If you are among those who think Second Life is too complex for them, a comparison with other MMORPGs, virtual worlds and 3D chats, will clarify the ideas. Recently a friend suggested me to sign up and try IMVU, an instant messaging client developed by IMVU Inc., which until now declares 46 millions of registered users, with about 6 million unique visitors per month (i.e. about 10 time the number of active residents of Second Life) which as of last October appeared to have generated revenues of $ 25 million (the program currently generates about $ 2 million in revenues per month almostentirely due to the use of messaging services).
IMVU is an initiative of the Will Harvey, creator even of There.com, and is known for having the largest catalog of virtual goods in the world with over 4 million items produced using a special software (the Autodesk 3ds Max, formerly known as 3D Studio MAX of Autodesk Media and Entertainment) by more than 100,000 content creators, stuff to embarrass the metaverse of Linden Lab, enough for my curiosity to drop by and see what it is (with the caveat that IMVU like SL, is formally in “beta” phase since April 2004, then it is possible that in future may be radically different from the current version).
What to say: accustomed to the almost endless customization of your avatar go to choose a doll from a limited number of choices and being able only to decide which item of clothing to add to my inventory (as in SL some are free, some for sale, even if unlike SL you have available from the beginning 1,500 “credits“, worth about 3 articles of clothing or pay one to two different “rooms“, but if you complete the light tutorial you will gain 1,000 more) I was disappointed, but probably for the target audience (I would say definitely adolescents given the cartoon-style characters) less choice means less indecision. Obviously, the less choice is also in the quality of clothing, at least initially, with t-shirts, shirts and “gentleman” suits that in the case of a little more than newbie users of Second Life would let drop their arms.
“Would let drop” because our doll made in IMVU is almost immobile, perhaps logical since we are talking about a chat or instant messaging system and not a true virtual world where characters are a relatively contour compared in dialogues. It may in fact decide to animate the avatar (just as in SL) making him talk about the “body talk” to better emphasize the concepts expressed in words or voice, but you can not (unlike SL) neither go to the subjective view (also if the remainder of the cam can help turn the vision just as in SL), nor walk through the environment: simply moving the mouse over an item by clicking on the scenario and see your puppet instantly assume the posture (standing or sitting) programmed for the particular item of furniture (floor, chairs, sofas etc).
In short: IMVU reminds me of the now “classic” animated chat, which for years, first in 2D and now in 3D, animate the web and because of the the way they were I suspect that the interaction between players (hard to call them “residents” given the low level of perceived empathy) is limited to chat with other players (or some sort of role playing game), unless you’re able to create a graphic backgrounds, clothing, animations, poses and accessories for the characters to be sold within the game. I confess: used to highly immersive experience of virtual worlds like Second Life and certainly due to age (I’m 43 years after all, not 20-22 like mostof the millions of chatters on IMVU according to the analysis of Kzero) a discouragement took me after less than an hour of “exploration” (so to speak, since one can do nothing but enter into the various “rooms” and start to chat, text or voice, with those presents, since outside the three-dimensional representation of the room there is a cosmic void) and I decided to leave, returning to my RL commitments and expect to spend an evening in SL as soon as possible to “recover from theshock“.