Monday, April 9, 2012

More on Immersion: IMVU vs. Second Life

Yesterday, I created an account and logged into the popular 3D chatroom, IMVU.  The first thing I noticed was that IMVU had more than twice as many people logged into it as Second Life...the concurrency at that moment was about 97,000.

The second thing I noticed was that IMVU is very tied into other things.  If you sign up for a trial of this or that, or install an add-on for your web browser, or many other things, you receive IMVU "credits".  These credits are the IMVU equivalent of $L, and you can use them to purchase clothes and accessories for your avatar (but you can't, apparently, cash them out for real money.)  So, in addition to being an application, IMVU is an advertising medium.

I spent a short time customizing my avatar.  This is much easier than in Second just make selections of things from pictures of them in your "inventory".  There are no Appearance sliders.  So...easier, but nowhere near as much creative control.

Then I logged in to one of many "public chat rooms".  This one appeared to be a plateau, maybe 20m in diameter, with a number of benches and other seats strewn about.  Five or six people were there, chatting.
It had the "feel" of an SL Infohub, although it was much smaller and the occupants were a tad less rowdy.

I soon found out one reason for can't walk about in IMVU.  You can swing your camera about very easily, but your avatar remains in a fixed (but animated, like the standing pose in an AO) position.  You can't even turn to face the person you're talking to.  By clicking on another spot on the ground, you can relocate your avatar there, and you can sit on something in much the same way.  But it's all instantaneous, not like moving within a world at all.

And in fact, IMVU is not a world.  There is no "geography".  There are only "rooms".  Some of these rooms may be quite large, and even appear to be an outdoor scene.  But they are not connected in any way.  You can have your own "room"...I was invited to one by another avatar almost as new as myself.  This "room" was analogous to a Linden Home...something that is pre-built and given away free to all members.  My new friend's room was a nice, modern studio apartment.  Camming outside, however, there was...nothing.  Just black space.  Nothing exists outside a room.

While IMVU shares many of the features of Second Life, it is much more limited in terms of world simulation, movement, economy, and creative tools furnished to the user.  So...why is it more popular?  The only suggestions that come to my mind are:
- IMVU is primarily aimed at person to person communication. 
- Because it is narrowly focused, it's easier to use than SL.  These two features make it popular with social media users.
- IMVU has done a much better job of advertising to the general public than SL.  You can buy IMVU credits on plastic cards at your local convenience store!

(If you're a creative type, you CAN create content for IMVU, and earn credits when people buy your stuff.  Content is created in third party programs, then submitted to IMVU for approval by their censors and uploading to their marketplace.)

There is a LOT of content available.  If you don't mind spending the credits, you can customize your avatar quite extensively.  So, the "dress up" part of SL is available here.

But for me, there are three things that I find unacceptable about IMVU.
- No two way currency exchange
- Too much "real world" advertising
- And worst of all, because of the limitations of the world and our movement within it, there is no sense of immersion.


  1. Replies
    1. Argent, my main mustelid! It's so good to see you again, I've missed your ferretiness in the forums. (You'll find me almost entirely in SL Answers.)

  2. Good to see folks reaching out to other worlds and bringing their stories back!

  3. I recently learned that IMVU is managed (owned?) by Sony.

  4. you can sell your imvu credits and or trade them in for lindens..... not through imvu but there are other venues that does this. credits are cheaper than lindens by a whoooooooole lot 50 dollars will get you a hundred thousand credits sometimes more depending on the market rarely less. so thats almosta 100% mark up but. i do agree with you on imvu being limited its why i am at sl today. they keep talking about opening up imvu so that our avi's are free moving. they even did a poll nobody wanted the majority likes it the way it is .........(its absolutely crazy right!!) go figure.

  5. Bah !!! it erased my first comment. it was probably to long anywho...

    i just wanted to let you know you can cash your credits out and or sell them through other sites for real world money or even lindens. i have used imvu for 5yrs now i loved it when i first started i built alot of great friendships there because its more personal. but i had to leave because they had a poll going on the upgrades that imvu should incorporate into there programing and walking was one of them ......the majority of the people said they did not want a free moving avi. (thats craziness to me !! )and theres nothing wrong with a sponsor as long as it keeps my expenses down to. i think sl should look into it more cause credits are over 80% cheaper than lindens.

  6. Was browsing for comparisons on Google and yours hit near the top of the list - thanks for a really clear, up to date review of the two platforms. I'm a 7 years SL resident, never used IMVU and until today hadn't realised how far it has come, graphically - I saw someone's IMVU avatar on a blog post and at first thought it was from SL! But the lack of real geography or movement would be a huge disincentive to me, plus it sounds more expensive and limiting, and the ads would be super annoying.

    Seems as though the two cater for different audiences, but I'm puzzled why all this talk about 'IMVU caters better to social interaction'. Huh? You can wander about SL and talk to anybody you want, I've made my best real life friendships on SL, and it can't be beaten for shared fun in games, clubs, contests, you name it. You just have to search around a bit and maybe that's what puts some people off, that everything isn't handed to them on a plate - just like real life!

    Just as an aside, I LOLed at you calling the infohubs rowdy. I don't know which infohub you've visited recently, or at what time of day - maybe the problem is I'm in the UK and don't go there during US maintime - but I find them creepy. The avies who are there are usually standing around afk and silent like statues. I've experienced way more rowdiness in stores. Or sandboxes. For maximum SL rowdiness, visit a public sandbox! Ugh. (Does IMVU have anything like sandboxes to test your creations before you pay to upload?)

  7. Fast Forward to 2015, IMVU has 'eliminated' its resellers, and now credit earnings are cashed thru IMVU (it would seem they didnt like resellers getting a piece of the pie). IMVU has recently been on a rampage permanently banning creators under the guise of vague 'trademark' rules in their TOS...they use this tactic when successful creators attempt to cash their earnings...quite suspicious, apparently they dont like sharing their pie with the creators who made the very content that IMVU profits from. IMVU has become a VERY unethical greed driven business, and have zero respect or concern for their users. Avoid and boycott this company!