It was only a matter of time.
Once the press release is done, and you’ve gotten the positive publicity for opening up a shop in Second Life, one of many virtual worlds online, it turns out a lot of people don’t come back to visit.
And it’s no wonder. Despite its claims of 8 million registered users, only 30,000 – 40,000 are online at any given time during peak periods. While that seems like a lot of people, it pales in comparison to the millions that watch an average sitcom, or the hundreds of thousands that will review a newspaper or magazine ad. And unlike those media, people in Second Life have to make a conscious effort to come to your store (or embassy, or whatever) and have a need fulfilled. Since its a virtual world, what possible need would you have for visiting a virtual clothing store (in a world where clothing is optional), a car maker (in a world where teleportation is the transportation method of choice), a hotel (you’re already on a virtual vacation from life), or sneakers (your virtual feet feel no pain regardless of footwear choice).
Indeed, businesses (and even artists) are sometimes attacked in Second Life by troublemakers and anarchists. Apparently the police in Second Life aren’t more knowing about antisocial behaviors despite having game tools that give them far more power than other users.
The Los Angeles Times has the story:
Ludlow isn’t impressed. He said most firms were more interested in the publicity they received from their ties with Second Life than in the digital world itself. “It was a way to brand themselves as being leading-edge,” he said.
Angry avatars have taken virtual action. Reebok weathered a nuclear bomb attack and customers were shot outside the American Apparel store. Avatars are creating fantasy knockoffs of brand-name products too.
Great, so not only do you have to put up with bomb attacks on your virtual store (geez, I guess terrorism is allowed in virtual worlds?), you also have to put up with people ripping off your trademarks. Sounds like a lot of fun for everyone!!
But maybe Second Life has hit its peak already, given there are only so many ways you can have virtual sex with pixels:
Between May and June, the population of active avatars declined 2.5%, and the volume of U.S. money exchanged within the world fell from a high of $7.3 million in March to $6.8 million in June.
Now, one month does not make a trend and perhaps SL is just experiencing a summer slowdown as many people decide to enjoy their First Life outside in the sunny weather. Time will tell, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Second Life has reached as many people as are interested in the kind of world it has to offer.