This will probably be the shortest piece I’ve done on Second Life’s quarterly economy and metrics. There’s precious little data being published anymore, and what there is lacks even more transparency than we’re used to.
That said, there are a couple of good signs for a change – and it’s been quite a few quarters since I could really say that.
[EDIT: By ‘signs’ I really mean omens. There’s not really enough corroborative data being published for the omens to be much more than a flock of geese against the sunset, or a lightning-blasted oak in the shape of a CFO; or perhaps something to do with entrails, that is best left undescribed. These are signs and portents that we have to work with and must interpret in our smoky yurts and medicine lodges, not actual information whose movements and motions can be readily observed and explained.]
Now, user-hours were flat, while monthly repeat logins increased – which basically indicates that either slightly more people spent slightly less time, or that Second Life client/server reliability was reduced during the fourth quarter. Anecdotally, I’d have to go with the latter.
At least user-hours seem to have stopped their year-long decline.
Now, the currency supply. It seems that after a long time, Linden Lab is finally selling L$ on the market again. The money supply is up, LindeX trading volumes are likewise up, and the value of the Linden Dollar (relative to the USD) improved. These are all good economic signs. It’s too soon to call that an economic recovery, but it is certainly looking promising. 100,000 fewer accounts paid or received Linden Dollars by any means than in Q3, following a decline that started at the end of Q1. So, fewer economic participants, but an apparent improvement in the economy for those that are participating. Any data that might contradict this is just not available.
The Web Merchandise Sales Volume (AKA SL Marketplace sales) figure isn’t actually a significant one to anybody other than Linden Lab. Data that might have given it some contextual meaning to the rest of us is not available. All we can tell is that SL Marketplace sales growth is slowing.
World size doesn’t have enough precision to tell exactly what it is doing. It remains flat compared to Q3, and essentially has eliminated all the gains of 2010. If I read Tyche Shepherd’s figures right, though, ‘flat’ looks like a good description for Q4.
Other than that, there’s little data to work with. Median user-concurrency stabilised during Q4 (at around the 50,000 mark, give or take); about the same approximate levels as Q2 2008.