SL Population Crash Continues

by Pixeleen Mistral on 11/04/11 at 2:01 am

How can player concurrency sink to 2008 levels despite 10,000+ new accounts per day?

According to Tateru Nino's SL statistics charts, the last 12 months have seen a 12% drop in concurrent online Second Life players, with concurrency levels falling to July of 2008 levels. Sadly, there is no sign of a turnaround in sight.

Even worse, it appears that despite claims of over 10,000 new account signups per day (or about 3,650,000 signups/year), the appeal of Second Life has become more selective and the Lab has been unable to recruit enough new blood to replace departing players since January of 2009.

This cannot end well.

median conc by day400
median concurrency by day in serious decline over the last year
SL concurrency peaked in Jan 2009 - then fell to July 2008 levels

Apparently SL has evolved into a niche market. Once this market stabilizes, will it be large enough to support the Lab at anywhere near it's current size?

Certainly visiting a surveillance-friendly virtual dystopia is an acquired taste, and not everyone wants to play stalk-and-ban-the-other-players, or hunt down 3rd party data miners tracking alt accounts. Of course there is always the challenge of running a virtual business for a shrinking population where in-world search is broken and frivolous DMCA claims fly, to say nothing of the charms of the babyfur and Gorean communities.

Still, if there are really over 10,000 newbies a day, why are the concurrency rates dropping like a stone?

Is the Viewer 2.0 experience to blame - or the eye-watering tier prices for virtual land? After last year's layoff of 30% of the Lab staff to balance the books, does the Lab have any room to cut land prices? While borked search, a lame viewer user interface and corrupt governance are serious issues, It seems likely that the biggest problem for Second Life is the adversarial relationship that has developed between the Lab and the players.

10,000 accounts created per day - but where do they go?

I wish Rodvik Linden the best of luck in saving Second Life, but the question remains - how much time does he have before another round of layoffs will be needed to stablize the Lab's financial situation?

As best I can tell, current customers have - understandably - minimal trust in Linden Lab based on the Lab's behaviour over the last 5 years. Although Rodvik has only been CEO since January, it is past time for the new CEO to articulate some sort of plan to reverse these trends. But what can be done?

A first step toward developing real trust between players and the Lab would be to level the playing field with an SL export function so that players do not see their content disappear in the event of SL's collapse. Is anyone foolish enough to put any serious money or effort into a platform that could disappear overnight without being able to salvage their assets?

Providing players with the option of backing up their goods outside of SL would formalize what is already happening on a low level via various copybot viewers, but this is not enough.

Allowing content creators to mark their wares to be sold as freely available for export to other platforms would go a long way to creating some incentive to bet on a turnaround in SL for those that create the content that makes up our virtual world. This idea is not new - in an unpublished interview last year,  Emerald viewer developer _Phox told me the Emeralds had planned to add a "for export" option to their SL viewer but were told by Linden Lab not to do it.

It would be a sea change for the Lab to acknowledge that the flawed digital rights management system of SL needs to be replaced, but establishing SL as the shopping center of the SL and OpenSim worlds would allow content creators to charge a premium for the right to copy across worlds - and move Linden Lab from the defensive posture it has adopted for the last few years. 

While these changes will be painful for some, the alternative is a lingering death caused by a lack of incentive for player investment of time and money in what is clearly a very deeply troubled platform. Will Rodvik Linden man up and take action - or continue to circle the drain?

67 Responses to “SL Population Crash Continues”

  1. Reader

    Apr 12th, 2011


    Funny one Paul.

    You reminded me of one entry I left off by mistake…

    No Motivation

    Thanks Man!

  2. bubblesort

    Apr 12th, 2011

    @Mark: It’s hard to call the Herald a business. Have you noticed the total lack of ads? This is coming out of somebody’s pocket directly. It’s probably not expensive, but I doubt that it generates any income.

  3. Nelson Jenkins

    Apr 13th, 2011

    @ Zyngolover

    Unfortunately, online gambling is illegal in the US.

    Sorry to burst your bubble on that one.

  4. Emperor Norton hears a who?

    Apr 14th, 2011

    bubblesort @ “It’s hard to call the Herald a business. Have you noticed the total lack of ads? This is coming out of somebody’s pocket directly. It’s probably not expensive, but I doubt that it generates any income.”

    You see. The Herald wants to destroy Second Life because they _care_. Sure they’ve been totally inept about it, and the Lindens have done far more harm to Second Life than then anyone at the Herald. But with the Herald there is passion, there is love, there is caring.

    Is it wrong to care?

  5. Yep

    Apr 17th, 2011

    Nelson Jenkins

    Apr 13th, 2011

    @ Zyngolover

    Unfortunately, online gambling is illegal in the US.”

    Right the FBI is arresting and closing down online gambling sites.

    I am wondering how long it will be until the IRS wants their piece of the pie from people who are making money on SL. With budget cuts across the board, the State and Federal Governments always look for ways to get additional money.

  6. Nelson Jenkins

    Apr 17th, 2011

    @ Yep

    Don’t get me wrong, I think people should be able to burn money as they see fit, but the bottom line is gambling in the US is illegal and SL is hosted in the US. Zyngo is gambling. That’s all there is to it. It’s just illegal.

    LL’s gambling policies are EXTREMELY strict so they don’t get taken to court on this – I wanted to enter the business a few months ago to make a shitload of money too, but after all the regulations it’s hard to even think of a game concept that would be remotely appealing, not to mention profitable.

  7. hobo kelly

    Apr 18th, 2011

    so like I was watching a new show on TV called Mega Bug Wars up on one of the high def channels… thats in real life not SL for gods sake, and its a show about focusing nasty bugs up real close in a macro lens while they battle and kill and eat each other.

    so like there was this Really Big Spider that was hunkered down in its hole. and its hole was located real near a trail where a lot of newbie insects trot back and forth. and as you would expect, here comes a newbie insect now, la tee dah, out for a stroll, just strolling along when… WHAM… the Really Big Spider jumps the newbie insect, takes it back to its lair where it never lets go while it sucks the insect’s guts out in a nice warm protein milkshake…

    all of a sudden I flashed on Second Life… and the Infohubs where all the newbies constantly come in through, and all the Big Spiders that plan and contrive and scheme and gnash their mandables together at the thoughts of how they can scrape those noobs for their money. Big Prok Spiders and MTW Spiders and Shang Spiders etc etc et al, whose existance depends upon a constant steady stream of noobs and their money…

    two words: Union Carbide. use it LL

  8. Alyx Stoklitsky

    Apr 22nd, 2011

    >Grid crashes in the first half of 2007

    Seeing it put a smile on my face.

  9. Dave Bell

    Apr 22nd, 2011

    The hidden threat may be the association of Second Life with an online gambling company. I don’t have current info, but the payments service used for non-US customers was going to be handled by Dragonfish, which is part of the same business entity as the online Poker operation.

    Not a target of the Feds this time, but I’d be surprised if questions were not asked.

  10. GG3

    Apr 23rd, 2011

    Second-Life’s decline can be thanked due to its own community. As a newbie a new user is faced with not only with a daunting menu-system but also the viciousness of users who have been on second-life for years.

    Second Life advertised as a place where one could express themselves, build, go shopping, and occasionally make money on the side.

    This couldn’t be father from the truth. The amount of scams along with the over-all general poor customer service provided by Linden Labs is a complete turn-off. Land-Barons who hustle the grid by over-charging and hitting up other users who are not as fortunate enough to own 20 or more sims at a time. Even the bigger hustler linden-labs providing tiers that are wallet-drainers that force others to bail-out. It’s a sad sight to see a virtual world cost over $100 or more real-life that could be easily provided in another service at a fair price!

    Prim limit is useless and choppy. A 6,800 sqm land can be capped at 2,000 prims yet a 4,800 sqm can have 3,000 prims. The only solution is to buy more land, and the more land available the more the tier costs increase, regardless of the amount of prims featured upon the parcel and varies.

    When an average user comes upon a client, they except to have fun and enjoy themselves, however THIS client’s fan-base made sure to make Second-Life as unfriendly to others as possible. Newbies are thrown without guide that would have been provided in another social-chat other-wise. Second-Life users are far TOO serious to began with and act as though Second-Life is their actual mortgage or car when it only exist in the virtual world! The cocky-land barons who suspect anyone under a week-old is a “griefer” (as PATHETIC a in-depth word to be used for a fake world!) and the over-all whinnyness of the average Second-Life user who cannot handle or deal with their own problems! The hubs remain lifeless or troll-infested simply because there is far too much restriction and seriousness.

    It’s a wonder how many useless Abuse-Reports clog Linden Lab’s box simply because an avatar refused to know the ways of the internet such as “tping” or “muting” and the over-all “control freak” vanity that exist upon the grid that has turned this client into a mundane slave-master of senile “sophistication”,”money” and “power”. It is sad how the Red-Zone scam happened all too easily that ended up breaking several real-life laws!

    The way Second-Life casually advertises itself as a “substitute” for real-life is another reason. Second-Life can never, EVER replace real-life and for those who have tried it usually ended up in much drama! Second-Life is suppose to be a place to socialize, but never to replace real-life responsibilities just as any client or game! This constant mix of reality and virtual-reality is the main reason why so much nonsense exist to began with!

    Second Life is not user-friendly, and certainly is NOT newbie-friendly by any-means. It is a place for scams, drama, and sadly favors more businesses than anything else. Newbies are left with no rows and eventually users who have been on Second-Life for some time become tired of all the butt-kissing methods that have gone around!

  11. Robert K

    Apr 26th, 2011

    This is my first posting here, and I’m surprised to find so much discontent. When I first started SL, 2 years ago, I was lucky to find a mature group that was fun to be with, and had a good sim development plan…Old Hollywood. They’ve joined with vintage Los Angeles RPCC to make 2 sims of enjoyable clubs and creative stores.

    I’m sure there are many such “mature” groups who welcome and nurture newbies, respect diversity, and who’s main purpose is having fun.

    There should be a classification for such sims: not just “Adult”, but “Mature” and “Newbie Friendly”. And maturity doesn’t neccessarily mean old age.

    I make a point of saying “Hi!” to any avatar I come across…you never know what interesting people you’ll meet.

  12. Alice

    May 3rd, 2011

    Well no wonder if “add friend” shows up before all other options, and SL is not like facebook where you must add people to contact them. SL is about socialising before making friends. To SL veterans a friend offer out of the blue is just bad manners and annoying. But how should a new person know , and how should they know the friend button loads 10 times faster than any others? And which engineer should I complain to that they gave preference on “Friend” instead “Message” button?
    Also, the introduction of 2 new user interfaces within a year which were both not widely accepted by the veterans or even new users, speak volumes. Just fails to try and re-invent the wheel, instead focusing on listening to what users really want. Yeah of course everyone wants it “easier” all the time, but nobody said SL must be easy. It must be possible to use it though and learn. When I first found information on SL, it was about socializing and making money with creative talent. Now imagine a newcomer who must use the new viewer, without building, grouping and money options. What the heck? SL has been a magnet for creatives and entertainment enthusiasts once. Now all those options are taken away from the standard viewer, and the advanced viewers are too much hidden to be found before people would give up disappointed. What happens? Well exactly above statistic. No surprise.

  13. archie

    May 4th, 2011

    Still fairly shitty avatar graphics, now if LL gave us some realism – the sex part (which sells SL) would take off again.

  14. A1A

    Aug 15th, 2011

    Another thing broken. I abandoned 8900+ meters of mainland last June right after my monthly $40 billing date. I moved to private sims. I reviewed credit card statements today and found that I got billed $40 in July and $40 again in August for mainland I do not have. I called the billing number listed on the SL web site, he told me that the billing number is not actually billing its just customer service and I had to submit a ticket. So I did. Looking at my SL account it shows I own no mainland but I cannot change my tier settings to $0 because it won’t let me change it from $40. I asked the poor English speaking customer service guy about this and he said this has been defective for a long time. So the moral of the story is, if you have abandoned mainland and have not checked your credit card statements to see if Linden Lab is still billing you for it, you may have a surprise coming. My question remains: How can a company the size of Linden Labs have a broken client accounting system and not make it a fix ASAP job for the tech people? After nearly four years and over five-grand spent in SL I quit. As soon as this issue is resolved I’m closing my account. These people cannot be trusted.

  15. [...] policies couldn’t be clearer. At the start of 2009, concurrency was on a high, as the Alphaville Herald shows. However, the start of that year saw what many took to be the final bait-and-switch tacttic [...]

  16. Yep

    Sep 2nd, 2011

    “The hidden threat may be the association of Second Life with an online gambling company.”

    No but it is a big hassle with the banks. Again being billed by LL triggered a red flag at my bank freezing my account until I contacted the fraud dept to fix it.

    This time my debit card was frozen and I did not know until I was at the checkstand paying for my purchase.
    Thank goodness i wasn’t out of gas stranded in the sticks .

  17. [...] charts (see charts below). Falling concurrency continues a trend the Herald pointed out in April 2011. With ongoing pricing pressure from other virtual worlds, and high profile group defections such as [...]

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