In the most recent print issue of Wired (8/07, the article isn’t online yet), Frank Rose briefly discusses the apparent emptiness of Second Life’s landscape in an article called “Lonely Planet”.
Rose interviewed a number of corporate bigwigs responsible for their business’ Second Life presence – Coke, the NBA, etc. By and large, these places aren’t drawing the hordes of virtual visitors that the Second Life hype machine might suggest. This is all despite the fact that companies can spend upwards of $500,000 a year developing and maintaining their presences.
The article starts out with a pretty critical tone, implying that these companies are simply wasting their time and money. But towards the end Rose admits that there is potential in the idea – and nobody will realize what’s available without simply experimenting and playing around. Right now we see mostly what one ad exec refers to as thinking in analog – simply replicating the real world in the virtual. A virtual store serves as a counterpart of a physical one. But in time we’ll see more effective marketing use of the tools, making a full “conceptual leap”. Neither Rose nor the interviewees suggest what that leap might produce. But without playing today, we’ll never get there. Unfortunately, rose plays down this point and seems to ultimately suggest that Second Life is a waste of time as a business opportunity. I think it’s still way too early to call that decision.
The idea of playing, experimenting for the sake of experimenting, really resonates with me. As one of Coke’s marketing consultants says in the article, “The learning is now”. Play with this stuff, and you can’t help but learn. That’s the beauty of all this 2.0 stuff – you don’t have to be a professional developer to built anymore.
Anyway, I’m getting off topic. Summary: The article was a good read and made me think 🙂