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.