It looks like the first commercially-available Oculus Rift headset will be available sometime in 2015. Which general-purpose virtual world will Rift users prefer? In other words, which virtual world will have the largest contingency of Rift users?
Maybe Second Life (SL)? There are Rift-compatible SL clients (viewers), including one from Linden Lab. SL still gets something like 500,000 Monthly Active Users (MAU). Linden Lab doesn’t publish that statistic anymore, but they do publish the number of people logged on at any given time (concurrency), and it varies between about 30,000 and 60,000 each day. The 500,000 MAU estimate comes from a rule of thumb that MAU is one order of magnitude larger than concurrency. What’s more, SL’s concurrency numbers have been in the same neighborhood for years.
Linden Lab, the makers of Second Life, are also working on a successor to Second Life, a new virtual world using the latest technologies. Backwards compatibility with SL is not guaranteed. Linden Lab only revealed that project recently. It will probably be a year or more before anything is available to the public.
Philip Rosedale, the original founder of Linden Lab, is working on a brand new virtual world as well, along with his new(ish) company named High Fidelity. It’s Rift-compatible from the outset. They’ve given some demos of what they have so far, and my impression is that there’s still a lot of work to do.
Does Garry’s Mod count as a general-purpose virtual world?
There are hints that Valve (makers of Steam) are working on a virtual world in collaboration with Oculus/Facebook. They’ve also been adding virtual goods and services to their games (via Steam Community Market). Gabe Newell (of Valve) recently wrote, “Right now we’re into rethinking games as a connected economy of virtual goods and services, and VR.”
Also, one must not forget Minecraft. Something magic is brewing there.
Update (September 2014): Minecraft is now being acquired by Microsoft. Also, a new, open-source virtual worlds platform has unveiled itself: Lucidscape.