Mar 8, 2014

The Albatross

SL Go: Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory


Ok... I’m taking a deep breath here. Let’s try to put this all into perspective without the stupid burning me too much...


Recently Linden Lab thought it was a whiz bang idea to make a mobile viewer officially in conjunction with OnLive. Dubbed SL Go! (I’ll use the ! here) it’s supposed to offer a mobile solution for people who want to use Second Life on their mobile device. They even made it out to be some really big announcement.


Pathfinder's Picture Photo Credit: John Lester (Pathfinder)


That’s sort of the best of the announcement right there. I really can’t find any other gems about it other than it looks good. But I suppose if you’re pre-rending and streaming something from the cloud, then it’s a given. Just ask OTOY with their Octane renderer and Brigade 3 engine.


Actually, Linden Lab should have taken a page from that book before they went down this path (or authorized it), because as we all know, OTOY was billed in the same manner when they debuted and found out pretty quick that the whole metered billing thing wouldn’t fly for gamers. Which is actually the same thing OnLive learned when they initially went bankrupt on the same concept.


Ok, they didn’t technically go bankrupt...


"a process that will assign its assets to an independent fiduciary and likely wind down its affairs in an out-of-court insolvency proceeding governed by State of California."


We’re splitting hairs here and debating semantics.


Here’s the gist: Streaming games via cloud service at a metered price didn’t work out for them like they had hoped. Instead of going totally under, they just played a legal shell game with the assets. Oh yes, the company we keep is classy, Linden Lab.


The announcement should have just said:


Remember SkyLight viewer a couple of years back and how it was discontinued and quietly shelved? We had a bottle of Tequila and thought bringing it back in full force for mobile with a metered fee in conjunction with a company that is shaky as hell was a good idea.


Because we know you’ll gladly pay a minimum of $2.50 per hour to access an account you’re paying for already so you can buy virtual stuff. But look at these shadows!




So... I’m at a loss for words here, because there is simply too much askew with this scenario to process in my head at the moment. But you know me... so I’m going to try anyway.


As Pathfinder pointed out (rightly) on his own blog, one does not simply make a mobile app in a public marketplace that adheres to the freemium or pay-once model in the industry as norm, and have the delusion of charging “as little as” $2.50 per hour to use it.


That’s just mobile marketing and brand suicide.


Let’s take into account that Second Life in and of itself is a platform that absolutely thrives on the pre-existing in-app purchase model already tied to Freemium mentality. So really... at what point did somebody think it was a good idea to charge per hour to access a freemium model?


I suppose there is the obligatory mention that the Lumiya viewer exists on mobile already for a flat fee ($2.95), and while it doesn’t deliver all of those whiz bang things that the SL Go! viewer does... it knows better than to charge per hour.





Lumiya is a Second Life and OpenSim client with 3D world view. With Lumiya, you can send and receive instant messages, teleport to your favorite Second Life locations, participate in local chat, interact with objects, manage your inventory, see and navigate the virtual world around you in 3D.


Runs entirely on the phone, no special in-world objects are required. No hidden subscription fees.


Lumiya supports mesh content, server-side appearance and is compatible with RLV.



Is it perfect? Not at all... but it sure as hell works well enough to pretty much get the same job done (though a bit less pretty) for the flat fee equivalent of one hour using SL Go! Though I suspect OnLive can’t have any competition kicking their asses... so maybe they’ll just send a bunch of lawyers over to cease and desist them.


Which leaves us to the very poignant observation of Tuna Oddfellow which equates this to the Ye Olde days of the Internet when Compuserve and the like would charge per hour to use their service.



During the early 1990s the hourly rate for Compuserve fell from over $10 an hour to $1.95 an hour. In March 1992, it launched online signups with credit card based payments and a desktop application to connect online and check emails.


In April 1995, CompuServe topped three million members, still the largest online service provider, and launched its NetLauncher service, providing WWW access capability via the Spry Mosaic browser. AOL, however, introduced a far cheaper flat-rate, unlimited-time, advertisement-supported price plan in the US to compete with CompuServe's hourly charges. In conjunction with AOL's marketing campaigns, this caused a significant loss of customers until CompuServe responded with a similar plan of its own at $24.95 per month in late 1997.



There are literally so many things wrong with the SL Go! approach that I’m experiencing difficulty here... I’m trying so very hard to keep composure with this.


takes another deep breath


Ok... so... in a recent blog post “Hamlet Au”/ James proudly proclaims that he consulted OnLive with this. And of course got the sneak peek including a tablet, controller, SL Go! and about 2 days worth of credits to check it out. I may be confusing James and Hamlet here... but there’s other bigger problems and this isn’t one of them. I’m pretty certain it’s about as relevant as confusing Mark Twain and Samuel Clemens.


But I really should touch on the obvious here in that SL Go! is exactly the sort of reason why you don’t have biased media consulting you for stuff like this. This is the sort of thing that is proof pudding for my contention with the “favorites” list of Linden Lab talking heads for the public (and any company playing the same PR game, really).


You end up with somebody advising you, through rose colored glasses and bribed bias, and end up with statements like this:



  • As a cloud-rendered application which requires heavy server and bandwidth capacity, it's a metered, for-pay service. Having used SL Go extensively myself, I believe most dedicated SLers will find it worthwhile enough to pay for, at some level -- indeed, when I ran a survey about cloud rendering SL a few years ago, many said they were willing to pay quite a lot. But the price tag is worth keeping in mind.




Which in turn succinctly illustrates the danger and biased thinking I’m against in this industry.


Aside from the blatant admission that SL Go! is not for new users but caters to pre-existing user-base, and despite not doing market research and finding out that mobile apps largely do not exist as a metered service, and despite not acknowledging that a fully working alternative exists for a flat $2.95 on the mobile store, and despite doing his “qualitative” survey among a select few and including absolutely no unbiased perspective whatsoever (like asking people outside of SL, or the non-hardcore users)... this is pretty much justification out of severely stacked bias.


Hell, we’ll even throw in the part about OnLive more or less sending a new tablet, controller, pre-paid credits for two days, and the whole shebang...


And this was the guy proudly advising them?


I wouldn’t be cozying up to that statement in public and instead trying to distance myself from my involvement. I sure as hell wouldn’t be proudly waving it around like I was special for having advised on how to create a completely out of context cock-up that is corporate self serving and ignores all of reality to paint it in a favorable light.


I’d be telling people I was absolutely hammered and just sobered up, apologizing for whatever happened while I was drunk.


So for about 1 hour of using SL Go!, I could just purchase Lumiya and be done with it... much like pretty much everyone else on the mobile marketplace would do if seen side by side. Because let’s face it... are shadows and glitter really a $2.50 per hour added value?


I suppose then that SL Go! is OnLive’s attempt to target pre-existing SL users and completely ignore the elephant in the room called literally everyone else on Earth in direct opposition to reality.


30 seconds and a whiteboard is really all it would take after the initial SL Go! pitch for me to have shot it full of so many holes that Swiss cheese would have been envious.


There’s the obvious metered access to a fremium model/in-app purchase service that will definitely piss off pretty much anyone that isn’t a hardcore SL user with money to burn (read: pretty much the entire planet). Not to mention anyone with a Premium account already paying to use Second Life... this is now double and triple dipping...


Pay for the Premium account, pay for the content in-world, and pay per-hour on top of that to use it on your mobile device when an alternative exists for a flat $2.95


I find it baffling that the assertion of people being totally ok with this persists.


I mean... seriously. Who were these people in the survey saying they’d pay this and a whole lot more?


There’s the favorable talking heads consulting to make it happen, who are no longer just dripping with bias but drowning in the swimming pool of bias like the Great Gatsby.


There’s the fact that it wasn’t designed to appeal to the majority of who is going to see it in public or try to use it.


Th... there is little that is good about this. And the one thing that it does well is absolutely shot, quartered, hung and pissed on by all of the other things, and then dressed up pretty in a bad attempt at humor for the family members who just had to watch it all.


Why would somebody at Linden Lab authorize this?


All I can really say is that this seems more like a delayed thing from Rodvik than something I’d expect to have been authorized from Ebbe. This had to have been in the works for awhile, and so it falls under Rodvik’s watch and (obvious) thinking.


At least... dear god I hope this isn’t Ebbe’s doing.



Pros: It’s a smooth and fluid mobile version of Second Life. It looks good and seems to perform well under the right conditions. As Pathfinder has said


“Wow, it’s beautiful and fast. Seriously impressive from a technical perspective. Could definitely make mobile a more viable access point for Second Life users.”


Cons: Literally every other circumstance surrounding it.


Would I personally use it? Hell no. I don’t make it a habit to reward bad behavior, and OnLive is no different. Especially not for $2.50 per hour minimum. The hell are they thinking?





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