Recap: Second Life provided the “metaverse experience” many years before Facebook turned into Meta and spent billions to try and bring VR to the masses. The virtual world never became a revolution, but it’s still hanging around.
Linden Lab recently posted a brief video on its community forum to announce that Second Life will soon have a mobile counterpart. For the first time in 20 years, the virtual world where “residents” enjoy their low-polygonal internet life is expanding its reach beyond traditional desktop platforms.
The mobile version of Second Life will presumably run on Android and iOS devices. Linden Lab chose the Unity engine to create their Second Life mobile “viewer” (likely a dedicated app) and port their online experience to tablets and phones, which is seemingly easier to maintain across different platforms.
According to the San Francisco-based company, Second Life Mobile will provide a virtual world which is essentially on par with the one available through desktop systems. The developers had to make some small compromises, but the “complex behaviors” of users’ avatars and the “rich” 3D world of Second Life should still be there for residents to enjoy.
The original version of Second Life was released in 2003 and experienced rapid growth and popularity over the years. By 2013, the virtual world had one million regular users but by 2017, the active avatar population had declined to between 800,000 and 900,000 users.
To outsiders, Second Life always felt like a MMORPG game with fewer polygons and interaction opportunities than World of Warcraft. Linden Lab has always insisted that their creation is not a game though, as there are neither “manufactured conflicts” or set objectives.
For quite some time, Second Life was hyped so much that people started spending enormous amounts of (real) money to purchase virtual “properties” in fictional Linden Dollars. Big corporations like IBM organized virtual meetings, several embassies opened virtual offices, and many were convinced that the low-poly avatars were the future of online interactive experiences.
Linden Lab’s ambitions were eventually scaled down, and the (real) world almost forgot that Second Life was still up and running despite the avatar-fueled hysteria being no more. A mobile version could provide a second chance for the virtual world to become relevant again, but the Internet business is a fickle one and even Meta has so far been unsuccessful in bringing a substantial portion of its billion users to the new Metaverse VR world.