I had the opportunity to talk with Beth Goza yesterday about multiplayer online worlds such as Second Life. Beth worked for Microsoft for seven years but just accepted a new job with Linden Lab, the company behind the virtual world of Second Life. I have read economics papers on virtual worlds such as Everquest or World of Warcraft but last night was my first tour from a fan.
Second Life is a user-created world. Linden Lab has its own scripting language, soon to be compatible with C# I hear. Users create scripts and virtual worlds, and even actions within those worlds. Beth showed me a tree house, a mansion, and even a beach with user-programmed waves. There are craft-makers and home builders and all sorts of specialized roles. Some people make their entire living buying and selling goods within this virtual world.
There are interpersonal relationships inside the online fantasy world complete with flirting, gifts, guest mansions, and sexual encounters. Last night Beth was chatting with a craftswoman about her latest shoe designs and received a free pair of platform shoes.
Second Life is free for basic accounts that allow people to explore and socialize, and a $10 a month premium account that allows you to own a piece of virtual land up to 512 virtual square meters. There is an entire economy inside the game that boggles the mind. Islands are hot items, usually costing over $1000 Beth said.
As I write this blog entry there are 54,607 members of Second Life with about 3,000 online right now (5.5% of total members). Over $50,000 worth of transactions has already changed hands today, and that’s just counting what Linden Labs tracks.
Beth started playing Second Life in early August, was addicted right away, and met the Linden Lab team while at Foo Camp. She had a new job at Linden within a month of playing Second Life for the first time! She now gets to help other people discover her online world and encourage premium upgrades.
Linden Lab is located in the Barbary Coast area of San Francisco and it sounds like they are having a lot of fun.