Virtual small shops present on the online immersive platform Second Life, of the Californian Linden Lab (surely not the most “populated” among the more than180 virtual worlds currently operating, but still one of the most famous names in the industry, over ten years after its opening), are shrinking? Janine Hawkins (aka Iris Ophelia in SL) asked the question, trying to give some explanations, in particular noting how the integration and gradual full acceptance of SL Marketplace has probably led many content producers who have developed a commercial offer aimed at users of Second Life to keep smaller spaces “in world” so as to reduce costs by better integrating their online small shops or malls on SL Marketplace. I am convinced that Janine/Iris is right in part, but neglects some of the reasons behind the trend.
On the one hand, in fact, Second Life still resist some great virtual “malls”, almost always tied to historical names, well-known and therefore probably with a higher turnover (I think to some Italian brands like Donna Flora, Babele Fashion, or Meb), on the other hand it is also true that the trend of opening of new mega-malls and mega-shop is very slow, but this also happens in the real world, especially in Europe (and particularly in Italy, where where I know, indeed, that some large structures are beginning to close, or at least to reduce staffs), because of the high fixed costs and the collapse in demand due to a debt crisis that has tried (badly) to cure so far with policies of fiscal austerity, forced recovery of productivity and exasperated with the attention to cutting costs (and investment, if not directed at strengthening the export).
Added this to the fact that even in countries such as China and Brazil (from which most of the new generation of users of Second Life) economic growth is slowing down and you will understand how it is probable that the costs have assumed a considerable importance in decreeing a reduction in the size of stores on the platform (which has operating costs for users but also for Linden Lab, much higher than in the marketplace on the web).
Not only that: SL remains perhaps the best known, but as said, not the most populatedvirtual world or the one with the higher turnover related to the sale of content between users, since they are still a greater number oftransactions and a higher total and virtual worlds such as IMVU, which has already passed in August of 2012 the 100 million registered accounts and records concurrency firmly on 100-110thousand users per day, compared to 45-55 thousand of SL, or MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, for groped to curb the decline of active users, which fell by 1.3 million in the firstquarter of 2013 to just over 8 million monthly active users, is exploring the possibility of allowing micro-paynments directly “in world”.
In short, ten years after the launch of Second Life, the virtual worlds industry as a whole has witnessed a “boom” of online transactions related to the sale of content between users, but the “free” model adopted by the Californian platform continues to present some risks and requires careful management of costs by both the management company (Linden Lab or any other) and the common users.
It is therefore not at all strange that long past the euphoria and the dominance of hypertrophied egos, waiting for someone to come back to tell epic stories, so to bring and retain a higher number of users who face down the domestic economy to virtual worlds, many have decided to close up shop, or resize, at the same time learning how to use the most of the space on SL Marketplace and possibly starting to look at other platforms as a possible source of income. Which, indirectly, it could make it even more important the planning of advertising and communication campaigns on editorial projects on the web as Mondivirtuali.it, but that’s another story.