Second Life launched in Korea

Second Life launched in Korea

Linden Lab, the developer of virtual world Second Life, has signed a deal making the Korean online game company T-entertainment to provide its services in Korea. This month, the virtual world developer plans to launch new Second Life services tailored for Korean netizens. The firm offers a web-based virtual environment made largely of 3D graphics where netizens’ avatars lead their second lives, trading virtual land, shopping and going about their routines. IBM already holds staff meetings in the virtual world. Second Life is already hugely popular in the U.S., Europe and Japan. Leading companies like IBM, Toyota and Dell use Second Life as space for marketing. Online characters run about 10,000 businesses in Second Life, and more than 10 million virtual products and services debut every month. The number of subscribers stands at around 9.9 million and is expected to top 10 million soon.

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Linden Lab has set Korea as the next target. The company opened a Korean-language Second Life in May and launched a test service with small group of subscribers. However, the result was poorer than expected since Korean netizens have higher criteria for virtual services. Currently, only 20,000 Koreans are represented in Second Life.

“Korean netizens are already accustomed to virtual worlds through online games,” a Korean game industry insider says. “It seems they’re not drawn to a virtual world where they don’t need to achieve specific goals like online games.” Having collecting such opinions, Linden Lab starts advancing into the Korean virtual world market this month. Second Life in Korea provides a Korean-friendly user interface and operates a call center to respond users’ complaints. It also offers various entertainment content such as online music, game and celebrity characters.

“Second Life will become an online community where Korean netizens feel at home, rather than being a place where large companies hold sporadic events,” the company says, and is capable of replacing large home-grown online communities such as Cyworld.

The domestic portal industry doubts it. A Cyworld’s staffer said, “Second Life’s 3D graphics requires too much data processing, and the virtual world does not meet high expectations of Korean netizens. In fact, Cyworld provide 3D services in some parts but they are limited at small fraction of its total services.”

However, many Korean businesses are using Second Life as a marketing tool. Samsung Electronics and LG CNS are operating PR booths in Second Life. And Grand National Party presidential candidate Lee Myung-bak recently opened a virtual election campaign camp in Second Life.

Linden Lab expects its virtual world to create additional profits by attracting advertisement and through the sale of virtual land. The company promises its CEO Philip Rosedale will announce detailed strategies when he visits Korea soon.

(englishnews@chosun.com )

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