I really wanted to like Second Life. I'm a big game nerd, I like player created content, and I'd love to dabble programming in an MMOG myself. I even have friends who work at Linden. But I tried Second Life out a year or so ago and the client was just terrible. And creating content was too hard. So after a few hours I quit.

Second Life has been the benefactor of a lot of hype, so I suppose it's predictable that when the backlash comes it's spiteful. But behind Valleywag's poisonous editing are some thoughtful articles by folks like Clay Shirky.

The recent piece calling the SL economy a pyramid scheme (better in its longer form) is quite interesting. One of Second Life's unusual features is you can convert their virtual currency back to real dollars. There are many ephemeral stories of people claiming to make real money from their second lives. Only, maybe, it's not true. Randolph Harrison claims that you can't really take out more than a couple of hundred US dollars without getting gouged on the exchange.

It's a problem in every online game I've seen; there's some notional exchange rate of virtual currency to real currency, but the reality is you can't get much real money out. Why? Because there are only a few market makers who aren't particularly interested in seeing actual dollars go out the door. The difference with Second Life is that currency brokerage is legitimate, not underground. Interesting that it doesn't seem to work, either.

I'd like Second Life to be successful, but at this point Linden has a credibility problem. They need to release some real, believable numbers about population size and economic activity. Or back off the hype.

  2007-01-24 18:27 Z