Project Sansar will have a hard time taking over the Second Life audience

Sansar Screenshot 1

Since the hot summer of 2014, when Ebbe Altberg first hinted to the ongoing development of “Second Life 2.0” at the Third Party Viewer developers meeting, Project Sansar (now it has a name) has been on the minds and in the conversations of both Second Life residents and the tech communities outside of Second Life. It is understandable that people are concerned about the potential decrease of the Second Life userbase in favour of Project Sansar, especially given that Second Life had been on decline since 2008, as Ebbe Altberg himself admits, and who would not want to move over to the more advanced virtual world developed by the company with an experience in running virtual worlds! I myself am excited about Project Sansar, after hearing about all the features that are planned to be implemented there (the latest summary of all the awesomeness waiting for us in Project Sansar can be found on the Inara Pey’s “Living In The Modem World” blog), but I am also confident that I will not be in a hurry to leave Second Life behind – and I am just as confident that many other Second Life residents will not be in a hurry to leave Second Life behind either.

An outsider may ask a reasonable question – is Project Sansar is more technologically advanced, why would we stay in the outdated virtual world? We, the Second Life residents, have at least 5 reasons for that:

– Project Sansar development is really not that well-planned

The alpha stage is taking place right now, and we are promised the open beta around the beginning of 2017, meanwhile Ebbe Altberg still gets stumbled at various questions about the Project Sansar mechanic, which makes one wonder if he himself has a decent idea of what the finished product is going to be like – which, in turn, raises questions about the readiness of the prototype. I am tremendously worried about the fact that Linden Lab, the creators of Second Life and Project Sansar, have set up a deadline for themselves – the tech companies tend to exaggerate their product development abilities, and there is not enough time for finishing the product, which results in the product being released underdeveloped. High Fidelity, another virtual world that is being developed by the Philip Rosedale team, had took its time with the alpha stage, which lasted over a year and a half – right now, High Fidelity is in the open beta, and the virtual world is still as puzzling. Ebbe Altberg has no lesser hopes for Project Sansar than Philip Rosedale for High Fidelity, yet Ebbe had been talking about accepting alpha testing applicants around August 2016 – which leaves applicants about half a year for alpha testing. Something tells me that the beta version will be the continuation of the alpha one… Therefore, we have got plenty of time to observe the Project Sansar potentially sloppy development process (prove me wrong if you can, Linden Lab) from the comfort of the already developed and inhabited virtual world – Second Life.

– Project Sansar aims to achieve goals different from Second Life

Ebbe Altberg himself mentions that in various interviews. Project Sansar will NOT be Second Life 2.0. It will revolve around Virtual Reality (which Second Life fails to support) and interactive Experiences (which did not take off very well in Second Life, in part because it clashes with the game mechanic Second Life residents are used to). Many users may find such an immersion-based mechanic not suitable for their virtual needs – and will stay in Second Life. This is just a speculation, because I know only so much about the Project Sansar mechanic, but the idea is that we also love Second Life for particular features, some of which will be sacrificed in Project Sansar – and many of us will value these features more than the benefits of Sansar.

– Project Sansar is expensive hardware-demanding

Actually, everything that implements Virtual Reality is expensive hardware-demanding – because Virtual Reality on itself is expensive hardware-demanding. I can run Second Life fine on machines as old as from 2006 – yes, I will turn some graphics down, but I will still be able to use and enjoy Second Life. Accessibility is the key to the widespread success of any software. Imagine that Microsoft Office requires a top-notch GPU for the best experience with it… Project Sansar will require a gaming computer for the best experience, while aiming at the non-gaming crowd. Yes, I have heard Ebbe Altberg claiming that they intend to make system requirements for Project Sansar no higher than the ones for Second Life, but if the Project Sansar mechanic revolves around VR, the presence there without a VR headset may simply not be worth it. Second Life, which has years of experience of VR gear not being necessary to enjoy it, is much more appealing to the crowd of those who at the moment cannot afford the hardware powerful enough for VR.

– Project Sansar is yet to gain the recognition Second Life already has

When Second Life saw the light back in 2002, it was something the world has not seen before. The content and service creators were willing to take their chance on Second Life, because it was new, exciting, engaging, and there was no other place like Second Life on the Internet. They turned Second Life into a flourishing universe where people from all walks of life and with all kinds of intentions can find something for themselves. Playing music, event organizing and hosting, competing in various games, photographing, writing one’s own story, just living a dream – people who want to do those things are coming to the world where a venue is built for them already, and all that’s left for them to do is to provide their services (or spend their money earned in the physical world). After all, many currently active Second Life residents, including myself, have arrived in 2006 or the later year, when Second Life had already survived the test of time, and thanks to the creators’ effort, had plenty to offer. An empty world has to undergo some construction first before service providers and money spenders want to contribute to it. Project Sansar at its earliest stages may attract asset creators with proper hardware, but today, people who want to live in a virtual world do have alternatives to Sansar, the most advanced of which is… Second Life.

– Second Life residents have got A LOT to lose

During our second lives, we, the residents, have accumulated a great deal of commodities – from large inventories of clothes, avatars, furniture, vehicles, and other virtual necessities, to great relationships, established reputations, favourite places and pastimes, to confirmed business practices and loyal clientele. Would we like to exchange that for something similar of better quality? Sure. But this is not what Project Sansar offers us. Instead, we will be venturing to a brand new barren universe which we will have to build and populate from the ground up, like Second Life had been a long long time ago. While there are innovation enthusiasts who will take that risk, we most certainly can not claim that all Second Life residents will pay a price of leaving their Second Life belongings and relationships behind for the sake of pioneering the unknown. More likely, they will wait a year or two – when the cost of leaving Second Life behind is lower than the benefits of switching to Project Sansar.

Sansar Screenshot 2

The reasons listed above has a great potential in slowing down to different degrees the growth which Linden Lab envisions for Project Sansar. If they want to achieve their goal of bringing over a million users to Project Sansar, they will have to overcome them all – for the initial growth, they will have to overcome at least a couple of them. How will Linden Lab take care of it, and will they take care of it at all? That is another question.

Now, to be fair to the side that argues in favour of the position that Project Sansar will have no problem taking off from the very start, they have some reasonable arguments on their side as well. Let’s go through them:

– Second Life is bursting with bugs, and residents cannot wait to leave SL for a less buggy Virtual World

Even if that is the case, that “less buggy Virtual World” will not be Project Sansar, at least for the next year or two. Whenever we are getting the open beta version, we have to remember that this is going to be a BETA version, not a complete one. Beta versions are by definition full of bugs – and the volume of impact of such bugs on your Sansar life will most likely be incomparable with the impact Second Life bugs make on your Second Life. You will love Second Life bugs after Project Sansar bugs.

– The userbase of Second Life decreases day by day

(WARNING: Adult Content)
As a consequence, the Grid shrinks, too. However, here, the main concern should be the rate at which the Second Life population goes down. Grid Survey, the Second Life metrics service, helps us with that. We can have a look at the average, median and maximum/minimum daily concurrences graphs that had been comprised from the records since December 2009. All the graphs had been taken from the Grid Survey website.

20160831 Mean SL Daily Concurrency

20160831 Median SL Daily Concurrency

20160831 Maximum SL Daily Concurrency

20160831 Minimum SL Daily Concurrency

From what we can observe in these graphs, there is an inverse correlation between logons and time.

In 2010, the number of concurrent logons at any moment of time oscillates between 34k and 80k, with the average and the median of approx. 55k.

Since the beginning of 2016, it is between 27k and 59k, with the average and the median of approx. 42k.

The difference between 2010 and 2016 is indeed significant. Let us take the year right between 2010 and 2016 now. It will be the year 2013, where the mean and the median are approx. 44k, and the number of concurrent logons oscillates between 29k and 65k – which is slightly higher than the results of 2016, but significantly lower than the results of 2010.

Therefore, we can conclude that the rate of decrease in daily logons had been slowing down. Since I have overloaded you with numbers already, I will leave the similar analysis of the number of region on the Grid and its decrease rate to other statistics enthusiasts. I hope, however, that the analysis above has convinced you that if ever Second Life userbase reaches the numbers at which it will make sense to discontinue Second Life – it will not happen that soon.

– Project Sansar will be cheaper to build in

Damn, you got me on this one!.. Indeed, when the money comes at play, it is hard to argue with a fine bargain. We have been promised that hosting experiences in Project Sansar is indeed will be much more affordable than owning land in Second Life. However, again, this will be appealing mostly to those who want a space to create. Those who want to visit places or provide services at the already existing venues hardly care if the owner of the place pays $30 or $300 a month – to them, either the place exists or it does not. Project Sansar sure will take some time to get populated and built, therefore some time has to go by before creators make in populated with landmarks and venues. Those who will not be building in Project Sansar will spend that time in… Second Life.

… and I’m out of reasons. All the other ones (that Sansar will have better building tools, will be more engaging, etc.) are easily debunked with the counter arguments in the first part of the article.

Sansar Screenshot 4

Therefore, if you hesitate with investing your time into building and performing in Second Life, I will tell you just this – build away and perform away! To those who hesitates with investing your money into buying something new – if you truly want it, buy it and enjoy it while you can! Do not stop living your Second Life. Do not feel that you are missing out because the door to your Sansar life is locked at the moment. There will be your Sansar time. Right now, we have a wonderful, populated, engaging world to continue living in. So let’s live it out.

Stay digitized!

Source of all Project Sansar screenshots: Linden Lab Flickr

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