Wheaton Rants: I Told You So, Second Lifers

Virtual World Isn't a Marketing Paradise

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So sad. Based on the actions of Google in the virtual world space, it looks like some are making funeral arrangements for Second Life. Sure, I'm throwing dirt in the grave while it's still drawing air, but let's face it: What little usefulness Second Lifers had (a target for mockery, I guess), they've long since outlived.

Let me be clear. It's not Second Life itself that's annoyed me to such an extent I feel like dancing a jig on a virtual grave. If Second Life can eke out a living by getting more money from its citizens, that's a good thing. No. All along, it was the boosters -- especially those in the ad world looking to cash in by suckering convincing marketers what a marketing gold mine Second Life would be. Buy an island! Build a store! And the press releases for all those fake parties with fake booze!

I'm sure all those marketers who've poured anything more than $150 into developing islands in this place are kicking themselves. With the economy being what it is, just think what they could have done in the real world with that real-world money (actually, not much, I imagine). As I've said before, the problem with Second Life is that it's a fake world, in which fake money is spent. Now call me crazy, but if I'm a major marketer I don't know that I want to spend marketing dollars in a land where people go to virtually cheat on their spouses. Besides, despite claims to having over 1 million users, I don't think anyone was convinced that Second Life ever saw anywhere near those numbers active at any one time. (World of WarCraft, on the other hand, now that's a different story.)

Hey, remember when we were given the list of Top Ten Reasons Brands Don't Get Second Life? I sure do. I tried to explain that "not wanting it" and "not getting it" are two entirely different things. And the typical Web 3.5 (or whatever) boosters rushed into the breach to tell me how wrong I was. Even as the actual numbers were already slipping, they were telling me (in comments on this post) that "in 5 years, Gartner predicts 80% of people will have a Second Life of some sort." I'm sure Gartner was counting on no one actually keeping count. Or maybe it planned on revising what "a 'Second Life' of some sort" meant. (The first person who claims that his or her Mii is a Second Life of some sort will get a virtual slap.)

Hey, maybe one day technology will be there. And maybe, even more importantly, the people will be there. But for now, Second Life qualifies as -- at best -- a niche market, something slightly more easy to monetize than Twitter and Facebook. But just because you can cram ads into something used by the smallest sliver of the population doesn't necessarily mean you should.