Lively: Has Google Jumped the Shark?

Google has the best search. That lead to its awesome email service. Which lead to assembling some fairly nice cloud based applications such as Calendar and Documents. And acquiring YouTube, of course, which seemed a stretch to their services, but I’m glad they did it, so YT would have enough backend to keep going. Maps, Earth, and SketchUp are a nice trio that make sense. Most of their other “Beta” products seem to fit the strategy pretty well. I always look forward to new Google products, and have loved their strategy and honesty, but Lively feels wrong to me.

The last thing the world needs is another virtual world. Jeez, with the number of Virtual World/ 3D chat programs released just this year, you would think Second Life was the most successful product the game world has ever seen. Check this chart on TechCrunch that shows the number of virtual world products released just this year. There are 14 titles with an aggregate VC funding of $345MM.

To me, this move by Google seems a little reminiscent of Microsoft chasing every software opportunity that shows up. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong. I have to admit, I have not even tried it since my household is filled with Macs, and it is not available on Macs yet. I will try it out of obligation, but I don’t want to. I’ll take my chat in text, thank you, so I can get it on my phone and on any browser that I happen to be using.

-Jeff Tunnell, Game Maker
Make It Big In Games

  • http://www.garagegames.com Brett Seyler

    Jeff,

    This surprised me too yesterday, but looking at it from a revenue perspective rather than a product suite one, it makes sense to me. Google's regular ad business is rocking and nearly saturated. New growth is likely to be in rich media and this is probably the fastest growing rich media space they're not already positioned to leverage. It's pretty low risk, keeps 'em cool with the kids, and fires a big shot across lots of bows. Seems smart to me.

  • http://www.garagegames.com Brett Seyler

    Jeff,

    This surprised me too yesterday, but looking at it from a revenue perspective rather than a product suite one, it makes sense to me. Google's regular ad business is rocking and nearly saturated. New growth is likely to be in rich media and this is probably the fastest growing rich media space they're not already positioned to leverage. It's pretty low risk, keeps 'em cool with the kids, and fires a big shot across lots of bows. Seems smart to me.

    • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

      From a revenue standpoint, I could understand creating an in-game, in-world advertising system that any virtual world could use, but creating their own is the thing that I have a problem with.

      • http://www.subreal.net timaste

        I think I'd rather see an in-game advertising solution that takes advantage of google's back end and tracking, etc. Tracking and targeting ads, that's pretty damn complicated. Dumping out images and having them show up in a game, that's pretty easy. It almost seems like this situation is backwards, why not just make it so you can find out which gamer is online playing games, and target in-game ads? That seems more “google” like than a Second Life clone.

    • http://www.jadaco.net Jason David Cook

      I agree, I think this is a credible venture. SecondLife is an interesting first step into the “virtual world” genre, but it really needs some worthy competition. Google has a very innovative track record, so if I had to pick someone to try this, they would be my first.

  • James Hofmann

    It seems surprisingly simple considering Google's ambition. One would expect them to roll out a full-scale virtual world “platform” that completely reinvents the market, but instead they have simply aimed for a singular slick product.

  • James Hofmann

    It seems surprisingly simple considering Google's ambition. One would expect them to roll out a full-scale virtual world “platform” that completely reinvents the market, but instead they have simply aimed for a singular slick product.

  • Jeremy Alessi

    I haven't witnessed the implementation just yet but I have been expecting something like this from Google for the past 2 years or so. Ever since they went on a top-talent hiring spree I knew a game project would evolve from their campus. Second-Life is really starting to pop up everywhere … a local radio station here was talking about it and I don't live in the most gamer centric place in the world either. It's somewhat surprising that they didn't just buy that.

  • Jeremy Alessi

    I haven't witnessed the implementation just yet but I have been expecting something like this from Google for the past 2 years or so. Ever since they went on a top-talent hiring spree I knew a game project would evolve from their campus. Second-Life is really starting to pop up everywhere … a local radio station here was talking about it and I don't live in the most gamer centric place in the world either. It's somewhat surprising that they didn't just buy that.

    • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

      Second Life has an awesome PR department. If their CEO farts, we all know about it.

  • http://www.subreal.net timaste

    I was a little surprised at that announcement as well, especially since it looked like every other Second Life clone.

    Business wise I can see them pairing it successfully with their ad business like Brett mentions above, and it turns a lot of heads in the in-game advertising world.

    Game wise, it doesn't look like it has anything special to make it stand out. It'd be neat to pair it with Google Earth, or SketchUp somehow. The recent article in GameDev about the big “little” worlds like Maplestory, Habbo Hotel, etc. makes it seem like the “gaps” between these big virtual life titles is actually a better space than the big virtual worlds themselves.

    Also, 3D/2D avatar chat sucked in the 90s, it sucked around the millennium, and it sucks now. They are always impractical and bloated, and for most people, once the novelty wears off, simple text is way more practical.

  • http://www.subreal.net timaste

    I was a little surprised at that announcement as well, especially since it looked like every other Second Life clone.

    Business wise I can see them pairing it successfully with their ad business like Brett mentions above, and it turns a lot of heads in the in-game advertising world.

    Game wise, it doesn't look like it has anything special to make it stand out. It'd be neat to pair it with Google Earth, or SketchUp somehow. The recent article in GameDev about the big “little” worlds like Maplestory, Habbo Hotel, etc. makes it seem like the “gaps” between these big virtual life titles is actually a better space than the big virtual worlds themselves.

    Also, 3D/2D avatar chat sucked in the 90s, it sucked around the millennium, and it sucks now. They are always impractical and bloated, and for most people, once the novelty wears off, simple text is way more practical.

    • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

      I totally agree about the generic, Second Life clone look. Or IMVU, or <<<insert VW here>>>. I also agree about virtual world chat rooms sucking forever. Like I explained, maybe I am missing something, but have a chat system that takes up 200M or so on my hard drive does not make sense.

  • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

    From a revenue standpoint, I could understand creating an in-game, in-world advertising system that any virtual world could use, but creating their own is the thing that I have a problem with.

  • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

    Second Life has an awesome PR department. If their CEO farts, we all know about it.

  • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

    I totally agree about the generic, Second Life clone look. Or IMVU, or <<<insert VW here>>>. I also agree about virtual world chat rooms sucking forever. Like I explained, maybe I am missing something, but have a chat system that takes up 200M or so on my hard drive does not make sense.

  • http://blade-edge.com Gaiiden

    Yep, I read the news initially on Gamasutra cause that just happened to be the first feed I saw that had it. I skimmed it, went “ho-hum” and continued on my merry way. Seems like a weird out of left field move from Google to me too.

  • http://blade-edge.com Gaiiden

    Yep, I read the news initially on Gamasutra cause that just happened to be the first feed I saw that had it. I skimmed it, went “ho-hum” and continued on my merry way. Seems like a weird out of left field move from Google to me too.

  • Jeremy Alessi

    LOL @ the fart comment …

    BTW, There was another place I saw it today that I couldn't recall earlier but was part of the whole feeling that Second Life was everywhere. At bank today and while I was waiting I picked up a local financial magazine. As I flipped through it there was a huge article about Second Life's virtual economics. This wasn't Forbes or anything, it was an obscure financial periodical local to the region.

    That article plus the radio conversation made me think about how far games have come. The fact that Second Life is the game creeping it's way down these strange avenues is the biggest surprise of all. Then again as I'm playing through the latest Metal Gear (a real gamers' game if you will) it's not hard to see a contrast between games these days not unlike the contrast between gamers and non-gamers 10 years ago.

    It seems that social networking was the missing puzzle piece. People want to accomplish things. Games being goal oriented have always allowed that. More than that though people want to accomplish things together … walk and talk if you will.

    I can see Google taking that really far. If you combine their information tools with social networking and the goal oriented nature of games you've got a powerful platform for smart action not just smart searching. Maybe that's just “pie in the sky” though.

  • Jeremy Alessi

    LOL @ the fart comment …

    BTW, There was another place I saw it today that I couldn't recall earlier but was part of the whole feeling that Second Life was everywhere. At bank today and while I was waiting I picked up a local financial magazine. As I flipped through it there was a huge article about Second Life's virtual economics. This wasn't Forbes or anything, it was an obscure financial periodical local to the region.

    That article plus the radio conversation made me think about how far games have come. The fact that Second Life is the game creeping it's way down these strange avenues is the biggest surprise of all. Then again as I'm playing through the latest Metal Gear (a real gamers' game if you will) it's not hard to see a contrast between games these days not unlike the contrast between gamers and non-gamers 10 years ago.

    It seems that social networking was the missing puzzle piece. People want to accomplish things. Games being goal oriented have always allowed that. More than that though people want to accomplish things together … walk and talk if you will.

    I can see Google taking that really far. If you combine their information tools with social networking and the goal oriented nature of games you've got a powerful platform for smart action not just smart searching. Maybe that's just “pie in the sky” though.

  • David Blake

    I wasn't surprised by this and even expected it to a point. But I wasn't very impressed by it either. as others have noted, the 3D chat world is convoluted at best in my mind. My experience with it was pretty limited, but at least it was better than my experience with Second Life. 3D spambots are not my idea of a good time. I had enough of $$$.MAKE.MONEY.FAST.$$$ schemes on usenet. At least the private islands were more pleasant.

  • David Blake

    I wasn't surprised by this and even expected it to a point. But I wasn't very impressed by it either. as others have noted, the 3D chat world is convoluted at best in my mind. My experience with it was pretty limited, but at least it was better than my experience with Second Life. 3D spambots are not my idea of a good time. I had enough of $$$.MAKE.MONEY.FAST.$$$ schemes on usenet. At least the private islands were more pleasant.

  • http://www.subreal.net timaste

    I think I'd rather see an in-game advertising solution that takes advantage of google's back end and tracking, etc. Tracking and targeting ads, that's pretty damn complicated. Dumping out images and having them show up in a game, that's pretty easy. It almost seems like this situation is backwards, why not just make it so you can find out which gamer is online playing games, and target in-game ads? That seems more “google” like than a Second Life clone.

  • http://www.jadaco.net Jason David Cook

    I agree, I think this is a credible venture. SecondLife is an interesting first step into the “virtual world” genre, but it really needs some worthy competition. Google has a very innovative track record, so if I had to pick someone to try this, they would be my first.

  • Asher Browne

    I agree Jeff, whats the deal with Google Chrome? Doesn't Firefox do the job well anyway? They seem to be 'giving till it hurts'

  • Asher Browne

    I agree Jeff, whats the deal with Google Chrome? Doesn't Firefox do the job well anyway? They seem to be 'giving till it hurts'

    • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

      I think Chrome is essential for Google to succeed. They cannot allow Microsoft to own as much of the browser market as they do. Couple that with the fact that they cannot control Mozilla, and I can see the need for Chrome. Since Chrome is Open Source, Google is really just making sure the Javascript platform is as good as it needs to be.

      That is all in sharp contrast to Lively. Google does not need to be in the game business. Ad deliver business for games, maybe, but not the actual creation of games.

  • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

    I think Chrome is essential for Google to succeed. They cannot allow Microsoft to own as much of the browser market as they do. Couple that with the fact that they cannot control Mozilla, and I can see the need for Chrome. Since Chrome is Open Source, Google is really just making sure the Javascript platform is as good as it needs to be.

    That is all in sharp contrast to Lively. Google does not need to be in the game business. Ad deliver business for games, maybe, but not the actual creation of games.