Growth predictions for Second Life

Last week, I wrote about Second Life’s growing pains with a conclusion that the combination of more users doing more things when online, and staying online longer on each visit, will likely lead to more grid downtime (such as the 2-day outage ten days ago) unless developer Linden Lab is able to scale the infrastructure – the servers and systems – on which Second Life runs to keep pace with and support the virtual world’s continuing growth.

Via GigaGamez, I found a fascinating post by Tristan Louis, an application development VP with financial services group HSBC. Louis’ post is about statistical analysis of Second Life numbers relating to how many users there are, how much money is spent, and other economic data.

Those numbers have attracted a lot of attention in the past few weeks, with strong and varying opinions on their meaning and, even, their validity. There’s also plenty of talk that Second Life hype is now peaking. The hype may well be (although I don’t think so) but overall interest certainly isn’t.

What strikes me in particular about Louis’ number-crunching isn’t so much his analysis of those numbers and the tables of data he presents – which I think Steve Lubetkin will find of interest – it’s his thought-provoking conclusions about member growth:

[…] It looks that, under the most conservative growth rate, we will see 3.5 million users registered and over 600,000 using the service by the end of April 2007. Under a liberal interpretation of the data, those numbers would shift to 9.6 million and just under 7 million. However, in the most likely case, it is probable that there will be 7.2 million users registered with 1.6 million logging in over the previous sixty days.

In October, the number of registered users hit one million. By the end of December, it had passed two million. Today, the number is nearly 2.4 million according to the stats on the Second Life home page.

If this growth rate continues, I’d say the liberal growth figure Louis mentions – 9.6 million by the end of April – looks quite feasible. Mind you, infrastructure problems really will be an issue if downtimes continue – today, for instance, the grid is currently down again [Update @ 12:40 – the grid’s back online as I’m now able to log in to Second Life].

As for another point Louis makes:

[…] this type of growth mirrors some of the growth patterns we’ve seen in the early days of the commercial web and seem to support the contention that LindenLab is going to be a very strong player in the future.

A strong player indeed, one that must surely be on someone’s radar as a nice little acquisition.

Google, perhaps?

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