The Amazon deal: LL demonstrating they can’t see the wood for the trees?

On Friday 4th January, I was one of many who reported on the “unexpected” (given the move had apparently been made of December 10th, 2012) move to make Second Life available via Amazon following a tweet from the official Second Life account. Ciaran Laval was perhaps the first (certainly that I know of) to blog on the matter, and Tateru gave a very pithy commentary on the nature of the packages and on promoting SL as a “game”, which drew considerable commentary on Plurk as well as on her blog.

The tweet announcing the promotion / "expansion"
The tweet announcing the promotion / “expansion”

For my part, I resisted passing direct comment on the move in my original piece, in keeping with my attempts to avoid colouring any “news” items with personal bias. However, I have to say that the Amazon deal leaves me feeling that – once again – the Lab has bungled an opportunity, or at least failed to launch it fully and properly or in a manner liable to serve Second Life and themselves particularly well; although perhaps not for the reasons others have cited.

In difference to many critiquing the move, I have no problem in Amazon presenting SL as a game. Not that I’m saying I think SL is a game, I most certainly don’t, per se. I simply have no problem in Amazon presenting it as such, and for a couple of reasons:

  • Whether we like it or not, SL is largely referred to by the broader media and the more specialist (dare I say gaming media) as a “game” (even if the latter does make some attempt to sub-categorise SL in some way) – ergo, the wider perception is that SL “is a game”, whether we agree with that perception or not
  • More directly, and as Uccello Poultry comments on Tateru’s piece, the simple fact is that “game” is probably the only listing option in Amazon’s catalogue they consider to be the closest “fit” for SL – and it is a little unreasonable for us to expect them to develop a dedicated category on the basis that we find the “game” label offensive.

At the end of the day, issues over the listing category could be overcome had time been taken to give a reasonable explanation / description of the product itself. Sadly, and as demonstrated by the pages for the Viewer, the Lab has done the barest minimum required. Rather than providing insight into the platform through a mixture of text and screen shots, all we have are five bland bullet points which fail to leverage SL’s potential or appeal. The effort does, being brutally honest, leave me wondering once more if there is anyone working at the Lab who actually a) has real, hands-on marketing experience, b) is capable of writing attention-grabbing promotional material, and c) actually grasps what SL is about for themselves.

For me, this lack off effort on LL’s part is more damning than Amazon’s sin of promoting SL as a game.

Vehicle Packages: opportunity missed
Vehicle Packages: opportunity missed

Turning to the vehicle packages themselves, I have to say I don’t necessarily agree with all the criticism levelled at them – SL actually can be quite good for using some vehicles / craft, as I’ve personally discovered as result of receiving the Premium sail boat, which is one of the “vehicles” in the packs.

Again, from my perspective, the crux of the matter is that the packages are indicative of thinking at the Lab which is at worst, simply lazy, or at best, demonstrating an inability to think an idea through in terms of its potential to benefit the platform and by extension, LL’s own bottom line.

In short, in opting for the packages on offer, rather than being a little more ambitious, it would appear the Lab has missed an opportunity right from the get-go. That is to address, at least in part, the perennially thorny issue of user retention.

Continue reading “The Amazon deal: LL demonstrating they can’t see the wood for the trees?”

Lab promotes Second Life through Amazon

Update, January 5th, 2012: The “limited offer Vehicle Starter Pack” has been withdrawn ahead of the stated end of the promotional period. This is apparently because no-one thought to ensure the offer could in fact be limited to “one per customer”.

secondlifeIn something of a surprise move Linden Lab announced on the 4th January, 2013, that Second Life is now on Amazon.

But only (perhaps only for the time being) if you are a US resident.

The announcement reads in full:

It’s a new year, and we have news: Second Life is now available on Amazon! 

In addition to the standard Mac and PC versions, we’re offering several bundled packages for sale, which include vehicles to enjoy and L$ to spend inworld or on the Marketplace.

As a special promotion, this weekend only the Starter Vehicle Pack (usually $9.95), which includes a hoverboard and L$1000 will be available for FREE [limit one per customer].

If a friend of yours has been waiting to join Second Life, now is a great chance for them to head over to Amazon and get started with the free Starter Vehicle Pack. Spread the word!

One of the SL offer pages on
One of the SL pages on

The links lead to a series of pages offering various packages for download, which comprise:

  • A PC or Mac “basic” pack, which appears to offer the current version of the viewer,
  • A “Deluxe Vehicle Pack”, comprising a hoverboard and what appears to be the sailboat previously offered to Premium members together with L$2000, at a cost of $14.95
  • A “Premium Vehicle Pack”, comprising the hoverboard, sailboat and the Premium gift dune buggy together with L$4000, at a cost of $24.95
  • The special “limited offer Vehicle Starter Pack” mentioned in the blog post of a hoverboard and L$1000, for $9.95 (offer expires on the 6th January 2013, and is limited to one per customer.

Amazon’s account linking facility is used for the downloads. Whether this means that in the case of new users any required Second Life account must be created through Amazon’s servers prior to downloading the viewer, or whether the SL account creation can be handled once the viewer is installed (as appears to be the case with the forthcoming Steam link-up), is unclear.

Certainly, it is interesting to note there is a subtle difference in the wording of the account link-up instructions. Those provided on the viewer pack pages refer to the need for a “Linden Lab account”, while those on the vehicle pack pages refer to purchasers having a “Second Life account”, suggesting the two are different – although granted, the different wording might simply be an error and not indicative of anything.

Even so, leaving it to the LL side of things for the actual SL account creation would appear to simplify matters considerably for Amazon – although it does beg the question as to *what* account would require creation prior to downloading either viewer package where new users are concerned. Doubtless, someone from the US will be able to enlighten me, should they opt to try the mechanism out!

Another interesting tidbit with this move is that it seems the packages have all been available through Amazon since … December 10th, 2012, with, it would seem, nary a word from the Lab.  Katharine Berry was perhaps the first to notice things when, on Christmas Eve, she Tweeted:

Eagle-eyed Katharine Berry spotted the packages on Christmas Eve
Eagle-eyed Katharine Berry spotted the packages on Christmas Eve

This possibly explains why the special offer package appears to be on such a limited-time offer (until January 6th, as mentioned) – although it is not uncommon for the Lab to run “weekend only” offers with regards to Second Life.

For the majority of us, however, the news has come somewhat out-of-the-blue – although with a degree of hindsight, a large rear-view mirror and the fact that we had the promise of Steam being on the horizon for a while now, it perhaps should have been. After all, LL have an established relationship with Amazon both  with Jeff Bezos being a former (current?) investor in LL (2006), and through the development of a Kindle Fire specific version of Creatorverse. So chalk that one up to the first prediction for 2013 most of us missed!

For now, however, it’ll be interesting to see how the move fairs, whether additional packages will be added to it and if it will spread to Amazon’s international operations (, etc.) – and whether LL have any more surprises up their collective sleeve!

With thanks to Ricco Saenz for the pointer to Katharine’s tweets.