Second Life Squared
Second Life is the biggest thing going in the realm of virtual worlds, but with clones and niche focused competitors emerging, will SL remain at the top? Second Life has quickly taken a prominent position in our society since its inception in 2003 by Linden Research Inc. They’ve actualized (sort of) dream by creating both a millionaire and a rockstar. More substantially, SL function as one of the cutting-edge virtual classrooms for major colleges and universities, including Princeton, Harvard, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, New York University, and countless more. In a recent New York Times article, it was reported that more than 100 islands were built for educational purposes. Now, however, countless competitors are emerging in a fight for users; the most notable competitors include There (responsible for the for some of MTV’s virtual worlds), Active Worlds (originally built as a 3-D replacement for a 2-D web browser), and the sex-driven Red Light Center.
There are others emerging as well, as detailed in this exerpt from Raph Koster’s website: “Here’s word via Mobil Avenue on three different takes on the model, each trying to fix what they see as a key issue: HiPiHi in China, which looks like SL with easier tools; Planet Cazmo, which keeps the house decorating aspect but changes it into a browser-based Animal Crossing lookalike; and finally, reviews trickling out of the closed Kaneva beta, which is putting more MySpace peanut butter in your SL chocolate. Are they really SL clones?” Another world is MusicWorld3D – previously discussed in our interview with Jerry Bumpskey – with the finite focus of creating a world around musicians. Red Light Center and MusicWorld3D are interesting models because they approach the virtual world with a niche focus.
If these programs develop out on aspect of SL to perform better than the original, then we may see a series of fragmentation into multiple niches that could drastically reduce the number of Second Life residents. The other worry for the future of the Linden has to be the budding interest from big name corporations, as many people have been following rumors of Sony’s intentions of entering the virtual world market. There’s a rumored PS3 virtual world connection, and Microsoft is also working to integrate its Xbox 360 and Virtual Earth platforms. Given the broad reach of gaming consoles, it’s likely that we’ll see a merger/acquisition of a major virtual world with one of these consoles. If that entity doesn’t happen to be Second Life, then we may find a new leader of the pack. Second Life In Pop Culture
* In Sam Bourne’s 2007 thriller novel The Last Testament, Second Life plays an important part in the story and in cracking of codes.
* Second Life girls are rated #95 on the “Top 100 Hottest Females of 2007” in Maxim.
* Law & Order: Special Victims Unit parodies Second Life in its episode “Avatar”.
* Jimmy Kimmel & Jay Z were both made as Second Life characters and Jay Z had a virtual concert on Second Life at the same time as his real life performance on the Jimmy Kimmel Show.
* Second Life was featured prominently, and used as a tool to catch a suspect on an episode of CSI: NY ( Down the Rabbit Hole), which aired on October 24, 2007.
* Dwight Schrute from the US television series The Office is an avid Second Life player; this was featured prominently in the October 25, 2007 episode “Local Ad.” Dwight plays a character named ‘Dwight Shelford’ who is able to fly and creates a virtural world within Second Life, named Second Second Life.