Dec 28, 2011

Something Completely Different…

From #SecondLife to Second Fiddle in 2012


Is it a surprise that @Rodvik wants to focus on making video games?


I’ve been quite busy lately with research and development on some projects, so quite noticeably people have asked if I’m still around. The short answer is “yes”, though some other things have been keeping my attention other than Second Life. I won’t go into details about what I’ve been focusing on, but I will say that the technologies are really cool.


More importantly, however, I’ve been keeping an eye on the recent events concerning Linden Lab and Second Life through the usual channels, such as New World Notes, and more specifically the following little gem of news from them made me laugh.







I’m in no way surprised that Rodvik has decided to focus on video games that are unrelated to Second Life and “expand” Linden Lab’s offerings past their flagship namesake. He’s a video game executive that was hired to run a Metaverse company, and I expected he wouldn’t do so well at this job.


Now, when I say he wouldn’t do so well, what I implied many months ago is the only thing this man apparently knows how to do is create video games, which is an entirely different market than managing and growing a metaverse. It’s a lot like the difference between a Bugatti Veyron and a Tricycle.


The Metaverse is the high performance, open ended, user created masterpiece of virtual environments. A tricycle entertains you for a few hours without actually adding any culture or wider appreciation.


Rodvik is a master of making tricycles.


That isn’t to say that there isn’t money to be made in making tricycles, or that Linden Lab couldn’t be profitable by making and selling those tricycles, but that isn’t what Linden Lab as a company is about. At least, that’s not what it should be about. Linden Lab was and is a metaverse company, with a flagship product and culture that is Second Life. When a CEO decides that the flagship product of the company is not worth the effort to give his or the staff’s full attention to, but instead decides that the future of Linden Lab is to pretend to be Zynga… there’s something seriously wrong.


Let’s face it, Rodvik has Farmville envy.



Farmville HD



Rodvik’s assurance that there will be continued updates and functionality additions for Second Life is not comforting, because we already know what it’s like when the Lindens aren’t able to address the JIRA, fix bugs, or ultimately create a viewer that isn’t half assed and broken. There is no reason to believe that splitting the focus and resources of an already stressed team so they can make unrelated video games will have any effect other than to justify less support for Second Life going forward in favor of coddling whatever video games Rodvik wants to roll out for Facebook instead. This isn’t speculation, this is simply common sense management in knowing that splitting an already overworked team to focus on unrelated projects will mean:


1. The new products will be poorly executed.

2. The original product will suffer from poor execution.

3. Both areas of focus will suffer from mediocre execution at best.


Because his focus is on the new games, I’m likely to say that #2 is the most plausible outcome, which means that Second Life (as far as he’s concerned) is now Second Fiddle.



The decision he has made is the executive equivalent of changing the focus of the entire company to something unrelated in order to mask incompetence in the original venue he was hired for. If he cannot expand or properly manage the flagship product, but he knows how to make cheap little video games in spades, the latter will be his and the company’s new focus to make their projected growth going forward. Like I originally said when he was hired – when you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. We already went through this scenario with Mark Kingdon where he decided the focus was on enterprise servers, and if I remember correctly, through all of this divided focus, that didn’t bode well either.


Now, I could theoretically interpret Rodvik’s direction as a skillful manner by which to focus his and the company’s attention on rebuilding a better version of Second Life for the long run. Something from the ground up, or a total overhaul into a new system, which later he will encourage migration from Second Life to the new system as a result.


I could interpret it that way, but I choose not to do so simply out of common sense. If this were the focus, he wouldn’t have said “… unrelated to Second Life”.


Today marks the day that Linden Lab has begun its transformation into just another Zynga wannabe. Rodvik never really left his old position as a VP at Electronic Arts working on The Sims. He simply carried his old job into his new and unrelated job. In the process, instead of focusing on the job he was given, he’s decided that the focus of the entire company should instead cater to his whims and expertise.


In the process, he’s even practiced some great acts of cronyism by surrounding himself with video game executives and industry names to justify his reasoning why Linden Lab needs to pretend to be Zynga and pay less attention to it’s own flagship product and community.


From day one, all Rodvik saw as the CEO of Linden Lab was this:





Click the picture for a link to this item on Marketplace.



The real question in the end is two-fold:


Why did anyone not expect this to happen from day one?


And more importantly


What makes anyone think that this is actually good for Second Life?