Consumption and Marketing in A 3D Virtual Space: The Second Life Experience

Consumption and Marketing in A 3D Virtual Space: The Second Life Experience

Gulnur Tumbat (San Francisco State University, USA) and Lisa M. Bennett (San Francisco State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-792-8.ch020

Abstract

Second Life (SL) established itself in 2003 as a virtual world where people can create an alternate life as an avatar (www.secondlife.com). It provides a fertile ground for real-world businesses to market their products to a tech-savvy and brand-conscious group of potential consumers. The goal of this exploratory chapter is to gain an understanding about the SL experience for these consumers and provide examples of some of the marketing practices. The authors conclude that while SL does provide an alternative for businesses for building, maintaining, and extending their real world brand presence, it remains primarily as a 3-dimension (3-D) virtual social space for people to connect and communicate with like-minded others.
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Second Life As A Commercial Space

Users of SL are free to make their second life whatever they want it to be and the only real limitation is their creativity. As residents in SL, avatars can own homes, lead a life of luxury and even pick and choose what they want their physical features to look like. The term avatar refers to the users’ virtually constructed onscreen graphic characters. Some tech-savvy users can learn how to build their own items in SL or trade goods with other users. Others may opt to purchase real world brands using the SL currency, Linden dollars, which can be exchanged for real-world currency through the exchange service provided by Linden Labs, the creators of SL. The exchange rate offered for Linden dollars allows SL to hover on the cusp between the virtual and real worlds. News agencies like Reuters are taking this new economy seriously and have created an in-world news center (http://blog.secondlife.com), as of January 2008, the population of SL is more than 12 million. The majority of the (active) residents (38%) are from the US although there are inhabitants from more then a hundred other countries. Among these avatars, 41% of them are female and 59% male. The total number of hours spent online has increased drastically since SL’s introduction in 2003. These inhabitants spend a good portion of their day in SL (more than 20 hours a week). Furthermore, Table 1 shows the numbers and distribution of active users by age in January 2008. The average resident is 33 years old. Big crowds in SL also result in increasing money exchanges. Accordingly, Lindex virtual currency exchange has reached $744,564.

Table 1.
Monthly active users by age category for January 2008 (Source: http://blog.secondlife.com)
Age%Avatar CountTotal Hours%Total Hours
13-17 (Teen Grid)0.96%129,992.020.46%
18-2424.50%4,559,714.1516.20%
25-3435.43%9,735,769.8334.59%
35-4423.35%7,915,295.9228.12%
45 plus15.25%5,676,036.2320.17%
Unknown0.51%126,910.580.45%
Total: 28,143,718.73

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