What is the difference between the two pictures above? Realism? Immersion? Fun? Success? Both are rendered from Virtual worlds. The left one is from Gaia a low end (and extremely successful) 2.5D world. The right picture is taking from Playstation Home, probably the most realistic virtual word of today, only accessible with a Sony Playstation 3.
Hamlet Au, one of the most famous authors in the Second Life Blogospere recently posted an arcticle about a new experimental version of Second Life, which provoked a lot of comments immediately. He questioned if it was really desireble to have more graphics effects, more realism in Second Life - especially if this leads to different user experiences among the users - and quoted some interesting numbers:
Top virtual worlds/MMOs by use, as of 2008:
- World of Warcraft, 10 million subscribers
- Habbo Hotel, 8 million monthly active users
- RuneScape, 5 million monthly active users
- Club Penguin, 4 million monthly active users
- Webkinz, 4 million monthly active users
He concludes, that people probably don't want realistic 3D worlds, as 4 of 5 of the most successful virtual worlds are 2.5D and the only 3D one is certainly not "high end" or "realistic".
I can't follow his line of reasoning though. While I won't argue his numbers (showing that a lot of 2.5D worlds are vastly more popular than next gen 3D ones), it is tough to draw conclusions from such a fact. When two factors are correlated this just means that they are ... correlated, NOT that one is the result of the other in a cause-and-effect relationship. :) Assuming cause-and-effect when there is correlation is one of the most popular mistakes in logic.