by Pixeleen Mistral on 10/09/12 at 3:12 am
10-12% drop in player concurrency since February - daily signups swoon
There is no question Linden Lab CEO and Aston Villa fan Rod Humble knows his soccer. But Rod Humble seems to be taking a classic end-game page from the American football playbook - the Hail Mary pass - as he moves to market Second Life through a 3rd party -- Valve's Steam game portal/social network.
"Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster.”
- David Ogilvy
Current Second Life players have greeted the Steam announcement with some skepticism, wondering how SL's wonky user interface, exorbitant land tier fees, dated graphics, questionable customer service, and lack of structure will win over Steam players accustomed to a more polished experience -- and gameplay similar to Valve's own HalfLife.
If the SL experience disappoints the Steam hordes, look for a wave of bad word-of-mouth reviews and an upsurge in "griefing" and meta-gaming as some Steam players are bored and give up - or try to impose a PvP narrative on Second Life. Could this be why Linden Lab is only now turning to Steam as a marketing tool?
But at this point Humble may have little choice other than to chuck the ball toward the endzone and hope for the best.
Second Life player concurrency has been in steady decline since February according to Tateru Nino's Second Life statistical 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 the SL Elf Clan who happily abandoned SL for Inworldz, the long term viability of Second Life is a very real question.
In light of dropping interest in the game, a move to broaden the product line and presumably make use of the SL server farm for other products would be understandable. But the "shared creative spaces"/"shared creativity tool" products outside Second Life Humble promised over a year ago at the Second Life Community Conference 2011 are nowhere to be seen, so the Lab remains dependent on it's Second Life cash cow to fund new product development.
Could the new product delay have played a part in the departure of Bob Komin, Linden Lab's CFO and COO? The remainder of this year will be telling, as the Lab grapples with management changes in the wake of Komin's departure, un-met promises of new non-SL products, and a do-or-die encounter with Steam.