Horse sense is a good judgment which keeps horses from betting on people. ~W.C. Fields
For a long time now, I have been talking about how creating/establishing things for people to do is an untapped gold mine waiting to happen in SL.
In 2008 (maybe a little sooner, maybe a little later, but generally around 2008) the majority of the Second Life population turned from geeks/inventors/creators into consumers. For better or worse doesn’t matter. It happened. Although some of these consumers try their hand at making horrible things and trying to sell them, they are not content creators in the realistic sense. Consumers look for things to do and things to buy. Fashion and wearables are the obvious winners in this category because avatar customization represents an independent market. You don’t have to own land to enjoy a pair of cute shoes. Furniture, houses, chess boards, music venues, etc are all dependent markets because you have to own some chunk of virtual space to make them happen.
Breedables are the closest thing SL has to a gaming market right now. Unless you’re completely ignoring all the hype being poured into this segment of the community, it’s hard to miss how much Linden Labs is thrilled to be able to show consumers there is something to do in their sadly lagging format. And although Breedables have been a dependent market up until this point, there’s reason to believe that tide may be about to start nudging into a turn.
Unfortunately, to date, Breedables in SL have been useless oddities to those of us with, say creativity or a useful sense of purpose (and/or any real gaming experience). So Breedables have been regulated to a niche community comprised of mostly (a) bored housewives and their virtual partners who consider taking care of make-believe pets to be a bonding experience, and (b) people who want to make money in SL but lack the commitment/skill to make anything of market value on their own. There’s a (c) which is just people who like to poke around with math and see if they can outwit the gene programming, but there are probably three of those geeks out there, so I don’t think they should count (you know who you are).
Most breedables are script-heavy, primmy, laggy, and money-grubbing — which is not attractive to anyone with a Minecraft/WOW/Eve account or even a 1970s pong machine.
At its best, a breedable should be part crafting, part neopet, and part lemonade stand. The current offerings (which include bunnies, fish, cats, dogs, horses, dragons, etc) are lackluster crafting games that make Cafe World look good. Their neopet pyramid scheme market models all seem to be based on trying to suck as much money out of users as they can while offering as little customer service and effort as possible (the “variety” in the products generally involves different shades of eyes that take two clicks in Photoshop, or making an object shiny, etc). As for the lemonade stand element, it’s just depressing. If you don’t believe me, go grab a friend and find a breedable auction. You can listen in voice to an “auctioneer” plead for people to buy a make-believe critter for two hours. TWO HOURS of people who can’t pronounce difficult words like “cyan” trying to convince you that you NEED to BUY THIS HORSE.
Despite this, however, everyone I know who is involved in breedables makes money in SL. Sometimes just enough to pay their tier, but I have one friend who made enough to purchase her own SIM. That’s an awful lot of make-believe critter money.
All of which brings us to Meeroos.
Meeroos are an interesting game changer. I haven’t messed around with my beta meeroos enough yet to decide if I want to play the game when it goes live, but I have seen enough to know that it sets up a whole new frontier in SL as a game and activity format. Several of the ideas being used by the Meeroos are things I’ve been talking to friends about for quite some time now and I’m happy to see them manifested into a real product.
While I think Meeroos still suffer from the “too many prims” disease of all breedable products, they’re moving in the right direction with grid-wide interaction and HUD-based controls. Eventually, this sort of activity shouldn’t require any in-world product, but this is a good bridge. The very primitive “trivia” minigame is also a good step and they’re tapping into the competitive gamer mindset with concepts like leveling and achievements. I could do without guilds, but the social-hungry segment of SL butterfly girls will be all over that, too. These small steps appear pretty tame by any real gamer standard, but in terms of SLers desperate for something to do, it’s hitting all the right notes.
And for those of you who keep crying about SL being a dying format, let me break out some numbers on you that illustrate the potential still to come:
***NOTE: All of the below is based on publicly available data from the Meeroo webstites and group notices. I have NO inside information from anyone to do with the product.***
Based on a group notice that went out to the Meeroo beta group, there were 17,000 Meeroos on the grid. That was with 1500 beta users NOT yet participating. Simple math tells us that means 2800 people are active in the beta (beta testers got 6 meeroos in their test packs and 17000/6 = 2833).
What kind of income could this translate to for the creators who invested in the project?
There is currently only one pre-order meeroo package available for sale and it’s priced at L$5100.
** If 1/4 of active beta testers have pre-ordered a package @ L$5100, Meeroos may have made L$3570000
(current exchange rate about $13,750USD).
** If 1/3 of active beta testers have pre-ordered a package @ L$5100, Meeroos may have made L$4760000
(current exchange rate about $18,500USD).
** If 1/2 of active beta testers have pre-ordered a package @ L$5100, Meeroos may have made L$7140000
(current exchange rate about $27,500USD).
2. Launch Packs.
I would think that around launch they’ll probably see people buying an extra pack / extra supplies and/or all the people who waited to get smaller packs in a rush. It is safe to assume another $10k – $15k.
3. Recurring Revenue (food)
1 basket of Nibbles for 1 Meeroo for 4 weeks = $L 225
1 buffet of Nibbles for 6 Meeroos for 4 weeks = $L 1200
Assuming 15000 meeroos in play that means a monthly income from Meeroo food and products between $10k and $13k.
The Meeroo project should generate between $30k and $50k for the first two months and then between $10k and $15k every month after that. If they are able to convert the game into other formats and/or draw in outside users, that amount could skyrocket. (You don’t have to make WOW money to be happy as a game creator). I have no idea what their initial investments have been, but it still seems like this will end up being a win. SL’s one big strength is that we are a format that is micro-payment friendly and that will aid products like this. Few people will hesitate to drop L$225 on something that will entertain them.
These types of activity products also open up markets for supplement products. My tenants on Seven Veils create products for people who like to decorate habitats for breedables. Their products are purely decorative, but other stores offer scripted objects to make monitoring breedables easier, etc.
I know there is a lot of worry that this step could turn SL into a Farmville type atmosphere, but I don’t see that as a danger. There is already a Facebook and already a Farmville and they do their thing better than anyone in SL has yet offered. While I am happy to use SL to play paper dolls, attend concerts, and decorate my make-believe gardens, I welcome any other activities to keep an active userbase involved and keep the economy exploring new directions.
So, I’ll say it again (only a little more smug this time): activities and gaming offer a profitable new direction for creators to move in and develop new products for; it also gives the bored, frustrated consumer-based users of Second Life something to do outside of clubbing and shopping. There’s just no downside to dem apples.