Second Life moves to China, becomes family friendly?

Shanda, one of the leading MMORPG companies in the world, plans to create a new service similar Second Life. This was reported today by Financial Times, quoting Shanda’s founder and chairman Chen Tianqiao. According to Chen, the Nasdaq listed company wants to diversify away from fantasy worlds, but he wouldn’t say anything about release dates.

Earlier this year, another “Chinese Second Life” called HiPiHi attracted attention in the blogosphere. HiPiHi is already in the beta stage, but lacks the resources of China’s biggest MMORPG company. The graphics look somewhat dated by today’s standards, although so do Second Life’s.

Second Life’s concept is being copied left and right in the Western market as well. Sony is building a SL clone into PlayStation 3, and recently I blogged about EA’s plans to bring avatars to television shows. SL’s developer Linden didn’t invent virtual worlds or avatars though, so it may not be fair to talk about copying. I can’t help thinking that SL’s successful media hype contributed to these other plans going forward though, so in that sense we have Linden to thank.

Meanwhile, the original Second Life is in hot water over virtual child abuse taking place in the service. According to BBC News, Second Life is being investigated by German police following allegations that some users are trading real child abuse images inside the service. Simulated child abuse has been played out by some users of the service for some time already.

Perfectly legal and moral sexual activities also take place in the service, forming a core part of the attraction for some. The suprisingly insightful FT article speculates that “two major elements of Second Life’s virtual world could be difficult to replicate in China: online sex and gambling.” Will China give birth to a “family friendly” virtual world, or will users rather go elsewhere?

Thanks to Jaani from FinChi for the heads-up.

4 thoughts on “Second Life moves to China, becomes family friendly?

  1. Your blog post is, unfortunately, riddled with inaccuracies.

    1. How can your article be called “Second Life comes to China”, when an entirely different company than Linden Lab is developing it? You’re mistaking “virtual world” or “metaworld” with “Second Life”. Second Life is a metaworld, not the archtype.

    2. HiPiHi never has called itself “Chinese Second Life” and calling it so is baseless.

    3. Saying Second Life or HiPiHi’s graphics look dated indicate to me that you haven’t spent any time in either.

    4. Sony’s “Home” is very different from Second Life. Had you have listened to any of Sony’s interviews about it, that would have been clear. Just because something has avatars doesn’t make it a metaworld, or a “Second Life clone”. Wii has avatars called “Miis”, but there is hardly anything resembling Second Life there.

    5. Saying Second Life “is in trouble” for child abuse is very misleading. Some users are “in trouble” but Linden Lab is acting in a way any responsible ISP is acting. Second Life may “be under the microscope” or “be taking some bad press” but there’s no “in trouble” – that implies legal / criminal elements.

    6. The more interesting question isn’t whether China’s virtual worlds will be family friendly, but will they be riddled with overt censorship on freedom of speech?

  2. Thanks for your comments, anonymous. My replies:

    1. The title I chose for the story, “Second Life moves to China, becomes family friendly?”, was intended to be slightly humorous and provocative. I understand that Linden’s Second Life is literally not moving to China.

    2. I agree that HiPiHi is by no means calling itself “Chinese Second Life”‘, but that doesn’t preclude others who see parallels from doing so.

    3. I have spent time in Second Life, but it is true that I have not used HiPiHi. I based my remark on its graphics on the screenshots I saw on the HiPiHi website. I think the question of whether the graphics of either service look dated is rather subjective, so I won’t start to argue against you if you feel they’re not. But as you no doubt know, SL and HiPiHi have to be able to stream user created content to the client, so they are not able to rely on optimised pre-loaded graphics like MMORPGs.

    4. It seems to me that PlayStation Home and SL have similarities as well as differences. For example, Wikipedia’s description of Home currently includes the following passage: “In the world outside of the player’s house, players can chat and meet other community-members. This will create a Second Life-like experience, where one can invite their friends, hang out and communicate via voice chat, or normal text chat, listen to music, play a game or exchange content.” I admit that Home is by no means literally a clone of SL.

    5. I did not say SL ‘”is in trouble” for child abuse’. I said that it “is in hot water over virtual child abuse taking place in the service.” Googling reveals that many sources define “in hot water” as “in trouble”, but definitions such as “in an embarrassing situation” or “in a difficult situation” also come up. The meaning I intended to convey was the latter, and I regret that I used such ambigious language. By no means did I mean to imply any “legal / criminal elements”, and I don’t think that’s necessarily implied even if you take “in hot water” to mean “in trouble”.

    6. I agree that this is a very interesting question. I tried to allude to the censorship issue by placing “family friendly” in quotation marks ;)

  3. By the way, sorry about the long delay that sometimes occurs in the moderation of comments. We have to moderate unregistered comments due to spam, but if you create an account, your comments are posted directly.

  4. Their animations and grass textures look a lot like they were ripped from Multiverse. And the black UI looks a lot like SL.The graphics, however seem better, and the world seems model- rather than primitive-based.
    az patios

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