercial thing pay. And some financial figures for Second Life unearthed by the very mentionable TechCrunch article sort of suggest that.

The thing is, with places like Second Life, and more so with World of Warcraft and most other MMORPGs (Massively Multi-Player On-Line Roll-Playing Games) – which incidentally are a growing source of revenue – is that they’re places of refuge and escapism, not a venue for more advertising and product placement.

So right now, the business model is probably all wrong. Maybe the angle for those who’ve got the spend to buy themselves an island on Second Life ought to be thinking long-term, rather than concentrating on virtual foot traffic into their on-line stores.

And when I say long-term, I’m thinking that in the meantime, these early adopter businesses ought to look at their spend now as an awareness campaign, with any measurable ROI sitting on the horizon somewhere.

I believe that what they will learn from now on will put them in very good stead, once iSociety becomes a reality. Given those businesses with Second Life a competitive edge over those coming along later.

What we’re seeing is a second tier to society, one that’s massively interconnected, allowing people from all walks of life to collaborate, share, interact and communicate. This isn’t a split in society – those who have and those have not – but an extension, if you like.

This off-shoot of society, which I’ve dubbed iSociety is a bridgehead between the really real world and the virtual worlds that exist on the Internet. But I’ll be discussing that more in the next installment.

But let’s not forget that the web itself has its very own social customs, more commonly referred to a ‘Netiquette, which offer a very telling insight into the nature, scale and importance bestowed upon the web by the likes of you & me.

As more and more lay-people see the value in this second tier to society, and accessing these worlds within worlds becomes more socially acceptable and easy enough your grandmother to make sense of, then you’ll see the businesses coming back.

By then, we might have moved beyond the current stage of advertising and into something of a scale, scope and value that bares little or no relationship to what we call advertising today.

But the lingering question still remains, how to get more people into MMOGs?

To be continued…

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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