It is interesting that in the world of long tail we are still very focussed on how many people are in one place online, or paying attention to one piece of content. Places like Second Life have a good few users, and lots of stats and arguments to be had about how popular it is. It is a container service though that has lots of sub places within it. Those also want to be popular to as many people as possible. All this ends up as the justification to either ignore something and tut, saying yes but its niche isn’t it, or pile into the place in a feeding frenzy of business and advertizing or finally ignore it because its just too popular.
The reality of the networked world is that it is very easy to move around from place to place, jump websites and applications, moving things you need with you. You connect with people that are interested in what you are interested in. We are of course limited on the time and attention we can place on things and those wishing to extract money from us would rather we were in one place to be harvested. I have to yet to work out the boundaries of when something should be worthwhile to look into and consider and be regarded by others as worthwhile.
This was brought into focus by the recent news that something we can consider very mainstream now, the games industry has hit another milestone on one particular platform. That is the number of concurrent users logged into Xbox Live. For those not familiar with it the Xbox 360 console has access to a centralized system so that when turned on or in a game you have access to friends and content. Its a walled garden extranet really, though it starting to reach the out to the wider web. Its concurrency can mean people playing games, or just having the machine switched on. The magic number quoted was 2 million concurrent users that’s a great number, but also a very small one in some respects.
Do we consider that 2 million people at once is not enough? bearing in mind that is not 2 million people all talking to 2 million people at once, not even sharing the same game. Some people might suggest it is not mainstream enough even though over half the population in lots of western countries play games of one sort of another . It is of course nonsense to suggest the games industry is not big, popular and mainstream.
So back to virtual worlds. How many is going to be enough. When we have 2 million concurrent people on one platform or another (and there are platforms that has already happened 🙂 ) do we then get to indicate that this branch of the web is mainstream and then just get on with it?