Second Life Business: Nothing Virtual About It
Business Week has an interesting article about the challenges faced by “real-world” businesses setting up shop in the virtual world of Second Life. The piece is perhaps the most forward-thinking of any that have appeared so far in the popular press, as it acknowledges that large corporate interests are beginning to view Second Life as a viable marketing platform (though one that still stands a chance of collapsing down the line). It’s nice to see an article like this quantify some of the work that’s being done: contracts to virtual world services companies are being let for anywhere from $5,000 to $400,000, according to the article, with some perhaps reaching as much as $1 million. It also doesn’t treat the virtual world as an “us and them” proposition, correctly so. The idea that there is a community of Second Life residents that are somehow separate from people who live in the real world is one that will have to go out the window if the virtual world continues to grow. It will still be possible to form communities on the Grid that are somewhat walled off from real-world concerns, but if you’re competing for business from “real-world” companies, you’re now swimming in the ocean, not the small pond that SL has been until now.
For small developers, that’s not as bad as it sounds. Small shops will still be able to find clients, just as small Web services shops still make a viable go of it. This will only become more true if more and more people take up residence in Second Life. But the larger virtual world services companies are leveraging the crossover between their expertise in the virtual world and the needs of real-world businesses in a way that’s making Second Life a more and more seamless extension of the World Wide Web. Business in Second Life is no longer a matter of the virtual versus the real, but Second Life, like the Web, is still a place where niche offerings can garner a wide following. The rising tide of people and corporations flooding into Second Life will inevitably lift everyone’s boat. And that’s a good thing.