Applications and Tools, Second Life, Virtual World Platforms

Second Life and 3D Models: A Merger in the Wings?

Is Linden Lab positioned to merge with, buy out, or partner with 3D model communities? While weekends are for idle speculation and this is based on nothing other than a hunch, I can’t help thinking that Linden Lab would place a new competitive stake in the sand if they were to do one of the above.

With Tom Hale’s announcement that Linden Lab will allow mesh imports (footnoted with the helpful comment of, well, “maybe”) it strikes me that if they do so they’ll be missing out on a significant chunk of possible revenue as residents scurry to 3D warehouses to purchase objects for placement in Second Life.

3DVIA Portal
Could Sites Like 3DVIA Get Swallowed Up by a Linden “Mega 3D Content Portal”?

As a reminder, mesh import would allow people to create objects in third party applications like Poser, 3DS or Maya, and then import those models into Second Life. The technology is demonstrated in this video:

There is already a significant community of people developing 3D models mostly for the fun of it. But there’s some cash changing hands as well, as sites like Runtime DNA, Content Paradise and, to a lesser degree, 3DVIA demonstrate. Meanwhile, Google has its Sketch-Up Warehouse and other sites offer free model downloads.

runtime dna web site
Runtime DNA: The XStreet for 3D Content

The details of the Lab’s mesh import function are a little fuzzy. It’s unknown, for example, whether it will allow direct import of any OBJ or standard 3D file. If the Lab elects to put a step in between – for example some sort of conversion utility, it might allow them to maintain a proprietary base for the 3D objects. In other words, what comes IN might not necessarily go OUT, and by placing a conversion step within imports, they might be able to claim that 3D content has been modified upon being brought into Second Life, and perhaps prevent DMCA claims from other 3D model sites.

But what seems to make more sense is for the Lab to try to take a cut on both ends: collect fees where the objects are purchased and sold, and collect them again when users bring objects into Second Life.

Consider the thousands of people in Second Life who create stuff, and the terrabytes of data which this represents. Then consider that Content Paradise bragged about having 5,000 models when it relaunched its portal this summer.

The Lab would be well positioned to deploy a ‘buy-em-up-and-roll-em-up’ strategy, creating either strategic partnerships or outright buying other 3D content marketplaces. With the infrastructure represented by XStreet, a new “developer portal” coming soon, and the community forums and service to the Second Life community, the Lab could become the 3D content marketplace not just for Second Life, but more generally.

OK…as I said, it’s idle speculation – but what do you think? Do you think we might see Linden Lab go on a buying spree?


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