Rediscovered life

Around now is the time every year when I look at my credit card statement and realise that I have once again forgotten to cancel my Second Life premium membership plan. The annual cost went up to $99 a few years ago, though I do get the equivalent of a buck a week back in the form of a Linden dollar allowance, so it works out at a little under $4 a month, which I guess isn’t too bad compared with what I spend on other forms of entertainment.

Anyway, this inspired me to dig out the old android tablet I have that still has a copy of the now-unobtainable Lumiya viewer installed. I hadn’t tried to use this for ages, so I wasn’t really expecting it to work, but, rather surprisingly, it did, and I found myself back in the familiar surroundings of my virtual alpine cabin.

It’s been two years at least since I was last on the grid, so I was thinking that things might have changed a little, but everything looked just the same. Of course I was using an ancient viewer, which was never graphically pretty even when it was new, and certainly won’t support whatever upgrades might have been engineered in the interim, but the sense of sameness came from more than just the rather dated visuals. Wandering around, there was that old feeling of emptiness that I remembered from when I used to visit more regularly. The land surrounding my cabin, once heavily developed, is now completely abandoned, and there didn’t seem to be another living soul in the whole region.

The post-apocalyptic ambience was always part of the charm of SL for me, but the apparent lack of paying customers does make me wonder how it is still a sustainable business model. Perhaps there are just enough people like me who are prepared to maintain their subscriptions, for reasons they can’t quite articulate, to keep the show on the road. Linden Lab was bought over by a private investment group last year, which suggests that someone believes there is still money to be made from the virtual world, though Tilia, the money services part of the business, may have been more attractive than SL itself. They might be looking to profit from some crypto/NFT-related plan, which seems to be the way the broader video game industry is going.

I did think the new owners might prioritise the release of an official mobile client, but the plan to develop such a thing was apparently abandoned earlier this year. This mystifies me, since the need to buy the sort of computer that can run the desktop viewer must be a major barrier to growing the user base. Monetising those new residents would probably be a big challenge though; perhaps venture capitalists do know more about running tech companies than amateur bloggers.

Whatever; I’ve been in SL for nearly 15 years now, so I expect I’ll preserve my little patch there until the bitter end, even if my visits are few and far between.

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