Saturday, January 19, 2013

Tier Don't Matter: A Crystal Clear Depiction of Why Second Life Isn't Growing

There's been a lot of discussion recently about why Second Life's growth is stagnant . . . Is tier too high? Is the Marketplace eroding land ownership? Are wakadoodles ruining things for everyone?

Those factors may explain why some current users are cutting back on land ownership or even bailing out altogether. But they have nothing do with why hundreds of thousands of new registrations a month translate into zero growth in active users. There's one overwhelming roadblock to Second Life's growth. It's the terrible new user experience. See for yourself.

I shot these two videos a couple of years ago. The first video walks through IMVU's new user experience to provide context. The second follows a new user from clicking a Second Life banner through the first experience of rezzing. As you watch, notice factors that might motivate a typical new user to keep going, and at which points it seems they'd likely bail out and uninstall.


Tish said...

I had a very different first user exp with my alt. He was on a signup island thing, strictly Lab, and had to walk through doors to enter into a place befitting his interests. Since SL is so many different things, as opposed to IMVU, this seems a logical approach. But it's never going to be a quick and easy flowing kind of thing.

Anonymous said...

Six years ago I tried SL for the first time. It was insanely confusing and I logged out and uninstalled the viewer wondering what on earth could possibly be so fascinating about SL.
I tried it again almost a year later but I believe I've been an exception to the rule.
And the sad part? The new user experience has only gotten worse. It's a shame.

Burhop said...

Its a hard problem for many companies... how to sell the rich experience you get later so you make the initial investment in time.

There are a lot of good lessons from watching the Second Life business. I hope the next folks to make a run at a virtual world are learning.

Wayfinder Wishbringer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wayfinder Wishbringer said...

(Had to fix some awful spelling.:D)

This is one of the best articles I've read on why Second Life has failed (by "failed"... I discuss meeting the original goal of "the dream"... to create a 3D virtual web). The writer is so right: although tier is ridiculously expensive, most users don't even get to the point they check into tier. The new user experience is so bad they just "give up" and go do something else-- as the video clearly portrays.

The sad part is that video is so accurate. The "void walk" through the sign, the lag, and the very fact that a new user was teleported to a zero-tutorial, zero-friendly vampire sim is just goofy.

So upon reflection, I have to agree: tier means nothing when the user leaves the grid due to poor newbie experience. Sadly, many "old-timers" know how to fix that problem, but getting Linden Lab to actually listen to their customers is like talking to a dog-- only the dog understands more and cares about what you're saying. ; )

Very well-done post that zeroes in on (sadly) just one of Second Life's multitudinous showstopper problems.

Talla Adam said...


Actually, my first experience of Second Life in 2005 was the same as yours and I dumped it too. I was there, saw people flying about. I figured how to fly too then found myself talking to a silly parrot. Finally, I spoke to another person who was a clueless as me. I concluded in the end it wasn't much fun and left. I returned a year later after seeing a News item on the TV about SL. The footage inworld looked good so I was tempted to try again. This time I tried harder to figure things out and eventually, with my awful avatar end up at a dance place - Fat Katz? - with lots of other people. I was asked to dance and shown to a pose ball and way we went. We chatted and it was fun but I wanted to change that avatar badly. Yes, I'm vain even in virtual worlds!

The rest, as they say, is history but the second time round I actually took more time and effort to learn and explore but I must say, learning Second Life must be even harder now than back when I started.

I think I would have liked more options to dress up as shown in the IMVU video but I think I really didn't need to be faced with learning so much which the full viewer rather obliges you to do. I personally think a bare bones web portal like Cloud Party for a first look experience without the need to download a viewer initially would work wonders. I would choose on screen from a list of venues (selected to guarantee ample people and attractions) and be dropped right into the region to play. I would even prefer just to have a guest name and no full registration initially. The object is to look good and get into the world and do things quickly. And have fun!

Once hooked I want to be invited to attend the learner academy where mentors can help and advise me. Like, about getting a full viewer if I want more options and tools. Like about getting money and buying stuff and getting a place of my own. Like, becoming a creator and maybe a merchant.

The key is a little bit to start, the cool stuff that gets me hooked. And then a gentle nudge from mentors to go further and do more. Second Life is not exactly a game but for most joining it must initially be perceived as a game I'm sure. Alas, if games are meant to be fun then the signpost to Second Life does not spell out FUN. It spells WORK.

Pamela Galli said...

Wait -- you mean THIS is the new user experience now? No tutorials or help signs or anything? You make an account and are dropped down into some random, laggy, empty sim in the dark, with no instructions?

Makes the Orientation Island I got stuck on for days look brilliant.

What ever happened to the excellent web-based introductory experience from a couple of years ago, with excellent built-in tutorials?

Khani said...

Ohh gods yes that is SOOO awful, om I don't even realize it anymore, but this is almost sadistic to new people.


Canageek said...

Man, they used to have this newbie island that took you through building a character and moving and you could see lots of other people around. Not perfect, but it worked.

I joined through this stupid zombie game, then left and it took me to newbie island. Yikes, no wonder no one is trying it.

Yordie Sands said...

Poignant Botgirl! Every SL "residents" can appreciate your vid because it is self explanatory.

For experienced gamers, like WOW types, I'm sure they'd be taking off in all directions looking to win points and find health, and getting bewildered in different ways.

This is the kind of thing that all the LL board members should be forced to to each month for the good of their investments. This is the kind of thing that will explain why SL is at a dead end.

But the odds of anyone behind the Labs inpenetrable walls even seening this video seem very small to me.

It's so hard to not be cynical in all this.

Wayfinder Wishbringer said...

Pamela: This is a common experience of SL. Note that in this case the user chose an "alternate" location to enter-- but the fact that such alternates are allowed (with no tutorials, no guidance, no direction, no people to interact with) is a typical example of Linden Lab's clueless mismanagement of SL.

It has been said that the ones who know least about Second Life are Linden Lab corporate officers. Over the years I've become convinced that the customers know far more about Second Life and how it should be run than management. Why? Because we're on the front lines every day.

Linden Lab management has always struck me somewhat as military officers who have never been in battle. That's been obvious from counterproductive decision, after decision, after decision. I honestly find it quite amazing that the BOD hasn't wiped the entire leadership of the company, especially considering the constant downward trend of the system.

The only thing I can figure is that they've been lead to believe that trend is a natural market trend rather than mismanagement. Which I'm sorry... tells me that the BOD is both naive and gullible.

Adri said...

I've tried SL twice. Several years ago, a friend talked me into trying it. He gave me a box of roses, which I promptly put on my head and could never get off. I only played once.

The second time, I was incredibly bored and decided to check it out again, thinking maybe things would be different. They were. They were more difficult. I played a couple of times.

Even though I have several friends who play SL regularly, I've never been able to get into it. Takes too much time to get started, and would actually cost me RL cash to do the things I'd want to do.