The media peddles two basic perceptions about Second Life, and Linden Lab has its work cut out for it if it wants to overcome even one of them.
The two problem perceptions are: “No one is there, not much is going on” and of course the classic stench-of-shame, that there’s some sort disgraceful stigma attached with being associated with Second Life.
And of course neither one of them is really true… but neither one of them is actually false either, and that makes it a tough sell.
Lisa Dilg said it best, I think,
Aside from [Mitch Wagner], I do not know ONE person who is on Second Life. Obviously someone is, but it’s no Facebook. They are going to have to really work hard to make people think its “cool” and be willing to try it again as it seems to me that the world has moved on. No one is there, not much is going on. I’m not sure people would even admit trying it – like going to a lame party and then hoping no one found out you were there.
That really resonates. Turns out quite a few people that I know offline have been Second Life users (and there may be more), but it isn’t something they advertised or even mentioned. Public perceptions being what they are, it isn’t really something you bruit about. Not unless you enjoy the disdainful looks that are so commonly given in response. That’s not the kind of brand-recognition most people want.
So it isn’t really the case that nobody you know is a Second Life user. If you’re an average, socially normal person in a first world country, the odds are that you do know somebody who is. You just don’t really know that they are.
Based on what people read and what people hear, they form one of a set of basic conclusions about Second Life: That it is a game that lacks any game mechanics; A theme park without rides and attractions; A social experience without anybody you know; A cineplex without movies or session times; A shopping experience where the people you know will never see your purchases; A tourist destination where you can’t find anything.
And while none of these perceptions is strictly true, at some level they’re all at least a little bit true, and that just makes them harder to shake. That’s the perceptual hurdle that Linden Lab needs to overcome, if it can. The Lab has never really focused its message and tried to sell it – or if so, that’s never really happened effectively.
And the sell keeps getting tougher. Every week, the hurdle gets a little higher.