Truly a Second Life…

Have you heard all the buzz surrounding the virtual world, Second Life?

Essentially, Second Life is a 3-D virtual world that is owned and operated by its residents. SL allows users, and I am greatly underestimating here, to build online personas, or avatars, and create structures in a fantasy setting. As of now, there are almost a million and a half residents participating in the community.

“From the moment you enter the World you’ll discover a vast digital continent, teeming with people, entertainment, experiences and opportunity,” according to the SL Web site. “You’ll also be surrounded by the Creations of your fellow residents. The Marketplace currently supports millions of US dollars in monthly transactions. This commerce is handled with the in-world currency, the Linden dollar, which can be converted to US dollars at several thriving online currency exchanges.”

This thing is really becoming a phenomenon. Here are some interesting stats about it from AgencyWire:

• Second Life citizenship grew 995% just this year.
• Commerce, a more important statistic, rose to $9M, up 287% this year
• The male/female split is close to even -57 to 43%
• More than 55% of citizens hail from outside the US.
• And, one from CNN today, SL has its first millionaire

What’s amazing to me is that even large multinational companies are getting into the game. Organizations like 20th Century Fox, Adidas, American Cancer Society, Disney, IBM, Intel, MLB, MTV, Reuters, Dell, among many others, and most recently, GM’s Pontiac division.

“General Motors’ Pontiac division is spending thousands of dollars to create a make-believe dealership that will sell make-believe cars for as little as a few dollars a piece,” according to CNN Money writer Peter Valdes-Dapena. “For now, at least, the Pontiac dealership will offer just one model: the Pontiac Solstice GXP… Surrounding the dealership will be Motorati Island, 96 virtual acres that GM has bought and will give away, lot by lot, in ‘land grants’ to Second Life members interested in building car-culture oriented business.”

Since they’re trying to create a real-world environment, many of the problems we have in the real-world are happening too. For instance, music file sharing is a concern in the virtual world – at least the recording industry seems to think so. When you set up your new life, you can have music streaming that visitors hear when they see you. Linden Labs says that it is the user’s job to take care of licensing, and they don’t pay any royalties.

“The next aspect of real life to become part of Second Life could be the all-too-real prospect of an RIAA crackdown on unauthorized music, although labels could face difficulty in proving that Linden Labs has any culpability,” said blogger Eliot Van Buskirk.

They say only two things in life are certain: death and taxes, and it is no different on SL’s virtual life. Well, I’m not sure if you can die, but the government definitely wants their piece of the 3-D pie.

“…gamers and game academics have long been waiting for this moment to happen, when the government finally realized that thousands of people were making some or all of their real life living from the buying and selling of virtual currency, “power-leveled” characters, and other goods and services that make life in an alternate online world worth living,” said blogger Wagner James Au.

Now I just have to figure out how to play so I can set up uShip in the virtual word – if people are buying virtual real estate, they are going to have to move their virtual goods… I see a new business plan brewing!!!!

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