Friday, December 15, 2006

Two Million

It happened, sometime last night Second Life's total residence went beyond the two million mark. In my personal travels of late I am meeting a lot of new users from Spain, Romania, and other European countries, so it seems that Linden's gamble of opening up registration a bit to be more inclusive of other areas in the world where having a credit card is a little less common paid off. But before we get to overwhelmed with the two million mark, let's take a skeptical view of this number.

The total residents number is inaccurate. Many users have one or more alts, plus Linden has not disclosed that I'm aware of how long they keep inactive accounts around. There was also the password compromise issue a few months ago, that caused many users to have to create new accounts, so there might be a sizable glut of non-active accounts still counted toward the total residents that will never be used again.

The following list of numbers provided by the Linden's is probably a truer way of gagging SL's usage.

I'd say that the residents logged in over the last 14 days is probably the most accurate number to use for gagging how many people are using SL. Second Life has about 325,000 active users. Still an impressive number considering when we first started looking at Second Life back in March there were a total of about 155,000 total users. Also back in March at peak times around 6:30 PM SL time we would see concurrent usage hit just shy of 5,000 users. Now I am seeing close to 17,000 at peak times. Plus that number now doesn't really dip below 10,000, where in the old days late at night I would see SL usage drop down in the low 2,000's.

So, in reality what we are seeing with Second Life is a lot of hype, a lot of people checking out SL, and then a lot of people shrugging their shoulders and leaving. Not good. I think in some ways the hype has hurt the Second Life environment, as more people come in seeking money and fame, and this has hurt the "fun" element of Second Life. There are less and less fun things to do, I don't see as many role-playing groups active in SL as there where when the number of total players was less. Yet there is no shortage to malls and virtual strip clubs and casinos. Those only entertain for so long.

So, what has been the rate of growth for Second Life over the last year? I would guestimate that the true user base of Second Life has grown a little over 3x. Very, very respectable, but not 15x which some will claim just by taking a very cursory look at the numbers.

What does this mean for SL? Retention of the user base is a huge issue. Right now they have the hype working for them, but that will only take SL so far if the virtual environment doesn't keep people wanting more. We need more virtual amusement parks, more games, more mercenary groups, more fighting, more serious usage which will be totally dependent upon Linden getting the platform stable and adding a few more controls, and less lag. Else Second Life will be nothing more then a niche virtual environment that will be a foot note in history.


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