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A new lease of life for all on Net

Shanthi Kannan

Second Life offers a real business sense apart from entertaining you

CHENNAI: The online gaming market began with single player and simple games and went on to encompass complex games, involving multi-players, creating, in the process, virtual communities.

Jekyll in real life wants to be Hyde in the virtual world. Very often, the real person behind the virtual persona is never revealed. The virtual avatar is often not linked to the real person, and it is more a fantasy of “what if.” This is a major challenge to advertisers, since the revenue model of online markets depends on advertising and subscriptions. With a low subscription to attract audience, and advertising revenues not really taking off, game providers need to become innovative.

Online gamers such as Second Life, Sim City and others have started taking these gaming platforms innovatively forward, selling their platforms and tools such as 3D animation to marketers across the world. Unlike communities evolving on their own, the innovative use of applications and platforms require additional software work and customisation to suit the needs of the real world companies. A number of software companies such as Anantara Solutions, eQuadriga and a few others in India have found a niche in this market.

S. Sundararaj, Partner and Founder-Team Manager of Anantara Solutions Pvt Ltd., which provides technology solutions to Second Life, says: “The virtual world is so similar to the world where we live. There are 16 million people who visit or live in this world. Second Life goes beyond gaming.”

Second Life is a virtual world developed by Linden Lab of the U.S. and is accessible through the Internet. Unlike a traditional computer game, Second Life does not have a designated objective. Nor does it have any traditional game play mechanism or rule. However, a vast majority of users look at Second Life primarily as an entertainment medium. Trends in the recent past indicate that users (including real-life companies) are adopting Second Life for more serious purposes with business and other real life benefits than for entertainment.

What Linden Lab is trying to do is to make available tools such as 3D animation and other platform components to real world companies for their business needs. These come at no cost for companies. However, it is not similar to Facebook, Orkut or a blog. A layperson will find it difficult to create his/her own site or construct a company on the Second Life platform; it needs software developers to create a company, says Leo Ananth, chairman and managing director, eQuadriga Software Private Limited.

Today, all Fortune 1,000 companies are using Second Life for promoting their products and brands. IBM and Intel have been using it for conducting virtual conferences and saving cost on travel and meetings. Many universities are conducting classes through it. In southern India, an automotive company has recently opened an office using this platform for promoting its brand and products.

“Second Life is evolving,” says R. Sivakumar, Managing Director (Sales and Marketing Group), Intel South Asia. Though Intel has used Second Life for virtual conference, it is a very nascent tool and will evolve in the future. However, many companies have started using this platform. For example, Time Warner Bros promotes its movie, I am legend, through Second Life. It has acted as a powerful medium for creating an awareness of the movie. Many international resorts are promoting their offerings through virtual media. L’Oreal has been selecting its models through this platform. IT major Wipro Technologies has set up its virtual innovation centre for testing services on Second Life in Bangalore, according to Vinayak Sharma, consultant of Anantara Solutions.

In this time of global recession, many have lost their jobs work in IBM or SAP offices due to Second Life. Most of the U.S.-based companies, which cannot afford to spend money on small jobs, have started outsourcing these jobs to the virtual world through Second Life.

Second Life, according to Mr. Ananth, is one of the best platforms available in the virtual world for companies to build their business. Second Life is different from other portals in that it provides banking facility and has its own currency, Linden dollar, in which the transactions and trading take place.

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