Virtual CSI:NY closed on May 15. (It didn't actually get closed until the morning of the 16th, but staffing ended the previous evening. Close enough.) There was a big dance at Club Random and on the Orientation Islands on the final night, with Nexeus Fatale as the DJ (he was the DJ for the regular Thursday night dances at Club Random through the last scheduled one on April 30); it was a bittersweet night as everybody got together and said their last goodbyes.
Now that it's over, I can also say a bit more about its impact on Second Life. (Note to the lawyers; all numbers that I cite here are public data from SLNameWatch.com, and thus not subject to the non-disclosure agreement I signed.)
The CSI:NY registration portal had its own list of last names: Adlerstein, Ashley, Askham, Aubos, Bashir, Bazno, Belfire, Bernst, Boothroyd, Chenaux, Christen, Cliffhanger, Connaught, Dagenhall, Defroig, Delight, Dhanhu, Eldridge, Eleventhauer, Elfan, Emsbury, Eppeston, Firlan, Frabersham, Garmouth, Giadelli, Gordonstone, Harchester, Henly, Ireland, Irling, Ishnoo, Jennings, Jodra, Jolafson, Karphar, Kenthauer, Kingstop, Kirktown, Kleb, Leeming, Liertow, Loam, Lunark, Maudower, Mayflower, Moonbeam, Mosten, Nessen, Newbauld, Njaim, Northolt, Oppental, Orfein, Ostaschon, Oughden, Pappilomo, Periapse, Perrin, Philter, Qaven, Qualcar, Quinsette, Raffles, Ramir, Rasteridge, Redstar, Reinoir, Robenet, Schama, Senne, Shawbridge, Szpieler, Thorsveld, Tischler, Trappen, Trialle, Umbram, Urnst, Vasser, Vlitzen, Vonbaum, Wallifers, Weder, Weidman, Whittenstall, Yengawa, Yeshto, Zebberman. Those names were not available elsewhere, so counting the number of avatars gives us an estimate of the number of accounts that were created through CSI. To the best of my knowledge, this list was active for the entire history of CSI, and there were no other CSI-specific names that were discontinued earlier. As of May 19 (four days after the closing), there were 196,492 avatars with those names. Some avatars were probably created and then closed by their creators or by Linden Lab®, so let's say 200,000 in round numbers.
200,000 may not be quite the flood that some of us thought might arrive, given that the television series has over 10 million viewers a week in the US alone. Still, it's not an insignificant number; it represents about 50% of the number that currently sign up each month -- though there was a big spike in registrations in October 2007. (See the Second Life® economic statistics
for more information on Second Life signup rates.) That number also understates the total; some unknown number of people signed up through secondlife.com rather than CBS. From the outside, we have no way of knowing how many of those registration actually represent new humans, rather than alts created by existing Second Life residents, nor do the statistics tell us how many have stayed in Second Life long-term. New registrations were continuing to come in until the end; I compiled similar numbers on May 1, and there were over 5,000 more CSI avatars on May 19.
The most popular CSI avatar name was Delight (9,425), followed closely by Ashley (8.764); Ireland was third (7,041), closely beating Moonbeam (7,030). The least popular by a considerable margin was Ostaschon (234); second place was Oughden (419). Periapse (492) was the only other name with fewer than 500 avatars.
Various things about the way that CSI was run suggest that it was always intended as a limited-time promotional area rather than a permanent community. Aside from the crime-solving puzzles, the only scheduled activity was a weekly dance. Building a permanent community would have involved more activities -- and consequently more staff and more expense. It's possible that the television writer's strike affected some plans. By now it won't do any harm to reveal that the second CSI-in-SL episode was originally planned for February; we were pleased to see CBS reopen the season with it in April.
Another big broadcast television related Second Life project, Gossip Girl, provides some interesting contrasts. As of today, over 76,000 GossipGirl avatars have signed up; not as many as CSI, but the show has a much smaller number of viewers, many of whom are underage for Second Life. (However, the broadcast ratings for Gossip Girl understate the total number of viewers, as it has been a huge hit on cwtv.com and on iTunes.) It appears that a much larger percentage of Gossip Girl viewers than of CSI viewers have signed up for Second Life, which likely reflects the very different nature of the programs and their viewers. The Gossip Girl build is not as impressive as CSI in my opinion, but they are putting in the effort to build community, running at least two events a day.
I think the conclusion to be drawn here is that the success of media-related projects is likely to have as much to do with WHO watches your product as with the total numbers. Programs with young, hip, and connected viewers (witness the huge success of the first big media-related project in Second Life, The L Word) will thrive; programs with different viewer profiles shouldn't be expected to reach as big a slice of the viewership, at least not until virtual worlds become a mainstream activity.