My apologies to those of you who may have had a mild heart attack reading today’s heading – Second Life is still very much with us, it’s Onlive’s SL Go whose days are numbered.
That, in itself, may not bother the huge numbers of SL users who’ve never heard of the service, but it is somewhat upsetting to those who used, enjoyed and could see the very real benefits of an SL streaming service where all the tricky processing work was done remotely, rather than in the user’s own client. The days of being able to explore SL with full graphics and minimal lag on an ageing machine will soon be left in the past.
The SL Go news is particularly surprising in the wake of so many rapid improvements made to the service in just the past few weeks – we had Firestorm for SL Go, linden dollars accepted as a subscription payment method, and most recently, mobile Firestorm – all incredibly useful and forward-thinking applications of the technology that will now vanish until somebody else has the time, cash and will to re-invent them.
This is not a case of a successful company biting off more than they can chew, neither is it a company failing and going to the wall – this is a simple case of asset stripping by one of the big boys in the playground: Sony wanted the tech, they had the financial muscle, and they flexed it. The downside is that Sony have no interest in preserving Onlive’s business, so it has to go.
There will, no doubt, be recriminations – assertions that Onlive don’t care about their userbase and, by selling out to Sony, they have effectively lost any credibility they ever had… which, I’m afraid is incorrect. It’s business, plain and simple. Linden Lab did exactly the same thing with Avatars United, and it happens every day in the real world, whether we like it or not – everyone, every company, has their price.
Let’s consider this blog, for example: Much as I love it and love writing for it, if somebody out there saw something they wanted in these pages and were prepared to pay a sum I considered to be significant for it, they can have the lot, and I’m laughing all the way to the bank! Yes, I know there are some readers who’ll be shocked by that, some who will call it unethical, underhand and uncaring, but I disagree – and I’m sure that there are many, many others for whom a wad of cash sufficient to pay for a brand new car, new home or an early retirement would be enough to seal the deal.
We only need take a look around us to realise the facts: There are SL bloggers who’ll pimp their posts to big up their sponsors (carrying the thinly veneered justification of that catch-all term, ‘full disclosure’); thousands of fashion bloggists who’ll say nice things about crappy clothes just to get freebies; machinima makers who’ve become mere advertising vehicles for the Lab; and Linden staffers who’ve gone to work for the opposition just for the position and paychecks. And, yes, I’d do it too, for the right price… and so would you.
SL Go’s demise does crystallise one of the concerns I’ve always had about Linden Lab however. You know very well by now that I have little time for those doom-mongerers who think the Lab are going to throw in the towel on SL any day now – it’s not going to happen, the Lindens are still investing a huge amount of intellectual and real capital into our little virtual world, and I have little fear that – in this particular context – SL won’t still be around for a good long time to come. Oddly, I was involved in a discussion just last night, during which the prospect of the Lindens flicking the off-switch featured prominently; ‘not very likely’ was my thought. We’re still seeing innovation, new features, continual improvements and plenty of enticements to spend our time inworld, and SL is still Linden Lab’s cash cow… however, the same could have been said about Onlive, and this is where a degree of uncertainty finds its way into the mix.
Suppose Sony decided they wanted the Lab’s patents, were prepared to pay that magic sum, then gave us thirty days to gather our belongings before shutting down the server farms for good? It’s possible, no matter how distasteful it might be.
I’m no fatalist – I don’t think it’ll happen – but I am a realist, and I have a plan. I know what I’ll do, just as I have a plan for the zombie apocalypse. How about you?
In the meantime, SLife’s good – so let the music play and let’s carry on dancing as if tomorrow will never come!
Get up and dance
Get up and smile
Get up and drink
To the ones who are gone in the shortest while
Ocean Colour Scene – One For The Road