Second Life developer Linden Lab today announced a strategic restructuring that will see it invest in new initiatives, including the development of a browser-based version and the use of social networks to extend the Second Life experience even further. At the same time, the company hopes to become more cost efficient, and to this end has chosen to prune its staff by 30%. Apparently, it has already shut down its UK and Singapore offices while reducing staff in San Francisco, Seattle and Mountain View. Linden also bid farewell to the entire enterprise division.
A virtual world has to be based in an imaginary setting, right? Wrong. An upcoming virtual world called Project X is likely to please those who find current virtual worlds too surreal or outre. Micazook, the start-up behind Project X, wants people to turn its virtual world into a replica of our planet piecemeal. It closely resembles Google Maps with Street View, save for the fact that users can interact with each other using 3D avatars.
Members can further bring Project X closer to the real thing by lending 10 to 15 minutes of their precious time in creating the buildings themselves – from building a virtual copy of your entire neighborhood to a famous local landmark. The developers want the users to contribute to Project X with the same zest as they display on other crowdsourced sites like Wikipedia. However, Micazook has every intention of profiting from its creation and to this end plans to impose a 30% levy on each virtual item sold. Furthermore, users will need to shell out $4.99 each month for each building they want to own.
As Project X is a browser-based virtual world, it requires a plug-in to deliver hardware-accelerated 3D graphics. It is due for a change of name before its beta launch a “few weeks” from now.
If ever there was a case for parental controls, it's this: According to Virtual Worlds Management, there are now over 200 youth-oriented virtual worlds live, planned, or actively being developed. In other words, rather than grab a ball and glove after school, kids left on their own with access to a computer will literally have hundreds of virtual worlds to choose from and plenty of opportunities to spend their allowance.
When broken down into worlds targeting kids (7 and under), tweens (8-12), and teens (13+), VMW says "the kids market is the clear leader," noting 107 worlds are banking on at least part of their audience consisting of kids in the under-7 range. To make money off these markets, 59 of the virtual worlds use micro-transactions, giving users free access to the world but charging for virtual goods. Another 57 worlds follow the subscription based model, and 46 use advertising, VMW says.
According to a recent report enterprise virtual worlds are much more effective than web conferencing for conducting business. The report is based on the idea that possessing the ability to expand, introduce characters and produce virtual presentations in a simulated environment will easier and more cost effective.
In fact, the technology has already been demonstrated. At Fall IDF 2007 Pat Gelsinger gave an on-stage presentation lasting nearly a half-hour entirely though Second Life. He displayed how simple it was for users to create their on avatars, and engage in virtual business. It’s even expected that shopping will take a virtual turn sometime soon, with online shoppers viewing texture maps instead of products and virtual sales assistants instead of store clerks.
While this idea is cool, it sounds shockingly familiar. Either way, the potential for twenty-something, extremely fit avatars walking into business meetings seems extremely high, and that’s an idea that I can only promote.
Although trustworthy subscription figures are still awaited, Second Life undoubtedly is the most populated virtual world. It was launched five years ago on June 23, 2003. Second Life’s developers have planned a fest to mark its 5th anniversary. The celebrations will be confined to the Second Life world only.
The extended birthday bash is scheduled to last for two weeks from June 23rd to July 7. Obviously, there will be self-laudatory speeches from the Linden Labs top brass detailing exactly how Second Life has changed the world. Anyways, the fest is being plugged as a cultural event.
Second Life’s developers are trying to churn out a clean event with a PG rating and have expressly proscribed mature content in any of the exhibits.