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  VW2007 Notes:  Keynote - Viacom’s MTV Networks and Nickelodeon  
Posted 2007-03-28 by Tony Walsh
At the Virtual Worlds 2007 conference today, I hastily typed out notes from the Keynote presentation. Following is a rather incomplete assembly of said notes. Caveat emptor.

KEYNOTE: Jeffrey B. Yapp, Executive VP, MTV Networks

MTV Goes Virtual

"Mind bending virtual worlds"

Talks about how no network has ever done this "watch TV, live TV"

Describes, fluffs VLB/VH

These new media models provide insights into our audience... how the audience behaves in the virtual world indicates how they will behave in the real one.

Compares the growth of TV, cable, advent of MTV as "first outlet for youth culture" 25 years later MTV is one of the world's most-recognized brands... new media co-exists with old media...

getting into virtual worlds is risky but the reward is profound...
- 99% of the audience is exposed to the brand when they come in world 85% interact with the brands.

Continue reading: VW2007 Notes:  Keynote - Viacom’s MTV Networks and Nickelodeon
  The State of Third Party ‘Second Life’ Development  
Posted 2007-03-20 by Tony Walsh
Linden Lab has released results from a survey conducted last month among members of the official Second Life Developer Directory, finding that the developer community at large has "almost tripled in employees and income related to Second Life during the last 3 months." About 30% of the 90 official developers (comprising 50 full-service and 40 consultants) responded.

Based on my experiences talking with third party developers at SXSW, there's an explosion in business underway reminiscent of the dot com boom. It's great to see so much money flowing into virtual worlds, but as I've written before, I hope we don't repeat history here.

Following are some stats from the survey, provided by Linden Lab...

Continue reading: The State of Third Party ‘Second Life’ Development
  Notes: ‘Online Games: Beyond Play and Fantasy with Joi Ito and Justin Hall’  
Posted 2007-03-12 by Tony Walsh
Following are my abbreviated notes from the SXSW panel Online Games: Beyond Play and Fantasy with Joi Ito and Justin Hall.

Joi begins...

World of Warcraft vs Second Life: The comparison is stupid. It's apples and oranges. The same split as between MOOs (SL) and MUDs (WoW).

Wow -and- SL: I use SL to plan guild activities. It's geared more towards socialization and simulation, but I don't socialize in Second Life.

[pulls up slide Justin made of the WoW interface, shows how it's actually not so complex]

Continue reading: Notes: ‘Online Games: Beyond Play and Fantasy with Joi Ito and Justin Hall’
  Xbox Live:  6 Million Strong  
Posted 2007-03-06 by Tony Walsh
Microsoft is giddy as a sugar-high schoolgirl over its latest Xbox Live stats: Over 6 million gamers are members of the service, spending a cumulative 2.3 billion hours online since the network's launch back in 2002. Microsoft says the 18-34 male audience on Live "is comparable in size to the same audience tuning in to see the most popular network TV shows like CSI or The Office," an appropriate comment give the service's foray into on-demand TV content. With this many eyeballs at stake, can interstitial ads be far behind?

Xbox Live hit 4 million members last October, 2 million members in July, 2005, and 1 million members in July, 2004.
  ‘Second Life Relay for Life’ Raises 2.2M Linden Dollars in 3 Weeks  
Posted 2007-03-03 by Tony Walsh
"Second Life Relay For Life" (SLRFL), an annual event supporting the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life campaign, has raised over $2.2M Linden Dollars in the virtual world Second Life over the past three weeks. That's roughly $7,700 USD in virtual currency which will be cashed out to fight cancer. Teams of charitable avatars are busy raising funds--even accused griefer group W-Hat. Nice to see that even the most notorious scallywags have joined this noble effort.

Several fund-raising events are scheduled today. One of the largest SLRFL teams, known as Spirit Chasers, is holding a date auction tonight at 7pm Pacific Time on Raziel Vesperia island [direct teleport]. Launched in 2005, Second Life Relay For Life raised over $40k USD last year, attracting over 1,000 participants in its 24-hour walkathon.
  What’s the Truth About the Sex Industry in ‘Second Life’?  
Posted 2007-02-08 by Tony Walsh
At last year's South by Southwest conference, Reuben Steiger (then of Linden Lab, and now of Millions of Us) spoke as part of a panel entitled "How to Be a Virtual World Entrepreneur," where he revealed that roughly 30% of what goes on in Second Life is comprised of "naughty economy" transactions.

Today, prominent Second Life blogger James Au posted a "Sexual Census of Second Life," where he first says "it's never been clear how that [30%] figure was arrived at," and then goes on to say the 30% figure is "just about the strangest claim in the world." Instead of 30%, he guesses wildly, it's "maybe much less" than 5%. Later, he goes after a critic, imagining that "30% of commerce in Second Life is sexual is totally far-fetched." Yeah. Except that it's totally not far fetched at all.

At. All.

Now, we do not have a reliable indication this year (that I am aware of) of the level of sexually-based transactions. Nor are we likely to, as Linden Lab is surely terrified of revealing just how much porn its residents are into. But if I had to make a wild guess, I'd say it's the same percentage as last year. Thirty. Not frikkin' five.
  Grow Your Own Virtual World With ‘Packet Garden’  
Posted 2007-01-24 by Tony Walsh
Grow Your Own Virtual World With ‘Packet Garden’
Mash up 3D data visualization, virtual worlds, and lifelogging with Packet Garden, a software-based art experiment that monitors your internet usage, generating a 3D microworld based on the servers you visit and the kinds of data you access. Uploads create hills, downloads create valleys, and plants are grown based on the type of services you use (such as web browsing or P2P file sharing).

Created by Julian Oliver, Packet Garden is free (released under the GNU/GPL license) software available for Linux- OSX- and Windows-based computers. I'd love to see the functionality expanded to offer a shared "universe" containing generative Packet Garden worlds populated by dynamically-spawned avatars. I'm thinking of a crossbreed between Packet Garden and VisitorVille. Visitorville is a 3D, avatar-based visualization of web traffic that looks like a cross between The Sims and Sim City. User-created content is hot today, but content created automatically from organic data sources is the future (see Justin Hall's Passively Multiplayer concept).
  Realistic ‘Second Life’ Numbers Reported  
Posted 2007-01-06 by Tony Walsh
In the comments section of David Kirkpatrick's recent Business 2.0/Fortune piece "Why Second Life Numbers DO Matter," the writer wrings realistic Second Life data out of Linden Lab CEO Philip Rosedale:

  • 1,525,670 unique people have logged into SL at least once. This is based not on unique IP addresses, but unique email addresses and/or billing information supplied. At the time of this writing, 2,392,465 total "residents" are listed on the Second Life home page. That means there are 886,795 accounts that have either never logged in, or are alternate accounts (owned by a single user).
  • 252,284 people have logged in more than 30 days after their account creation date. In 2004, over 45% of registrants were still active after 30 days. Today, 15% of registrants are still active after 30 days. Between September and October, 2006, "The absolute number of those still returning after 30 days grew 23%"

Clay Shirky, who raised a high-profile stink last month about Second Life's numbers, finds that "The '2.3 million user/77% growth in two months' figures would have meant 70 million Second Life users this time next year. 250 thousand and 23% growth will mean 3 million in a year's time, a healthy number, but not hyperbolic growth." I'm not confident that the 23% growth rate will hold, given the instability of the platform, but I'm prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

Continue reading: Realistic ‘Second Life’ Numbers Reported
  ‘Second Life’ User Retention in 2006 and Beyond  
Posted 2006-12-18 by Tony Walsh
Last month, Linden Lab CEO Philip Rosedale put Second Life's retention rate at about 10%, based on users who still log in weekly after 3 months. Today, writer Wagner James Au relays new info from Linden Lab revealing that 12-15% of users log in after 30 days--a number that has been "steady over the last year." I'm fairly sure this indicates repeat usage in 2006 dwindles from 12-15% in the first 30 days, down to about 10% after 90 days. I'm a terrible number-cruncher, however, so feel free to set me straight.

Whatever the actual retention-rate, I envision it dropping this month, and for as long as Second Life's system is intermittently hobbled by the crushing weight of 2 million registrants and 18,000 concurrent users. I'm pretty sure the user experience for the first 8 or 9 months of 2006 was about on par with most of 2005 in terms of system stability. The last quarter of this year, though, an explosion in demand for system resources by new users has resulted in significant, ongoing technical issues--the kind that are bothersome to veteran users (who are likely to wait out the storm), let alone newbies (who are likely never to return).

Thinking further ahead, I wonder how the look and feel of Second Life's universe, weathering over time, could affect retention. I think the platform is noticeably dated (despite some nifty cosmetic upgrades over the years). If better experiences become available in 2007 and beyond, there will be fewer incentives to stay in Second Life (beyond the "make your own stuff" attractor). Multiverse? Areae? I'm looking at you.
  ‘Second Life’ Scores 2 Million Signups  
Posted 2006-12-14 by Tony Walsh
Virtual world Second Life surpassed two million signups today, after hitting one million signups a mere two months ago. Last year around this time, only 100k people had signed up for a Second Life account. According to virtual world owner/operator Linden Lab, the milestone number of registrations does not factor in incomplete signups, suspended, or cancelled accounts. It's worth mentioning that today's milestone also doesn't reflect how many people actually use Second Life. Usage and user-retention rates have been under increasing scrutiny now that 2005's hype-dust has begun to settle, with Linden Lab's CEO citing a 10% retention rate, and blogger Van Hemlock finding that average users spend between 3 and 48 hours in Second Life before leaving for good.

The onslaught of new signups is having a noticeable adverse impact on the performance of the Second Life platform, affecting various databases that govern such things as avatar inventory and search functionality. With the number of concurrent users peaking higher each month, it's clear that despite the spectre of low retention rates, and the upswing in technical problems, the overall active population is increasing. Peak concurrency hovers around 16,000 users--about double the concurrency in September, 2006.
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