Yes, I know the hot topic of the week is the news of Linden Lab’s development work on a next-generation virtual world, and I must say I barely resisted writing something about it. I opted to keep my thoughts in draft form for the time being while the dust settles, along with my frustration and anger at Second Life’s self-absorbed user base, which is rife with people exhibiting how widespread the Dunning-Kruger effect truly is.
I opted to continue on the subject of user retention instead. The reason is simple: If the mistakes that were made and prevent users from staying in Second Life are not addressed, then the next-generation virtual world (let’s call it SL2 from now on and be done with it) will suffer from the main issue and it won’t live up to the expectations of its designers and of whomever decides to invest time and money in it.
It’s, of course, no secret that SL’s user retention is not what was hoped for, and various reasons have been proposed: from the new user experience to the user interface and the learning curve that comes with it, and everything in between. Please note I’m not talking about OpenSim, because those who join or start OpenSim-based grids are usually determined to stay the course.
I’ve already explained that the user interface cannot seriously be considered as a primary reason for SL’s sub-par user retention rates. Furthermore, I’ve been one of those people who have gone on record for saying that you can’t merely rely on technical solutions for everything. Some things are of an entirely different nature and need to be approached and treated accordingly.
This is what brings me to what I say in the title: Entice the user. What does this mean? I’m going to take you back to the 8th segment of The Drax Files Radio Hour. There, Draxtor Despres had a “conversation” with a girl named Pamela. Please note the quotation marks; I put them there, because the dialogue felt more like two parallel monologues, with Drax trying hard to promote the idea of virtual worlds, without (at least that’s what it seemed like) paying much attention to what Pamela was telling him.
To cut a long story short, Pamela simply saw nothing interesting in virtual worlds. She simply didn’t have a use for them; they didn’t offer her something that could interest and entice her to give them a shot, much less stick around.
I was appalled to see the panelists of the Creating the VR Metaverse panel laugh at her responses to Drax’s catechism, and was especially appalled and annoyed at the dismissive, snobbish attitude exhibited by Philip Rosedale, as I already wrote. This attitude can be summed up as “well, it’s not us that have failed to make virtual reality attractive to the public, it’s the public that doesn’t understand how cool virtual reality is” and must be dropped yesterday. It’s counter-productive, it gives virtual worlds a bad name, and is also delusional, because it ignores the fact that people like Pamela are not a minority at all; in fact, most people out there share her point of view.
Also, this attitude reveals that the powers that be at virtual world providers expect the potential user to do their homework. This attitude would make any marketing consultant worth their salt raise an eyebrow (at best) or raise their hands up in dismay. Yes, they provide the user with an array of technical tools, but what about actually providing the user with compelling experiences that will make them say “wow, this is great! I want to see more!” or, even better “wow, this is great! I want to make something like this in this virtual world!”. I’m not the only one who sees things this way. The question now is, which one of the existing and future virtual world providers will succeed in enticing the user?
- Speaking of user retention: Part 1 – the User Interface (this blog)
- The Drax Files Radio Hour show #8: the BIG picture
- Silicon Valley VR Expo (Creating the VR Metaverse) – Slartist
- Thoughts on Philip Rosedale’s keynote speech at SVVR (this blog)
- LL’s next generation platform and the mainstream market – by Inara Pey
- Articles on user retention in this blog