Second Life is supposed to be available on Steam within a few months. Steam is an online game distribution platform that's captured about 70% of the downloadable PC game market. It provides 50+ million active users with access to more than 1500 games including Skyrim, LOTR, Age of Empires and Eve Online.
The power of Steam isn't just that it aggregates so many games into a centralized marketplace. The unique value it provides is wrapping games within an integrated social network, an online community, cloud-based configuration management and a virtual goods marketplace. So I wonder how integration with Streamworks and Steam Cloud is going to impact Second Life.
I doubt that hordes of gamers are going to bail out on their current games of choice, become active Second Life participants and end up hijacking the existing culture. But I think it's likely that Second Life culture will be impacted through the addition of Streamworks functionality such as forums, voice communication, matchmaking and configuration management. Unless Second Life is subsumed completely under Steam's umbrella, I wonder how Linden Lab is going to approach the difference in user experience for those who access Second Life via Steam.
Another big question mark is how the business arrangement between Valve and Linden Lab will play out in functionality and pricing. Will Second Life be free to play on Steam? Seems likely. If so, will Steam only get a cut from premium membership or will Linden Lab integrate its marketplace into Steam. Will Steam get a cut from land purchases and monthly tier? If so, will that impact the pricing or cost structure for everyone? Given the continuing decline of land ownership, will there be a change made to monetize the purchase of virtual goods? I guess it's even possible that Linden Lab will launch a new version of Second Life for Steam that is based on a completely different business model.
At the moment, I have a lot more questions than answers. Actually, zero answers. But it's interesting to think about.