Linden Lab has an extensive history of launching their marketing and advertising campaigns for Second Life to mixed reviews, and their most recent attempts have been no different.
Back in 2009, Linden Lab launched a new campaign on the Second Life website featuring the following ad:
At the time it was launched, I considered this ad to be a major upgrade from the stale, low quality past promotions and I was thrilled that it finally showcased a visually stunning Second Life experience, but others argued that the experience painted by this video was unrealistic and featured impossible instantaneous shopping experiences and interactions without gestures or animations. Regardless, I have since then comfortably sent individuals who were completely unfamiliar with Second Life to the SecondLife.com website and/or shared this ad with them in order to give them a general view of SL. That is until last week.
Last week, I noticed Linden Lab had started revamping the SecondLife.com website with new photos and ads. Apparently, according to Sl.com, Second Life is about vampires.
To be fair, the website also showcases the new Linden Realms game and another female avatar, but the first thing you see is this vampire ad.
I didn’t complain when Linden Lab came out with it’s vampire based Google AdSense campaign as I’m sure it’s a popular theme and I wouldn’t even mind them using it as a secondary display on the webiste, but featuring it alone as the dominant first thing you see on SecondLife.com is sending a distorted and incorrect message about Second Life.
In addition, the image (as well as the other main images you can scroll through) is of poor quality. Not only are the images not visually stunning, but they fall far short of what Second Life alone (without retouching) can achieve. The images also feature avatars in stiff, rigid, and unnatural poses with blank stares that are too lifeless and dead for the vampire to pull off. These images are not at all reflective of the potential of the Second Life platform (as-is) which is capable of producing brilliant, emotion evoking, photorealistic images with striking lighting, shadows, and depth of field, yet they are what potential users will first encounter.
Along with these new web images, Linden Lab has newly debuted the below machinima campaign.
This campaign is much closer to portraying a wider picture of SL, but it is still a far stretch from what Second Life is visually capable of producing. However, while the biggest complaints about the video are that it misrepresents Second Life, the complaints refer again to things like the animated interactions and not the visual quality.
With Second Life constantly being compared graphically to popular games I would think that Linden Lab would want to show Second Life in the best light, right?
So then, why is Linden Lab underselling Second Life and why does the community want it to?
As my guests and I mentioned on last week’s MetaReality Podcast, many of the advertisements put out by the leading game developers (for games that Second Life is often compared to) aren’t exactly unretouched screen captures.
Take for example this “The Sims 3” ad below:
Last time I played “The Sims 3” it didn’t look anything like that. The avatars weren’t nearly as realistic or cleanly modeled and I certainly don’t remember that street view. Maybe it’s just that one ad. Here’s another ad for “The Sims 3”:
Wow! In “The Sims 3,” I can “create EVERYTHING I EVER WANTED?” It even, in a way, sounds like it could be an ad for Second Life even though it is much more limited and predefined than Second Life.
Maybe “The Sims” is a bad example. At this point, everyone knows what “The Sims” is like, right? Check out this ad for one of the hottest games this year, “Skyrim.”
Whoa, I knew Skyrim had amazing graphics, but real human actors and live action! Why doesn’t my version of Skyrim look anything like this?
Advertising is an industry that has been built on selling a vision or dream rather than just a product. While my “Sims 3” and “Skyrim” game play experiences weren’t really anything like their ads, I enjoyed them for what they were and generally understood that before purchasing them. On the other hand, my Second Life experience may not be exactly like the ad because not everything is so easy or instantaneous, but I honestly find my Second Life experience to be better than its ad.
The ad can’t explain that when I’m in Second Life, I enjoy fashion and shopping even though it’s not instantaneous, and that even though I don’t really experience seamless animations I am so immersed in the moment that a *high-five* or *cheers* in chat feels the same. The ad doesn’t quite portray the endless possibilities.. in my case, it doesn’t begin to cover the businesses I’ve built, the organizations I’ve helped, the issues I’ve brought awareness to, the once in a lifetime experiences I’ve had, the friendships I’ve made, etc. The ad doesn’t tell you that you too can discover the explainable magic of Second Life.
So I ask again:
Why is Linden Lab underselling Second Life and why does the community want it to?