5 ways platforms are better than games

Is Second Life a game or a platform? In its early years, the question was answered — loudly and repeatedly — Second Life is not a game, it’s a platform.

Lately, however, the company seems to be moving in a decidedly game-ish direction.

Here are some reasons why it’s a mistake.

1. If you make a useful platform, people will figure out stuff to do with it.

2. If you make a game, you have to keep adding new quests to keep people interested in it.

3. No matter how many quests you add, eventually people will get tired of playing and you’ll have to invent completely new games.

4. A platform that plays well with others and becomes part of a larger ecosystem can survive for a long time. The Windows Web server, for example, coexists alongside open source alternatives and currently powers 13 percent of all websites. Okay, that’s not as good as the 40 percent market share it used to have, but considering that folks have to pay for the Windows web server, and the others are free, it’s still a pretty good showing — and the number of websites is increasing all the time, too.

5. A platform benefits from network and snowball effects. The more people use a platform, they more documentation and other ancillary resources they create, which causes other people to use the platform. Businesses created on top of the platform bring in their customers — and their success attracts other companies.

A platform’s main challenge is the “chicken and egg” problem. A new platform doesn’t have any developers using it yet, so there’s nothing available for customers, and without customers, no developers want to use it.

Second Life was able to overcome that problem, attracting both retail users, non-profits, educators, and companies. With Second Life Enterprise it seemed poised to build on that success and become a truly multi-purpose platform for the 3D web.

However, the enterprise server was crippled and overpriced and was cancelled instead of being fixed. Educators got a massive price hike and the company hired a gaming industry CEO instead of someone with a vision of a metaverse future.

Not the kind of “platformer” I had in mind.

With its latest acquisitions and features releases, Linden Lab seems to be moving more and more in the direction of being a game company.

Which is a shame. The hypergrid can use a compatible, proprietary server alternative to OpenSim and AuroraSim. First, because competition is always good. And, second, some customers just prefer to use commercial, proprietary software. It can be easier to sell proprietary software to senior management, for example. And it’s easier for large customers to do business with other large companies, than tiny OpenSim hosting companies.

Second Life Enterprise, with a decent pricing model, better configuration options and an enterprise-friendly feature set could have easily become a preferred platform for large enterprises who might be leery of jumping into OpenSim.

maria@hypergridbusiness.com'

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China.

  • I still think that Linden Lab has the potential to become a platform for the 3D web, rather than just another game company.

    It’s got lots of brand recognition for its Linden dollar virtual currency, and, by expanding its API and beefing up security, could become the default payment method of the hypergrid — the PayPal of the 3D age, if you will. That’s a lot of potential money there, both from selling the currency to users, to taking a cut from each transaction.

    A revamped, more functional, and lower-priced server could become a proprietary, supported alternative to OpenSim, the way the Windows Server is a more expensive, proprietary alternative to Apache. The Lindens will need to add OAR and IAR support and hypergrid connectivity to make it comparable, and offer sweetheart deals to hosting companies to get them to offer it as an alternative to OpenSim. Many hosting companies already support multiple servers — OpenSim, AuroraSim, RealXtend — depending what their customers prefer. Adding a premium, proprietary alternative might make some companies and organizations more willing to invest in the technology.

    I’m having a hard time believing that there isn’t a way to get the Havoc code into the viewer without cutting off access to OpenSim. The hypergrid is growing. This is a great opportunity for Havoc to offer a proprietary physics engine to OpenSim grids at low or no cost for small deployments, so that when the grids get bigger, they upgrade to the full commercial license. Vivox is taking this approach with voice, and it’s become the de-facto voice standard across all the OpenSim grids — with the larger, commercially successful grids (like InWorldz, Avination and Kitely) happily forking over money for commercial licenses and service level agreements. By taking this step, Vivox has pretty much pulled the rug out from under would-be open-source alternatives like Freeswitch and Whisper/Mumble.

    It would take some work to get Havoc compatible with OpenSim and, right now, it probably doesn’t seem worth it. But the longer Havoc ignores the market, the more improvements are put into the open source alternatives — like the new Bullet Physics project being worked on by folks over at Intel.

    • The havoc thing they probably can I mean people use unreal engine for all kinds of things some expensive and some not expensive and some even free for non commercial usage. I dont think any of this is a question of cant I think its a question of wont. As I plod along in life I find that there are very few people willing to stop and take time and consider “the little people” because after all they appear to be a minority, but are they really? I dunno I know this minority that seem to get left out seem to be awefully numerous. In the end Linden Lab is just doing what its always done .. they have never tried to look at things from different angles and perspectives and in some cases they just didnt think period. In the end making games is easier you target a niche (zombies are cool they are selling this year) you make a game and you release it and people buy it. If its an MMO type game you release more pieces along the way but once you build it its “done” . Second life and opensim and all those offshots is like life .. it never ends well.. it will end when someone comes up with a better 3d virtual experience. Kinect/motion detection etc and holodeck type set ups are next that is when things like second life will end 🙂

  • Michael Somerset

    Yet again another commentary of yours for me to follow. I will add this to my list of “things to look at soon” very soon

  • James Corbett

    With the massive success of the Oculus Rift VR headset kickstarter it’s obvious that there is a pent up demand for immersive VR experiences. Sure, the first iteration will be relatively low res and hardly a mainstream product. But by 2016 I’ve a feeling some Linden Labbers will finally wake up — realizing that the mainstream is now hungry for immersive virtual world experiences — and they’ll wonder why they lost a decade going nowhere.