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Virtual Worlds

Examining the emerging economy of Second Life

  • Audience: 3rd year executives at a Fortune 100 company, financial services firm
  • Purpose: A part of a larger module to examine emerging trends.
    In this section, examining the emerging economies of virtual worlds, in particular, Second Life (SL)
  • Context: At a customized learning conference for the financial services firm.
    Presented in groups of up to 12. Setup: Presenter’s workstation with large format screen for group viewing.
    3 workstations with preset avatars in SL for individual viewing.
    45 minute module in 4 hr rotation. Presented 4x. Two facilitators – one virtual, one live.
    Speaker-phone so we can hear voice of avatar facilitator (SL had no voice in 2006)
    Very high bandwidth connection required.

Second Life

FYI – About Second Life

Second Life (SL) is a privately owned, partly subscription-based 3-D virtual world, made publicly available in 2003 by San Francisco-based Linden Lab, and founded by former RealNetworks CTO Philip Rosedale. The Second Life “world” resides in a large array of servers that are owned and maintained by Linden Lab, known collectively as “the grid”.  The Second Life client program provides its users (referred to as Residents) with tools to view and modify the SL world and participate in its virtual economy, which concurrently has begun to operate as a “real” market. At precisely 8:05:45 AM PDT, October 18, 2006, the population of Second Life hit ONE million “residents”.  (Wikipedia)

Learning objectives:

  • Examine the virtual economy of Second Life.   Why would you want to be there?  Who is there now?
  • Identify what it would take for your company to create a presence in Second Life.
  • Have first-hand experience with online virtual community, and if applicable, participate in the economy. (do)
  • Discuss the impact that virtual worlds could have on your future (projecting into a fictional world in 2012):
    • as individuals
    • as business person
    • potential impact with current clients
    • possibilities with future clients


Participants enter, are greeted by the in-person facilitator. They see 3 workstations and a large screen with PPT deck. The in-person facilitator then introduces Second Life with a deck that  highlights SL economic and census data, in addition to  newspaper reports from 2006. (See Slideshare presentation for an example.)

Once the session begins, the virtual facilitator (as a Second Life avatar)  is positioned in SL to greet participants/participant avatars. The virtual facilitator then shows a presentation (in Second Life)  about Second Life as if it were 2012.  Projecting into the future, the facilitator examines:

  • What is Second Life?
  • What is the economy of SL?
  • What are the businesses currently in SL?
  • Who are the early adopters in terms of large corporations?

Participants are then asked to enter into Second Life using their preset avatars and participate in a tour. At the workstations, the preset avatars are positioned in the virtual world. The participants are sharing workstations (1-4 per workstation). The avatar facilitator teaches the basics of how to move in SL. The participants are encouraged to play with their avatars. The participants see the perspective from their avatar, and they also see the perspective of the avatar facilitator on the large screen. The in-person facilitator provides technical assistance and answers or directs questions as they arise.

The avatar facilitator guides them through 2-3 locations live. Participants are asked to move through the virtual world and explore it with their guide.

Avatar facilitator ends by asking the participants to consider the following questions:
•    What would it take to establish a presence in Second Life? What would it take?
•    What is the impact that the Virtual Economy could have on your clients?
•    What is the impact that the Virtual Economy could have on you?

Thank the participants for their time. End session.

RESET: avatars, slideshows (in SL and local), check on virtual facilitator & phone line.


  • With very few exceptions, the participants did not see this having an impact on their book of business or their lives
  • Most were incredulous as WHY anyone would pay money for virtual goods
    • Counter argument —  why pay $5 for a coffee – what value does a brand like Starbucks add? Virtual experience.
    • Counter argument — Why do people pay for virtual goods? The same reason that they buy goods in the real world; (i) to be able to do more, (ii) to build relationships, and (iii) to establish identity. (From Jeremy Liew, Lightspeed Venture Partners – in a WSJ article.
  • Although they were impressed by the brands that were there, they did not know quite what to do with it. Did not see it as a trend that would impact them in any large way.
  • Could see the potential benefit for virtual teams, for communications.
  • EXCEPTIONS: a few participants were either gamers, and had clients that were gamers (for example, on World of Warcraft – “the team that kills together, stays together”), or used SL to communicate with distant family. They are the early adopters in the company and could potentially lead the way.
  • Reaction/impact depended on large part on the INDUSTRY sector of the participant’s clients — the client needs drives the interests. Participants with high tech companies as clients are usually more cutting edge than those with say, perishable goods companies.
  • Overall impact was to increase awareness of virtual worlds in general, and Second Life in particular.
  • Primed the participants and in post-conference feedback the reported suddenly noticing virtual worlds in the news.

Topic: Virtual Worlds
Method: Blended learning: Demo, presentation, instructor-led training
Second Life, PowerPoint
Dec 2006

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