On Friday 4th January, I was one of many who reported on the “unexpected” (given the move had apparently been made of December 10th, 2012) move to make Second Life available via Amazon following a tweet from the official Second Life account. Ciaran Laval was perhaps the first (certainly that I know of) to blog on the matter, and Tateru gave a very pithy commentary on the nature of the packages and on promoting SL as a “game”, which drew considerable commentary on Plurk as well as on her blog.
For my part, I resisted passing direct comment on the move in my original piece, in keeping with my attempts to avoid colouring any “news” items with personal bias. However, I have to say that the Amazon deal leaves me feeling that – once again – the Lab has bungled an opportunity, or at least failed to launch it fully and properly or in a manner liable to serve Second Life and themselves particularly well; although perhaps not for the reasons others have cited.
In difference to many critiquing the move, I have no problem in Amazon presenting SL as a game. Not that I’m saying I think SL is a game, I most certainly don’t, per se. I simply have no problem in Amazon presenting it as such, and for a couple of reasons:
- Whether we like it or not, SL is largely referred to by the broader media and the more specialist (dare I say gaming media) as a “game” (even if the latter does make some attempt to sub-categorise SL in some way) – ergo, the wider perception is that SL “is a game”, whether we agree with that perception or not
- More directly, and as Uccello Poultry comments on Tateru’s piece, the simple fact is that “game” is probably the only listing option in Amazon’s catalogue they consider to be the closest “fit” for SL – and it is a little unreasonable for us to expect them to develop a dedicated category on the basis that we find the “game” label offensive.
At the end of the day, issues over the listing category could be overcome had time been taken to give a reasonable explanation / description of the product itself. Sadly, and as demonstrated by the pages for the Viewer, the Lab has done the barest minimum required. Rather than providing insight into the platform through a mixture of text and screen shots, all we have are five bland bullet points which fail to leverage SL’s potential or appeal. The effort does, being brutally honest, leave me wondering once more if there is anyone working at the Lab who actually a) has real, hands-on marketing experience, b) is capable of writing attention-grabbing promotional material, and c) actually grasps what SL is about for themselves.
For me, this lack off effort on LL’s part is more damning than Amazon’s sin of promoting SL as a game.
Turning to the vehicle packages themselves, I have to say I don’t necessarily agree with all the criticism levelled at them – SL actually can be quite good for using some vehicles / craft, as I’ve personally discovered as result of receiving the Premium sail boat, which is one of the “vehicles” in the packs.
Again, from my perspective, the crux of the matter is that the packages are indicative of thinking at the Lab which is at worst, simply lazy, or at best, demonstrating an inability to think an idea through in terms of its potential to benefit the platform and by extension, LL’s own bottom line.
In short, in opting for the packages on offer, rather than being a little more ambitious, it would appear the Lab has missed an opportunity right from the get-go. That is to address, at least in part, the perennially thorny issue of user retention.