On Friday October 14th, Linden Lab released their Q3 economic figures. The data presented is a mixed bag.
On the plus side:
- Completed registrations remain strong – LL put it at around an average of 16K per day; the graph suggests the average might be slightly higher
- Average number of monthly users logged-on rose very slightly (by just under 0.4%)
- The number of economic participants rose by around 12,000 and the Linden dollar appreciated very fractionally
- Web Marketplace sales grew by 2.78%
On the minus side:
- User hours have declined by a touch under 2%
- LindeX trading suffered a slight drop
- The overall growth in Web Marketplace sales has slowed significantly
- A total of around 20sq km of land was lost to the grid.
So, the downward slide in user concurrency has reversed itself very slightly; but the flipside to this is that people are still appearing to spend less time in-world per head than previously. This is something that LL have been trying to get their heads around for several months, and which Rod Humble mentioned it as a point of interest when speaking at SLCC 2011, when he pointed out the demographic for new sign-ups is somewhat younger than has traditionally been the case of SL.
Alongside this is the thorny issue of user retention. Sign-ups, overall concurrent users and user hours online don’t actually equate to this – and we’re not getting any kind of indication at all as to what is happening. How many new sign-ups are translating over time to retained users? Part of the problem here, of course, is actually defining what we all mean as being “user retention”.
Within the Lab, retention is clearly tied closely to engagement. As such, the Lab have indicated they are working on a number of initiatives aimed towards people engaging more directly with the platform in shorter time periods than might currently be the case. Again, at SLCC 2011 a number of Linden Lab employees spoke to this, including:
- Colossus Linden, who indicated that currently, it might be several weeks between someone joining SL and actually engaging with the economy in terms of buying L$ – and that LL are looking to reduce this to a matter of days
- Durian Linden pointed towards LL developing more in the way of “directed experiences” in order to get incoming users to more rapidly engage in aspects of SL such as building and creativity.
Certainly, it’s hard to argue against these approaches. At the end of the day, obviously, the more a user is actively engaged in the platform, the more they are likely to stick around and grow within it.
So there is work to be done, to be sure. However, taken as a whole, the Q3 economic figures as presented do suggest that SL continues to be relatively stable. Obviously, it would be nice to see more some definitive signs of growth, and the fact that these figures fail to demonstrate this might explain why they were slipped quietly out late on Friday afternoon…