Editorial: How You Can Prepare for the (Eventual) Closing of Second Life

Someday, it will happen. Not if, when.

Now, before you all get your torches and pitchforks and tar and feathers out, and angrily run me out of town, I do want to reassure you: Second Life is still going to be around for many, many years. It still reliably generates millions of dollars of profit every year for Linden Lab, it still generates a fair income for a great many content creators, and it still has—at the ripe old age of 16—approximately half a million regular monthly users. Linden Lab would be absolutely crazy to shut down this cash cow, especially as their latest social VR platform, Sansar, is still struggling to attract users.

However.

Based on what happened in 2019 with High Fidelity, and based on the recent layoffs of much of the team building Sansar at Linden Lab, it is important for people to realize that these platforms are not charities run for the benefit of their users. These are private companies that are doing the best they can to provide value and generate income for their staff, and they are accountable to management, boards of directors, and (in some cases) shareholders and venture capitalists—not to us.

Do not for one second assume that Second Life will be around forever. After observing how Linden Lab is handling the Good Ship Sansar, I am beginning to suspect that when they do decide to shut Second Life down, it will be sudden, unexpected, and brutal.

So how do you prepare for the inevitable? How do you deal with the loss of a beloved virtual world, which will happen someday in the future?

Well, here’s a few tips to get you started.

First, do a little personal research on the process of grieving. Whether you like to admit it or not, you will probably go through all of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

In other words, it is normal to feel bad after any loss, even a loss that you might not see as very significant at the time. Depending on how you use Second Life (ranging from an idle pastime to an essential source of income), your reactions to the eventual shuttering of SL are likely to vary. You may go through the steps of grief out of order, plunging directly into depression rather than denial (I myself often do this).

Second, remember this harsh truth: these are businesses, not utilities, charities or non-profits. As I mentioned up top, in business anything can and does happen, and it often happens unexpectedly. Sometimes companies are mismanaged into the ground. Sometimes companies have to do things that you as a user of their products might not like.

For example, it is within the realm of possibility that a behemoth company like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, or Microsoft buys out Linden Lab and shuts down Second Life, perhaps even to force them to migrate to one of their platforms. (We already saw this happen when Yahoo! bought up the short-lived virtual world Cloud Party, just to grab the programming talent, and then they shut that world down completely. They did hold a lovely farewell, though.)

One of the reasons I got so upset about Sansar is because I got emotionally attached to the platform, associating it with my most recent recovery from serious clinical depression. Unfortunately, my soft spot for Sansar became a major blind spot, and I landed up getting triggered and getting extremely upset and angry when unfortunate things like the layoffs occurred, even though they did not affect me personally.

So it’s probably best to try and reframe your perspective on Second Life. I admit that many people feel about Second Life the way that I felt about Sansar. Hell, even I sometimes feel that way about SL! But after I processed the shock of the sudden Sansar staff layoffs, I do consider myself more emotionally prepared for when the inevitable does happen, and Second Life does shut down. It’s a matter of when, not if.

I look at SL as a hobby, a way to pleasurably pass the time that satisfies my creative and social needs, and if it all goes away tomorrow, well, I had a wonderful time, I got to know some great people, and I will have many happy memories of countless hours of (mis)adventure. (And one hell of a lot of avatar makeovers!)

Third, it’s probably time to gently begin exploring other options. When Linden Lab shuts down Second Life, there will be a massive diaspora, who will likely land up in various successor social VR platforms and virtual worlds. However, the whole process will go a lot smoother if you do not put all your eggs in one basket.

Now would be a good time to see what Sinespace has to offer, for instance. Or perhaps you decide that Sansar is for you, after all. Or any one of the platforms in this spreadsheet I prepared last November (which I will try to keep up-to-date as the market changes and evolves). Who knows? Maybe you will be attracted to the upcoming Facebook Horizon (even if you can’t be whoever you want).

So get out there are explore alternative social VR/virtual worlds. In almost all cases, it costs you nothing to get started. And you might be pleasantly surprised to find a place you quite like, and want to spend a bit of time in. Having options is usually a good thing—and having options is a necessity if you are a content creator. Many designers and creators already have their brand in several different virtual worlds, and they will have some sort of cushion when Second Life fails.

I hope that you find what I have written here to be helpful, and not see it as an attack on Second Life or Linden Lab. It’s not. But now might be a good time to start preparing for the eventual, inevitable end of SL.

Because someday, probably when you least expect it, it will happen.

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9 thoughts on “Editorial: How You Can Prepare for the (Eventual) Closing of Second Life”

  1. Many players from out of SL are already exploring the possibilities in the Open Sim grids. I have been observing many grids there and it seems to me Kitely is the most stable one in terms of maintainance and professionalism of the owners.
    So.. there is a place to go after the apocalypse 🙂 and it might be even a better place then you were used to! https://www.kitely.com

    Cheers!

  2. One other thing worth mentioning in your be-prepared list, Ryan—quite a few stores, venues and events have their own websites for information and promotion, so I’d suggest checking if your favourites have a web presence and keep an eye on that.

    For me, the biggest challenge would be getting hold of new DJ streaming if I wanted to go DJ elsewhere, or find out if my current provider will take payment via the web instead of Second Life. Second biggest would be recreating my avatar.

    Unfortunately, I’m only too aware of the fragility of living on someone else’s digital land. I’ve seen enough web services come and go, get bought up, shut down, or ‘transitioned’ away from what brought me there. In some cases, even back before the web was a thing! Yeah, I’ve been online that long.

  3. I feel like people are going to split when SL goes. If the user enjoyed dressing up the most, they’ll head to Sine Space. If they enjoyed the social aspect and partying, they’re going to pick up VRChat. If they were really chill and just liked hanging out and listening to a music stream, they’re going to probably take a peek at Altspace.

  4. Ok, my two cents about when Second Life shuts down.

    People have to understand that all games do come to an end in one form or another. Some end gradually like that of 1st Generation MMO Asheron’s Call, as it went from maintenance mode to shut down in a gradual manner; to a more abrupt and brutal shut down in the case of Onverse. Yes, I know people… including myself, have invested money and years into Second Life, and in MMO’s such as World of Warcraft. However, in my case, I have decided to venture into that brave unknown as I know that all things will come to an end. It might be in the near future or further down the road.

    Going back to the topic… Second Life is going to be 17 years old this year. It is time to start that venture into the unknown so that when Linden Lab pulls the plug… no one is left in a panic as they begin the frantic search for a new home. We all have to remember that once a game reaches a certain point to where it can no longer support updates due to constant lag or more serious issues… whether they’re cosmetic (graphic related) or other… that’s when you know and realize its reached its limit.

  5. I refuse to consider the possibility of SL shutting down evvaaaahhhh. I guess it would be categorized as total and complete denial.

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