10 hours ago
Monday, August 14, 2017
News and Commentary: Will Sansar Be Doomed By It's Unpopularity?
Last Friday August 11, the Newser posed the question "How much do you want to hear about Sansar?" For the majority answering, the answer seems to be "not interested."
Sansar, originally called "the next generation virtual world, has been the target of skepticism, even fear, from the very beginning. Even yours truly was thinking early on that it could very well be the "New Coke of virtual worlds." A few thought this was going to be a tightly-controlled place Linden Lab would try to force everyone into by shutting down Second Life after it's opening. But most felt that the Lab, even with it's past heavy-handed moves, wouldn't pull such a thing, if for no other reason it would mean risking the future of the company by shutting down a sure thing. But still, most had strong doubts this new place was going to be for them. Granted Linden Lab had done a breakthrough by creating Second Life in the first place, but many of it's developments since then, such as it's viewers which after 2010 have reminded in use by only a minority of longtime users in favor of third-party ones, and seeming to favor "bells and whistles" in favor of fixing bugs and flaws, convinced many this place wouldn't be as good as the virtual world they had known. And as a few details came out over time, while some remained open to possibilities, many remained doubtful.
And when Sansar finally came out two weeks ago, well, it was my own observation the best thing about it is it's potential for improvement. Draxtor Despress has been expressing enthusiasm about Sansar, but it's my observation he is one of the few to do so.
There have been some neutral to positive comments, such as Ciran Laval, and Monica Querriren. Lauraina Hawks had a cautious review. Much like me she advised people to wait and see. In Inara Pey's commentary, she felt the place had a lot of bugs and downsides, but felt it had potential, and suggested Linden Lab wasn't aiming just at Second Life users but "casting Sansar’s net far wider, as has repeatedly been said throughout the development process."
Hamlet Au over time had expressed increasing skepticism about Sansar in the days leading up to it's release, once comparing it to Blue Mars which lasted only a few years. Once it was out, he was more or less observing. Will Burns in short called Sansar "nothing special," also making a comparison to Blue Mars at one point, "it’s a nice place to visit, but we live elsewhere. When you want a short term experience, SANSAR is a good vacation ..., but when you really want to spend time in a virtual world that is organic and user-generated – you should stick to Second Life. If Linden Lab understood the reasons why we love Second Life, they would have never made SANSAR the way they did ..."
Most of the run of the mill comments I've observed are negative to indifferent. For instance when I asked the question about Sansar on Friday, Xymbers Slade answered he had, "Zero interest. (Linden Lab)'s ineptitude after the first few years makes me bitter and turned off toward any future products." Sakki Salurbia commented, "I personally have zero interest in Sansar. My time and money have been invested in SL for the last 9 years. Why on earth would I change to this?" As I wrote earlier, Marusame Ari felt it wasn't even as good as the simplistic IMVU, of which I've heard a couple people compare Sansar to. And one moderator in the "Second Life Friends" Facebook group commented, "I think Sansar needs to focus on improving what people have been complaining about before they start pushing people from SL. It was fun to test out but it wasn't interesting enough yet. So much more needs to be done before it will draw many SL users, and I'm afraid the tech isn't as available as the Lindens must think. It won't be long, but it's still too soon when it comes to VR for most of us."
Interesting enough, the moderator of the Second Life group on Facebook proceeded to remove the post I had made on the grounds it violated their rule of "This group is for posts related to Second Life only," even though Sansar is made by the same people and it's a big topic of discussion inworld. Someone I talked to about the matter suggested the reason was probably less about a desire to be super-strict with rules, and a desire to avoid drama from people who get angry every time the word "Sansar" is mentioned. That some people feel topics on Sansar need to be deleted because of that suggests something about the level of negativity.
It's doubtful that Linden Lab expected Sansar to be a big hit right away. While it seemed at the beginning they were saying "We're going to make Sansar so good, you'll want to stay," over time they were either getting wind of the constant skepticism, becoming aware that their new world wasn't going to live up to the hype, or something of both. Their press releases in the past few months have stated, "There's been nothing quite like Sansar," even though Linden Lab already has a virtual world, a clear sign they were aiming mainly at people from outside Second Life's userbase. Or to paraphrase Inara Pey, casting a wider net.
But with people marketing their product as the best their is on the market all the time, people can and will do their research before trying. And when people look up Sansar beyond the press releases and official statements, they'll find numerous blog and forum posts calling it a lousy product. That could very well keep usership of the place down.
So how could Linden Lab combat this kind of bad publicity? More press releases and spin artists can only do so much. The best thing it could do is to make Sansar live up to the potential it has. But like many longterm residents, yours truly has come to expect mixed results to overall improvement from the Lab at best. A Sansar that's sort of good probably won't be enough to overcome the weight of the negativity.
Sansar won't be going away anytime soon. And even if it's marginally profitable from it's own sales of virtual content, Linden Lab will keep it around. But if it's userbase remains tiny, about as small or smaller than InWorldz or Kitely, it's likely to be judged a failure. But not unlike the "New Coke" marketing fiasco with Coca-Cola, Linden Lab might end up a winner anyway. A Sansar that turns out to be all but ignored by computer users would likely discourage any major player in the industry from developing their own virtual world. That would leave Linden Lab in it's de-facto monopoly with Second Life. While they didn't set out to discourage competition for Second Life by making an alternative that turned out to be a dud, people could be forgiven for thinking they had.