Lelani Carver pointed me towards a further interview with Rod Humble on the subject of new products which appeared in the Gamesbeat pages of VentureBeat on October 12th. The interview is pretty much what has been said elsewhere insofar as the new products are concerned, but there are some very interesting nuggets of information sitting within it.
Patterns and Creatorverse are primarily mentioned in the piece, with Humble again commenting on the company’s new-found philosophy established out of Second Life:
“At Linden Lab, we believe that creativity is within all people and that it empowers them like nothing else,” said Humble. “We make digital spaces where people can have fun while exploring and sharing their creativity with others. Millions of people around the world have enjoyed that in Second Life, and we look forward to inspiring even more creativity.”
Some people have already taken issue with the use of the past tense (“have enjoyed”) when used in reference to Second Life on the Lab’s corporate website, and they are liable to feel the same way seeing Humble use the same phrasing here. While I don’t necessarily support such views, I would say that when commenting on Second Life to the wider community, media or otherwise, use of the present tense might underline the fact that SL is still out there and people are enjoying it and what it has to offer. Hope you’re reading this, Rod! ;-).
The feature is light on details for both Dio (which gets a throwaway mention) and Versu (which gets no mention at all); whether this is down to the interviewer missing them, or Humble not being in a position to speak about them at the time of the interview, is unclear. However, what he does say in reference to all three which do get a mention (Patterns, Creatorverse and Dio) is that people will be able to monetize them.
This is something he lightly touched upon in his interview with Giant Bomb, specifically with reference to Creatorverse, and I mused in passing on his comment and whether it would be applicable to all of LL’s new products. Well, it would seem so.
For those curious about Linden Research itself, the article contains some interesting elements:
Today, Second Life survives with 1 million monthly active users. The world generated $75 million in revenues last year and it is operating profitably. That has allowed Humble to expand his team to 175 employees and go after the markets beyond the virtual world.
There is also mention of the 2010 lay-offs, although these are again referred to slightly out-of-context, failing to mention that during his tenure, Mark Kingdon actually recruited some 125 people into LL, expanding it by as much as 50% in order to fuel (for the most part) the company’s failed (some would say misguided) attempt to enter the enterprise market. As such, while the lay-offs did hurt, at the time they actually returned the company to more-or-less the “pre-Kingdon” expansion, a move in line with the company also dropping all aspiratiosn of entering the enterprise applications market.
However (and ignoring the perjorative “survives” in the Gamesbeat comment), the reference to “expanding” the team to 175 is an eye-opener; it suggests that the continuing run of those departing the company / being asked to leave has been cutting somewhat deeper than may have previously been appreciated given that 200-220 employees has tended to be the considered figure for the number of people employed by the Lab.
Nor does the article ignore Second Life. In referring to SL, Humble tells Gamesbeat that it is also getting a major upgrade this year, and that Linden Lab is “still investing in 3D virtual worlds.” This is liable to lead to some speculation as to what the “major upgrade” may be. For my part, and given that this week sees some shuffling of regions onto new hardware together with the recent network optimisation tests, I’m thinking Humble is talking more in terms of the company’s much-touted hardware and infrastructure investment, rather than a mega new in-world feature.
Also quoted in the article, LL board member Will Wright makes mention to SL in a maner which may draw frowns from some:
Rod has a great sense of player communities and the forces that drive them. At Linden Labs [sic] I know he’s focused on trying to evolve a very established community into something much broader and more inviting.
While this probably refers to opening-out Second Life to Steam and potentially generating a wider appeal for the platform than is currently the case, that Wright refers to Humble trying to make the existing SL community “more inviting” might easily be taken the wrong way. Many within SL are already feeling increasingly alienated as a result of some of LL’s actions under Humble’s tenure as CEO; so the idea that some at board level are still of the opinion that the existing SL user community is somehow less-than-inviting isn’t going to do much to dispel these feelings or that there is perhaps something of an adversarial attitude within the Lab towards its existing users.
Issue might also be taken with Humble’s own closing statement in the interview, in which he says, in part:
“We are still investing in 3D virtual worlds,” he said. “But shared creative spaces is what we do. There is an opportunity to embrace the new way of developing things. A lot of this could be done inside Second Life. But you get more creativity in the hands of more people by building on new platforms”
This could be seen as something of a dismissal of Second Life; however, I’d hesitate in seeing it that way. The sentiment behind the comment could just as easily be born out of an acknowledgement that from a business perspective, 3D immersive environments are still a niche market and are liable to remain so for some time to come. Thus, it is actually easier for the company to rapidly grow a new user base (and revenue streams) and leverage new platforms through the development of new products. As such, when looking at Humble’s words from the persepctive of SL, perhaps the the key phrase to focus upon is, “We are still investing in 3D virtual worlds.”
You can read the full article here.