The Value of Second Life Statistics

The numbers reported by Linden Labs concerning Second Life usage are real – not bogus as recently reported by Information Week and others. The Information Week writer, Mitch Wagner is an SL fan and actually acknowledges that the numbers are basically real – what he objects to is the way they are presented/highlighted. However, the term bogus isn’t accurate. The growth of the meshverse is a very complicated process and one could choose to take issue with any statistics reported. If Linden Labs weren’t highlighting the total number of residents, some people would accuse them of hiding something. A more productive approach in my view is to take a look at what the numbers may really mean. Giff Constable of Electric Sheep does this and makes an important observation I’ve noticed:

Linden Lab says that retention remains around 10% for Second Life as a whole, and while we at ESC have seen higher retention rates for some of our projects with registration portals, I expect that we won’t see a leap in retention until the user interface improves, overall stability improves, rich in-world activities become more prevalent, and more friend networks come online (often pulling back people who tried SL and left).Out to Pasture » Blog Archive » Second Life Numbers – Spring 2007

A comment on the Information Week article makes a similar observation:

While I find it also misleading, the total number of registered users means something for companies investing in SL marketing. …
The fact, that you already have an account is also something that has value – people with abandoned accounts will read and are reading media articles about their favourite singer to perform in SL, and they are ready to go – they have the account, or shortly – they are already hooked up – no need to worry about them to take this very same decision twice – they are registered and the border of entry for them is low.

The total residents number is real and important. Millions of people are taking the time to create Second Life accounts. While Wagner raises the specter of there being a significant number of people getting counted multiple times for each alternate account, he doesn’t provide any analysis to support this. Constable shows the number to be about 1.6 per unique resident but let’s say he’s way off and there’s only 3 million unique residents out of the 6,240,591 shown on the Second Life site as of this writing. First of all there are useful reasons to have multiple accounts which need to be factored in. Then there’s the question of comparative analysis. This is a very difficult question since the number of virtual worlds with even 6-figure memberships is small and eliminating gaming centric worlds leaves one with less than a handful. Second Life stats are valuable because they’re easily accessible, regularly updated and large enough to develop meaningful metrics around. You don’t have to take my word though – anyone can view and analyze them.

Related Links

Clickable Culture Statistics Category

Virtual World News

Electric Sheep – Measuring Brands

Meshverse Journal

Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games

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