There’s a mesh body race going on in Second Life, and we’re interested in knowing how that race is progressing. In the absence of verifiable sales figures, bloggers and designers are conducting polls to measure mesh body adoption and mesh body preferences.
These polls are revealing in their own right, and taken together, they reveal three trends: (1) mesh body adoption is increasing and showing no signs of slowing down, (2) four brands are dominating the mesh body marketplace, and (3) we’re slowly seeing a blurry picture becoming clear as to who the winner in that group of 4 brands might be.
One year ago…
The earliest large sample poll I found about mesh bodies in Second Life was conducted by Gogo, a year ago on her site Juicy Bomb in July 2014, which asked if visitors to the site wore a mesh body. 1,274 people answered the poll with the majority reporting they did not own a mesh body (43.33%). 30.53% said they always wore their mesh body, and 26.14% of respondents said they owned a mesh body but switched between their default Second Life body and a third-party mesh body.
In February 2015, Second Life designer Iki Akiri put out a survey asking more questions about mesh bodies – with an even larger sample size. The sample is made of 3284 responses, and the results are (at the time of this post’s publication) still available online. One might question the relevance of this poll’s results today, but it’s difficult to deny the very large sample of answers the poll results summarise
The poll asks some questions that are indicative of the popularity of mesh bodies. According to this poll, 23% of respondents were exclusively wearing the Second Life avatar (whether it was mesh or not, is impossible to know), considerably less percentage than the JuicyBomb poll.
The Akiri poll was the first I saw that asked about mesh body preferences, in which The Mesh Project body came out the clear winner (41.5%). This was closely followed by the Maitreya Lara (27.7%) and Belleza Venus (18.2%), and finally the SLink Physique (12.6%).
The picture today has changed
In June 2015, Bax put out a poll to its group (which was reportedly shared in various mesh body groups) that was answered 1,268 times (not necessarily by different people), asking mainly: “Which Mesh Bodies/ Feet would you most like BAX Boots to be compatible with?”
The winner in this poll – by a wide margin – was the Maitreya Lara Mesh Body, with 39% of the votes, followed far behind by SLink Physique (10%), the Belleza Venus (8.2%) and finally the Mesh Project at 6.7%. Interestingly, the poll revealed that 16% of respondents chose the Slink Feet with a Default Avatar option.
Also in June, Lil Daria’s MeshBodyAddict blog put out a poll which again asked for mesh body preference. The poll had a sample size of 336. The results show Maitreya Lara came out at 72.6%, followed by the The Mesh Project (9.5%), then the SLink Physique (6.5%) and the Belleza at 4.8%, followed by all the less popular mesh body makers. Importantly, I should point out that the option of not using a mesh body was not included in this poll. That, and the smaller sample size relative to the other polls might be two reasons the preference numbers for the winner are higher than they appear in previous polls that did include that option.
With that said, it’s revealing that the other 3 big mesh body brands were represented even less than in previous surveys. Could it be that the smaller niche brands that have come on the market more recently are eating into the relatively less-represented big mesh body brands – and not Maitreya? It’s hard to know for sure, but this poll offered many more brands to choose from than before.
Most recently in June 2015, Strawberry Singh published three polls about mesh bodies (still open at the time of this post, so my summary might be slightly incomplete, but I doubt the results will change significantly if she closes the poll soon).
An interesting finding from the Strawberry Singh poll (n=1534) is that 3.6% said they did not care about mesh bodies. This is the lowest number of people saying they do not wear mesh bodies than ever before.
Another one of Strawberry Singh’s polls (n=1925) asked for brand preferences, resulting in the Maitreya Lara again coming out on top (55.3%), followed by the SLink Physique (11.8%), The Mesh Project at 10%, and the Belleza Venus (8.9%). In this poll, only 5.4% of respondents said they did not own or wear a mesh body.
A few limitations with these polls
Representative polling is based on well-established and rigorously-applied scientific methods. What might seem to be small subtleties in language, question design and polling mechanics can cause massive artefacts that can lead to some highly misleading reports.
For example, compound questions, incomplete options, and inter-dependent questions can cause people to answer things in ways that may not reflect the facts, and reveal numbers that are false representations. Likewise, allowing people to answer a poll more than once can also lead to problems with bias that are probably obvious.
A common design error I’m seeing is using compound questions, such as the one that asks if someone owns / prefers one body over another. Many people own more than one body, yet tend to prefer one over the other. So to this question, I’d answer that I own 5 mesh bodies, even though I prefer and mainly use one. My answer, however, cannot reflect that, because I’d have to choose 5 options to be truthful. If I only chose the preference option, then I’d be lying about the 4 other mesh bodies in my inventory.
Sample sizes make a difference, and a poll with 300 respondents will be less representative than a poll with 1500 respondents. Skewed sample sources might also affect the results that polls might show. For example, a poll that is distributed in not all of the mesh bodies’ support/fan groups will likely result in answers favouring the brand of mesh body where the poll was predominantly shared. The wider the sample source, the more representative the poll.
We also have to consider self-selection respondent bias. Meaning: These polls might better represent the actions and views of people that are interested in mesh bodies in general (e.g. meaning, the respondents might have a higher degree of interest in mesh bodies in general which would leave non-mesh body users under-represented).
With all that said; however, polls and surveys can still more representative that just one person’s subjective opinion based on their personal observations / preferences (even if it is supported by one’s closest friends), so there is merit in conducting and interpreting these polls, and I hope they continue. What would be really great, is if the same poll – with similar questions – was distributed across all of the mesh body groups, and summarised every 3 months.
A couple of trends revealed by these polls that most of us will (maybe) agree on
Given the limitations mentioned above, it’s fair to conclude from these polls that:
- Mesh bodies are progressively becoming more popular among Second Life residents as more and more residents adopt them, reducing the number of people that do not own/use them. Do those who mesh bodies outnumber those do not yet? I would suspect that this is likely not the case, but my view is again limited by personal observation. For what that’s worth, I think it’s highly unlikely.
- There are 4 big brands that dominate the mesh body market, and they are showing up highly preferred in every poll to date.
- Taking more than one poll into account, the order of prominence among these brands appears to be (A) Maitreya Lara, (B) The Mesh Project (although it is also important to remember that many respondents will have ‘purchased’ the free option), and then the Slink Physique and the Belleza Venus bodies that seem to be in a neck and neck battle for third place.
The first trend may seem obvious to those who watch these types of things, but when they can be substantiated with data, it helps those who are not so familiar with such things to see what is going on. The second trend is also difficult to argue against, given the poll results above. The third trend is the least reliable and difficult to validate because it’s very challening to really know how the mesh body race is playing out for various reasons:
- people own more than one mesh body
- people might have predominantly worn one mesh body at one time and then changed to wearing another mesh body later when they answered the poll
- some popular bodies are not available on the SL marketplace (where SLink Physique appears as the bestselling body), so it’s hard to use it to see bestsellers
- none of the polls specifically include options for SL default mesh bodies, which Linden Lab has given to every single new resident upon registration since May 2014 (although I wonder how many use them even a month after registration).
- one of the mesh bodies (The Mesh Project) was offered as a beta product – for free – so it’s likely that many people have that body as a trial product in their inventory, but might not use it.
Despite the results of these polls, one’s view of mesh bodies will always be subject to personal preference. Arguing that one body is objectively “better” or “best” with others who see another body is “better” or best” is pointless. At the very least, what these polls definitely show, is that there are a wide variety of preferences out there, and that the mesh body race isn’t quite yet ‘in the bag’.