Second Life: a monopolistic marketplace?

Today, Linden Lab announced that they’ve acquired two third-party, web-based marketplaces, Xstreet SL and OnRez. On the face of it, such an acquisition is likely to appeal to current Second Life residents and provide a more intuitive virtual goods purchasing option for new users when they register. What caught my eye however, was this statement:

As we go forward towards a single, unified Second Life marketplace, we are excited to build on the work that you, along with Xstreet SL and OnRez teams, have done.

Is a single, unified marketplace a totally desirable thing? It’s not usually and it’s hard to get excited about the prospect of a lack of competition. Other competitors may pop up, but the likely dominance of the now Linden Lab driven marketplace is going to make alternatives difficult.

With the burgeoning interest in virtual goods, Linden Lab’s move makes good business sense. That doesn’t mean it will benefit the wider populace of Second Life beyond simplicity and arguably greater security. It’ll be fascinating to see if this development increases what is already a healthy virtual goods throughput, and if so, whether prices are impacted adversely by the lack of larger, organised competition.

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