Sinespace Learns a Lesson the Hard Way: Pay-to-Play Marketing Can Backfire

Trilo Byte (a.k.a. TriloByte Zanzibar, one of the people behind the virtual fashion brand BlakOpal Designs, started in Second Life and now operating in Sinespace) reports on his blog that Sinespace has had a marketing scheme backfire on them, and it has created a serious griefer problem.

The problem is that at least one of the marketing companies Sinespace contracted with started offering what are called pay-to-play inducements, where new users are paid in IMVU credits or Roblox currency (Robux) if they download the app, create an account on Sinespace and use the program for a minimum length of time (e.g. 30 minutes).

This has apparently led to a unwelcome surplus of trolls, griefers, and online harassment in Sinespace:

According to Sine Wave, what is happening in-world is the result of a single marketing agency who they have already complained to about the practice. However, we’re still seeing these users coming in, often referred to by shady sites like this onethis one, and this one too (and those are just the sites users are posting links to in chat).

By virtue of being offered payment in another game’s currency, they are confirming from the onset that they have no interest outside of getting currency to spend on another platform. Do they really expect users coming in for IMVU or Roblux currency to abandon everything they’ve built? The promise of Sinespace may be great, but the world is far from finished.

It isn’t just a matter of setting themselves up for failure. It’s much worse. On top of bringing in a bunch of people who are very unlikely to join the community and even less likely to become economic participants, it creates the Sinespace griefing problem.

Now, other virtual worlds have made similar mistakes. For example, Linden Lab set up a Twitch bounty program which paid livestreamers to visit Sansar, which was abused by several people who trolled the platform (I’m not certain if that program was suspended or not).

What is clear is that companies in the social VR/virtual world marketplace need to think carefully about the unintended consequences of offering financial inducements to entice new users on to their platforms. This is an embarrassing episode for Sinespace, one from which I hope they recover quickly. Sometimes you just have to learn a lesson the hard way.

Thanks to Jospeh Zazulak for the news tip!

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