(Note: One day after this post was made, Rod Humble resigned as CEO of Linden Labs.)
- Regions continue to decline. Shopping, residential, and roleplay sims merge or chop parcels in half to save money and resources.
- Economically, it causes the market to become more competitive; thrift and gacha events rise due to their relatively small cost to customers who are also looking to save money.
- One or two high-earning land barons or designers are zapped by the IRS for unreported income.
- Alpha testing for High Fidelity finishes. Anticipating that this is the new Second Life, registration slows even further and users begin logging on High Fidelity more to get accommodated to the new world.
- In less than a year, High Fidelity tanks due to lack of registration, or is shorted out because of funding. However, the damage is done; registration for Second Life has already slowed too much, and now users are bleeding out even faster.
- More sims close. LL staff is consolidated, changes leadership, or both.
- A rise in piracy is seen this year with LL doing less to enforce the safety of intellectual property rights. The market becomes lax in this respect. A few popular designers quit.
- Less land being purchased causes the land market to become competitive. It’s possible LL might release abandoned land to be purchased by users at this point. It won’t do enough good, though, as there aren’t enough users to buy what’s there.
- Towards the end of the year, a sharp decline in registration happens. More sims shutter, which causes more users to leave, which causes more sims to shutter…
- In an alternate grid, private regions are rising. Designers possibly form groups to establish their own sims on other grids to continue selling their work, similar to the Knitting Circle’s foray into Inworldz. In order to access these regions, users must log on to that individual grid and then connect to the region directly–much like direct dialing a website in the early days of the internet.
- Websites are established to link to popular regions so that users can find them. This is the boon of the dark grid, a visual undernet where stats are unreported and most sims are kept private.
- Second Life bleeding out slows and stagnates. True heat death sets in, and LL entertains options to save the grid from closing completely.
- A crowdfunding campaign is started by Linden Labs to help with server costs for the year, as the only option to not raise land prices for users on the grid. The campaign is successful, but it’s just a band-aid for the inevitable…
…Because by 2018, there won’t be a Second Life anymore. It may shrink and change names, or it might be run by a completely new staff, or so many people laid off or LL declaring bankruptcy. Either way, it won’t survive and users will either migrate to private grids or leave for other games altogether.
There’s no real way to save a game like this because of how demanding it is on computers, and the registration decline that’s already been set in motion. Every virtual world or MMO has its expiration date, and when it reaches that, it’s up to the user to figure out where they’re going to go from there.
I’m pretty sure my predictions won’t all come true. I typed all of this out as a general timeline based on games I’ve seen decline before. Where do you think SL is going to head in five years? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.
I also wanted to point out something else.
As Second Life declines, its popularity in mainstream media is going to rise. Right now on Tumblr there are images of various images from SL being reblogged and passed around with no context or clue as to where they come from. These images are usually from 2007 or before, but you can expect more recent images to be shared as the game heads further into a death spiral.
What was previously ‘uncool’ is going to become cool again, and it’s possible right before the game dies, there might be one last hurrah with curious users entering the grid to experience its last days. In reality, they’re just there to capture a piece of earlier time–so places like Hobo Island and Lollygaggers might get their attention before something like Juicybomb or Lula would.