Slate recently did a piece on why Second Life, the virtual reality world, failed. It concludes, rightfully so, that the Linden Labs creation world lacks a clear purpose. Given how significant this factor is in the “real world” — people with a strong purpose and vision in life thrive, while those who lack direction, don’t — the rationale makes sense. In the words of Kit DeLuca (Pretty Woman): “You gotta have a goal. Do you have a goal?”
But there’s something missing, and I believe it’s an even bigger part of the equation: social, more specifically, Facebook. Second Life launched in 2003. Facebook came out in 2004 and with it came the rise and explosion of Zynga games, FarmVille and CityVille.
If purpose is the defining factor for success, then why is one of the most purpose-driven games in the world, World of Warcraft, losing players? My answer: Facebook. Blizzard Entertainment’s now seven year-old brainchild has been losing players since last October and has lost ~two million subscribers during the last 12 months.
Let’s compare this to The Sims Social, the Facebook addition to the Sims series. By augmenting the videogame with a Facebook edition, it expanded its user base and is second only to CityVille, Facebook’s most popular leisure activity.
Second Life failed because Facebook became our new virtual world, our “second life.” The alternate world is simply too disconnected from where people spend the majority of their time online.