Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Virtual real estate - a passing fad?

For so many years, electronic game makers have tried to create realistic lifelike gaming experiences on a PC. Do you old-timers remember the game Myst?

One of the most ballyhooed of these experiences is Second Life, the virtual life experience where people literally live online through characters. What makes it important from a dirt perspective is that Linden Labs and developers sell virtual patches of real estate -- yes, your own little virtual universe -- not to mention all kinds of other items. Some big companies signed on to the idea thinking that it could be a good promotional opportunity.

Personally, though I have been a computer junkie for many years, I never got Second Life. I did check out the website but never registered. Maybe I am too old to get it.

Or, perhaps that fad -- not to mention Second Life itself -- is peaking. Revenues are down. Even at peak times, with 8,000,000 registrations, apparently no more than 40,000 people are there at once (which I thought was good but perhaps some marketers do not). Major companies such as Dell, Best Buy, Starwood Hotels and Sun Microsystems have abandoned (or in Starwood's case, donated) their virtual dirt. The virtual residents seem to be flocking more to the prurient areas of Second Life, thus proving the correctness of the adage in that song from Avenue Q: "The Internet is for Porn."