Blue Mars: An Opportunity to Grow Your Second Life Business

BlueMars-econ-150x150

Since the open beta period for Blue Mars began I’ve noticed that some Second Life content creators have been dismissing it out-of-hand. Mostly they claimed that the tools for creating content in Blue Mars were too hard to learn. Many also said that they were not interested in providing content for Blue Mars, and some even inferred that without them to provide the content Blue Mars would wither and die. As I stated in my earlier article, Blue Mars – Being Different, Blue Mars will ultimately be able to draw on a wealth of content, possibly more than Second Life currently does. So if I were generating real world income by providing content in Second Life I would seriously consider taking the time to evaluate Blue Mars as a prospective new market. It makes good business sense, and I can tell you that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands out there, who are eagerly waiting for you to let this opportunity pass you by.


Let me state up front that Blue Mars may fail. It’s an uncomfortable truth that all the developers may be wasting their time, that Blue Mars may never reach the critical mass necessary for it to generate a return. But then again, at the other extreme Blue Mars may be the Microsoft or Google of virtual worlds and just as Microsoft and Google have, Blue Mars may have such a strategic advantage that it sweeps all its competitors – including Second Life – into insignificance.

What should you be looking for?

It’s too early to tell whether Blue Mars will mature into a viable market. It’s too new. There’s still so much important work to be completed. However, there are some elements that may be appealing to an SL entrepreneur wishing to expand. I don’t have any insider information but I expect in an attempt to woo both developers and residents into this new environment land prices are going to be very competitive. Maybe only a fraction of what the equivalent would be in Second Life. This means lower startup costs.

Also, being an early adopter means that the lines of communication to the developers of Blue Mars are likely to be more open. At this stage the community is small and if you have an issue you are more likely to be heard and have that issue enacted upon. This is especially important with regard to governance issues.

What difficulties may you face?

If you’ve only ever used the Second Life tools to develop with then you’ll need to learn a set of new skills. However, much of what you have learnt will still be relevant, only the application and name may be different. You also have a choice of tools – from the free like Google’s Sketchup to the professionally priced Maya. Now is the time to learn how to use those tools – when most of your competitors are on an equally footing and everyone is learning the system. Your consumers are more likely to forgive your mistakes in such an environment. If you are already using these multi-industry standard tools then you may have existing content that you can import directly into Blue Mars. This will save you time and perhaps money. Your upstart time could be slashed.

Unlike Second Life, most development happens outworld. If you’re used to having a social aspect when building then you may miss this. However, it is possible to supplement this need by using social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook or IM. Developing offline does have a distinct advantage in that you can always back your work up.

Probably the biggest difficulty you will face is that Blue Mars is not Second Life. Your expectations about what is possible and how things should be done are going to be skewed in favour of how you do them in Second Life. The best remedy for this is to keep an open mind. Blue Mars is a rapidly evolving platform and you’ll see improvements over the course of time.

What can you bring to Blue Mars?

Your brand is the most obvious. If you have an established brand that is beloved in Second Life then you have an opportunity to bring it into Blue Mars and expand its influence. You’ll already have an advantage over new developers because you’ll have an existing client base: your fellow SLers.

The other thing you can bring to Blue Mars is your knowledge about how to run a successful small business. Running a small business is hard. It doesn’t matter whether that business is in the real world or the virtual world. Workflow, marketing, customer service. Those hard-learnt lessons are just as applicable in Blue Mars as they are in Second Life.

You may believe that you can ignore Blue Mars until it evolves into an economically viable platform. This wait-and-see approach is giving a free-kick to your competitors. They’ll be able to learn the system, guide the development and develop a reputation that will make it harder to compete with when you do finally decide to make the transition. Now is the time for evaluation and even if you choose not to make the leap immediately it is important that you learn the skills that will help you compete in this new environment should you eventually utilise it.

Blue Mars is an exciting opportunity, but every business is different. Whether it is the right thing for your business will depend upon you and your desires. It is vitally important that you spend enough time to carefully evaluate it. Blue Mars will not be a viable option for every SL entrepreneur, but you should make that decision for yourself based on a solid analysis. Otherwise you may discover that not only have you missed a valuable opportunity but that your competitor has snapped it up.

About the Author: skribe

Based in Perth, Australia, Antonio Barimen (aka skribe) is a writer, digital media consultant and social media producer.


He is available to help you develop social marketing and digital media strategies, improving communication between staff, partners and suppliers or just increasing the number of fans on Facebook. He has developed successful digital and social media projects for clients including CBS, Evian, Procter & Gamble, Discovery Networks, Pernod Ricard and American Express.


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Post Under Advice, Business, virtual worlds September 13, 2009
  • They’re not too alert about responding to beta requests. Doesn’t bode well for future service levels…

    I think the unwillingness to adopt new tools by existing SL builders is not so much the change, but that they figure why learn a new set of tools that are only applicable to BM, and aren’t aware that models made in those tools are applicable to any 3D/VR environment. They have the “walled garden” attitude that LL likes to foster…
    .-= teddlesruss´s last blog ..Just Caught Up =-.

  • I think they’re dealing with several tens of thousands of requests. I don’t know how they’re vetting them – they must be otherwise there wouldn’t be a delay. They’ve been very responsive to me (and others) and I’d advise you to cut them some slack. I think they’re just a little overwhelmed by the response and are dealing with it as fast as they can.

    It’s not just an attitude that LL likes to foster. I’ve encountered it many times before in a range of places. The film industry is full of it and so were the MU* worlds when I was involved with them. It would be easy to label it as arrogance but I think it’s more likely a self-defence mechanism. It’s not easy to face up to the knowledge that someone might be able to do the same job as you.

  • Indigo Mertel

    A couple of things worth to consider in your analyses (and in teddlesruss’ comment) : you talk about learning a new set of skills and tools as those would only apply to BM. Wrong. Even if on a much smaller degree, those skills and tools can be used for SL today as well. And it will be even more so once mesh import will be available to SL. SL is an evolving environment. It must be to meet its user base’s expectations. For how long will BM have a competitive advantage for the better quality of its environment? I don’t think it will be for long.

    In addition to this, your comment that “BM will ultimately be able to draw on a wealth of content, possibly more than Second Life currently does” is grossly exagerated. The entry level for BM is very high and with a steep learning curve. That will largely reduce the number of developers being able to produce content for BM. The great advantage of SL is that it gives everyone the opportunity to build in a relatively simple way. You don’t need to sign up as a developer or learn new, complex tools. If you have the inclination, all it takes is a mouse and some time to play with prims. The result is terabytes and terabytes of produced content, a huge variety. Frankly, I don’t see BM ever pass SL content based on the current premises. True, lots of the content produced in SL may be on an amateurial level but that doesn’t seem to stop people appreciating what they do. And the quality level of content produced in SL is increasing by the day. Compare that to a virtual world like BM where content will likely be produced only by a few elected ones, those with the skills and time to produce content which, I read, will also have to pass the screening of BM management. With the rest of the people being just passive consumers. BM may be very slick but me thinks a virtual world is not only made of eye candy.

    Take me as an example of an average SL user. I guess I could be considered a SL content producer on a very small scale and at an amateurial level, eager to learn new skills and tools as opportunities will arise. I have over 2 years worth of work made in SL, all my friends are there, my social relations are there. It would take *VERY* serious reasons for me to decide to move to a different environment and start from scratch. Expanding to BM? Heck, SL keeps busy enough that I lose my sleep! Sure, I could take that expansion to BM into consideration if I had a profitable business and I built 3D content for a living, but I don’t.

    SL is *home*! Virtual worlds are not just business, they are mostly social environments and it will be very difficult for BM to eradicate SL’s pattern of social relations, creativity and opportunities available to everyone. As much as SL residents love to gripe and damn the Linden, they are also a very passionate bunch of people who for the most part want SL to succeed.

    You may want to read Gwyneth Llewellyn’s take on BM, if you haven’t already: http://gwynethllewelyn.net/2009/09/14/evaluating-blue-mars-%E2%80%94-an-open-letter-to-avatar-realitys-representative/?dsq=16552634#comment-16552634 . Most interestingly, she seems to disagree on the low cost to start business in BM. Have a look at it, it’s interesting reading from the perspective of a VW enterpreneur.

  • you talk about learning a new set of skills and tools as those would only apply to BM. Wrong. Even if on a much smaller degree, those skills and tools can be used for SL today as well.

    Actually I’ve stated many times that the skills learnt in creating content for BM are cross platform and useful beyond virtual worlds. I’m speaking specifically about the geometry and not the texturing et al which is a factor common to all modelling and is mostly an external process even in SL.

    As for an evolving environment, every platform is but we’re dealing with here and now not what will happen in 3years. SL has some fundamental problems that they will need to overcome whilst still keeping their client-base happy. There will likely be a lot of pain involved for both LL and their residents.

    In addition to this, your comment that “BM will ultimately be able to draw on a wealth of content, possibly more than Second Life currently does” is grossly exagerated.

    Not by half. Being able to draw upon existing content from a range of applications increases the potential content available. Existing modellers -of which there are millions across multiple industries – aren’t required to recreate their content from scratch like they are in SL.

    The entry level for BM is very high and with a steep learning curve.

    Someone learning from scratch can start modelling decent content using Sketchup in under an hour. BM provides for a range of development levels and standard industry-utilised applications not just a single in-house system that is kludged together.

    Sure, I could take that expansion to BM into consideration if I had a profitable business and I built 3D content for a living, but I don’t.

    Clearly my article is aimed squarely at the SL business owner. Being in business requires you to keep a constant eye on the horizon. If SL suddenly closes, gets bought out or has a mass exodus then livelihoods are at risk. Business owners need to have fallback options if everything goes pearshaped.

  • Demona

    I think designers should find the signing up to become a developer attractive as it means that should you have to face a real world lawsuit, there is more information to go on than an IP address.

  • sl business owner

    I’d love to see what is possible, but cannot get in at all to look, much less consider creating and selling. I did sign up as content creator and beta tester some months ago. The page says I’ve registered, and something will be sent to me..but nothing has, or it was deleted, and searching my computer is turning up nothing. My business partner is having the same problem.
    Any suggestions? Keywords to search?

    • I’d suggest being patient. As I said to Ted they’re swamped. It might take a little while before they clear the backlog.

  • Couldn’t agree more, Skribe. As a RL Business consultant with a 15+ years of experience in globally operating multinationals and a SL business owner since 2006, I have developed a “guttfeel” about what’s viable and what isn’t. My first visits to BM told me “YES” all over.

    I am now a City Developer and actualy having fun adapting to the new tools. So far, customer service, business development assistence and community support have been no less than excellent.

    We may wait until the platform has fully developed, but as you said, this will give the competition a free kick. Whenever you enter into the beta, as a beta tester or as a developer, just realize what a beta means…

    Yes, there may be glitches and bugs – however limited – , you may not be 100% satisfied with the features and plenty of stuff is up for further development, but coming in there with your “SL button switched on” is a big mistake. See the positive side: In this period of beta testing, our opinions and input really counts. This is the time to have influence on the further development of an extremely promising and advanced platform.

    As a teaser for (SL) business owners I might just add: “Look at the difference in size between a SL Sim and a BM City… Beyond comparison I’d say.

    For the tools: I am used to work in Poser and DAZ and was quite happy to do so and pretty advanced in it. Compatibility with Collada/BM has proven to be very limited in these tools, so I have to consider switching to DS Max or Maya. Why are we mostly scared of change? Because it drags us out of our comfort zone!
    Why is it good to come out of your comfort zone? Because it keeps you sharp and prevents you from falling asleep! There, another way to always be a step ahead of the competition.

    Thanks for this great article and hope to catch you inworld soon!