Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Koreans Dump Second Life

Barunson Games, Linden Lab's business partner responsible for localizing the service for Korean market announced on November 13 that they are giving up Second Life Korea, citing that the service has failed to attract the interest of Korean users. Korea, along with Japan, has been notoriously difficult market to break into for many global online service companies, as their local markets remain heavily guarded by the home-grown online powerhouses. It is doubtful, however, if those western online brands did enough to understand and assimilate into the unique local cultures. In the case of Second Life, Koreans have already been enjoying their own virtual realities in the form of Lineage and other online games. The target market of Second Life Korea has largely overlapped with those online gamers--the male online users in their 20's to 30's.For those groups basking in their own brand of virtual space, Linden Lab might have had a better chance in Seoul if they redesigned Second Life as an interactive game space, where users are allowed to play with some elements more attuned to the real-life narratives. What about Monopoly reincarnated as an massively distributed online games?

Linden Lab has instead slapped in their face another brutal virtual reality, whereas Korean gamers were searching for an escape from the harsh reality of daily life, as J.C. Herz noted in her Wired article five years ago. Looking back, the default setting of Second Life's party style virtual stages, where users are roaming around looking for a potential date, friend or partner, looked and felt quite strange to many Koreans from the very start. If you really want to get connected with new friends here, you and other attendees would usually sit around the dinner table and drink soju together for hours. That is how you make new friends in Seoul.

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