Second Life future has passed the point of no return. The grid has no future and there are two reasons for that: the short-sighted vision of Linden when it comes to Second Life and secondly, graphic technology. isn’t it ironic? The company, actually the same company, that managed to create a virtual world from scratch is now stuck chasing its own tail like a puzzled cat.
And yes, I’m referring specifically to Mesh. I wrote this article last year, although I published it a few days ago when this new website was released. So I think it’s time to explain myself more and go deeper into Second Life future.
In 2013 I had absolutely no doubt that Mesh would be the last nail in the coffin for Second Life. The future of this virtual world was at stake and, although Linden made the right call; they didn’t understand the effect they were causing. Or were they ? (it’s in the final part of this article)
The 2.0 Viewer as a Precedent
Linden released their 2.0 viewer version in 2008 (If I recall correctly). It was a complete disaster for different reasons. I don’t want to go into details because it is no the point of this article. However, what we learnt about viewer 2.0 is that Linden made the right call, but they failed when they put it into practice.
Linden knew what they had to do. The graphics needed to run faster. The UI had to be improved, easier and more simple. The Second Life learning curve had to be shorter. They released the viewer, but they achieved nothing of that. Second Life future required a new viewer, but version 2.0 was not the solution everybody was expecting.
Accused of Crying “Wolf”
When mesh was first introduced in 2011, many of us were accused of “crying wolf” instead of taking our points into consideration. It was obvious that we were in the same scenario than 2008. It was even more obvious than Linden was making the same mistake again. Linden’s lack of vision had produced the same outcome: they knew what was wrong and tried to fix it but failed. Probably because they were giving wrong solutions to the problems they had detected.
On the other hand, we can’t blame people for not believing in our dark prophecies. Let’s admit that the “Sky is Falling” has been a recurrent motto for many Second Life haters in the past. Second Life future looked brilliant with mesh. Mesh was appealing, modern, but above all: Mesh was realistic. It looked like the right approach and “Hell yes!” it was.
Mesh was the step into the right direction, but not in Linden’s hands.
Linden can’t take a step further without shooting themselves in the foot. It was the right move, the right decision and the right technology, but in the hands of a company that couldn’t foresee the effects or anticipate the problems and consequences of it.
Mesh Effects on Second Life Future & Economy
Let me try to analyze the effects that Mesh has had in the economy and Linden never seemed to understand.
Simplicity in Second Life Success
Grid’s population require tools that are simple and easy to use. Residents are not engineers or computer geeks, but people with interest and passion. Before mesh, all we needed was 2D skills and Photoshop. It was not easy, but it was doable for many many designers.
When it comes to mesh, residents also need 3d skills and that’s a completely different beast. 3D requires a learning curve that very few people, and even less residents can afford. It could take years to achieve some of the skills necessary.
When we think about it, one of the keys of success of virtual worlds are inworld tools. For Second Life it was the prim system. Yes, it was complicated at first sight, but in time many people learnt. We could argue that it was also cheesy and looked bad. However, it always worked and made the job. Minecraft would have something to say to about that.
So the question here is why Linden didn’t make the same with sculpts or mesh. You don’t have to be brilliant to copy yourself and duplicate the same pattern. Second Life future required an inworld tool to create mesh objects. Let’s put it in different words. What are the 2 words that define most of the 3D software? Difficult and/or expensive.
It was necessary to create an inworld tool as easy to use as the prim system and free. How many millions did Linden invest in Sansar? Why didn’t they put all that money into a new 3d tool that could be used in all kind of grids and metaverses?
However, they told residents to use expensive 3d software like 3D Studio or Maya and become 3D designers. If wishes were horses …
An Impact in the Economy
In the very beginning, many 3D designers began selling their mesh items as a business. Quality mesh items were expensive and looked like a business opportunity. One day they realised that they didn’t have to sell them full permissions to make money. They just had to keep them for themselves, like their customers were doing. Creators became retailers, and retailers had to close.
Eventually, Mesh ruled the fashion and building market. Sadly, there were only a few people capable of creating mesh. One could argue that it was a monopoly, but to be fair .. Second Life became an Oligopoly. A market controlled by a few designers supplying content. You just have to take a look at the mesh body market: how much competition exists ?
An Impact in the Creativity
And finally we get there. The result of an Oligopoly is the lack of creativity, just the opposite effect that Second Life experienced when they had an inworld tool and thousands of skilled residents willing to work.
In the past, Second Life future relied on those residents with small businesses and lots of different creativity. It was a key part of Linden’s success. Now, it’s just a small bunch of conformist people doing the same thing, developing the same items with poor innovation in the most profitable market possible inworld.
All retailers were buying from the same sources and trying to spread and make profit in a market with limited items. Original mesh creators, on the other hand, don’t feel threatened by competition today so the word that best describe them is “conformists”.
The clothing market, for example, has been taken by the same people. It’s not a surprise that many residents think that all clothes look the same now.
What Linden Can’t Fix
To be honest, the Linden’s path til mesh appeared in 2011 was impressive. I still think that Linden made a mistake anticipating the impact of mesh in the grid. However, there is something that Linden won’t be able to fix. If we analyse it carefully we understand It’s the main reason why Second Life has no future whatsoever.
Linden can’t put Second Life in a phone or a tablet. They can’t also reduce the computer requirements for the system. They can’t push people to buy expensive computers to use Second Life either. I say this because I want you to understand how important it was for Linden to open mesh to everybody. It was crucial that people already interested in Second Life could adopt meshes quick and easy and create content. Never happened.
If you are going to bleed residents because they have more options for entertainment (Netflix, Facebook, Minecraft, Instagram etc.) at least don’t throw away your strong points. It’s business 101 and makes wonder how on earth the marketing department in Second Life couldn’t see this coming. It just makes nonsense at all.
A Conspiracy Theory
Let me play a detective game in this last part of the article. This is just a game with lots of assumptions and no evidence. I don’t have any proof whatsoever about anything I will say from now on. It’s an educated guess.
Imagine that Linden CEO is writing his own SWOT analysis for the Second Life future. They know they are making money from the servers (land) and from transactions. The swot clearly states that they will lose population and resident base in the near future. This means 2 things: land and transactions might not be enough to keep the grid open as it is. They are going to lose money.
Now imagine that you are developing a new tool for Second Life. Mesh is going to be a game changer, that’s for sure. Second life will not look like nothing before. The question is why should Linden share the benefit and profit to residents. Mesh could be an opportunity for a few selected residents with skills, but also a lifeboat for Linden and Second Life future.
Linden as a Puppet Master
Let’s say you settle down barriers for residents to take advantage of mesh. For example, forcing people to use complicated or expensive software. After that, Linden could control the market like a puppet master creating mesh in the shadows. This would prevent small businesses from taking money from the grid and would generate an oligopoly easier to control. More money in Linden’s hands and the illusion that nothing has changed.
You could argue why Linden would destroy their own market. However, that’s not what they would be doing. The moment you can’t adapt Second Life to small devices, your technology is almost useless and doomed. If you are going to disappear anyway why not juicing up what’s left in the grid. The only valuable asset left is money from mesh. It was clear since 2013. If I were Linden CEO I would have taken mesh in the shadows and keep the money.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that Lindens are stupid. More often than what they think, their lack of coordination makes them look fool. When it comes to Second Life future and business they are not idiots. They know what’s best for their interests. However, as I said this is just a guess and a plausible explanation for all the mistakes Linden made with mesh.
Mesh was not the lifeboat everybody thought it would be. The way Linden developed the whole system has become the last nail in the coffin for the market. Second Life has no future because Linden didn’t take the steps necessary for mesh to help the grid. Instead, mesh has created an oligopoly or monopoly of residents that can supply content inworld.
This was not the philosophy that made Second Life popular and successful. And here we are bleeding residents and Linden struggling to survive with what’s left. It’s heartbreaking for me, but nothing that I didn’t see coming.
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