“We believe this is fair”, or how to make business customers and creative residents equally angry
“We believe this is fair”
M. Linden, in A Letter to Second Life Residents
Let me tell you a story. I work for a company, let’s call it “C”. C had two full sims in Second Life, C1 and C2; C1 was mainly used for education (a very few hours a week, maximum 10 avies), and C2 was used to hold vanity offices for C’s top executives. At the same time, I had two normal sims, Condensation Land and Condensation Beach, which I was renting to some SL and RL friends and to some of C’s employees, losing a small amount of money every month in the process, but it was all so fun that I really didn’t care very much.
Then came the announcement and later the price change: you could have an OpenSpace, 1/4 of a sim for 1/4 of the price, this seemed fair, allowed finer control of the investments, to landscape more beautifully, to make places less congested, etc.
[As an aside: I don’t think you can “abuse” a program. You can abuse a child, your husband or a resident, but not a program. Think about “abusing Excel” — it’s simply ludicrous.]
I met with C’s executives, and decided to do the following: C2 would be converted into four openspaces; three of them would be put around C1 and would hold, apart from the then current offices for C’s executives, more vanity offices for C’s personnel; one would be sold to me and become part of the Condensation Archipielago.
C thus paid US$ 250 to Linden Lab for the conversion, 40 hours of my time = € 4000, and was unable to use C2 during the two months it took for the Lindens to process the ticket, but had to pay for it anyway (= 2 * US$ 300); when you convert an island to an openspace you can’t keep the terraforming or the contents, all is wiped in the process.
C had invested or lost 250+4000*1,2+2*300 = 5650 US$, and had sold one void (US$ 250), but had now 256K sqm instead of 128, everything was nicer and ampler, and everybody was happy.
On my side, I received the new island (Condensation South), for which I paid US$250 to C and US$ 100 to Linden Lab, and I started to convert Condensation Beach to a void. Condensation Beach was hosting one of my best customers, my RL friend and fellow flickerite Ludmilla Writer. Since the conversion to a void wipes the island and Ludmilla is an active resident who can’t be without a proper house, I ordered another void (Condensation SouthWest), for which I paid US$ 250 more, terraformed it, and helped Ludmilla to move temporarily to it while her former place of residence was converted. Then I paid US$ 250 more to have Condensation Beach converted, waited two months more, during which I could not use a full sim I was paying for (US$ 600), then got four openspace sims; one was Condensation Beach, another was Condensation North, and the other two I sold in the market, for which I got US$500. Then I helped Ludmilla to terraform her Island, terraformed the other three islands, and gave my tenants nice terrains on the new islands. Most of my tenants never log in, but they kept paying me because it was not expensive and it was nice and fashionable to have a small piece of land in Second Life. I have not made an exact calculation of the amount of time I invested in terraforming the Condensation archipielago, but it’s for sure more than 100 hours; let’s put it down 100 hours for the sake of the calculations.
Of course it was my free time, but if I had been working this would have costed € 10,000 = S$ 12,000.
Ludmilla, who’s not a rich person IRL by the way, was making a big effort to be able to pay for her own island, but she was so proud of it that she spent a lot of L$ in buying trees and stuff to make it beautiful anyway.
So I had invested or lost 250*3 + 300*2 + 12,000 = 13,100 US$ and had earned US$ 500 by selling my two remaining islands, but everybody was happy: the new islands were wonderful and although I had put a huge amount of time in terraforming them, everything was so beautiful and my friend Ludmilla was blooming.
We then threw out a party for the opening of Ludmilla’s island:
Since Ludmilla’s island was an openspace, we made the party in Condensation Land, which is a full sim, so as not to stress the lesser sims (yes we were caring!).
A month later Linden Lab announced the price changes and the protests started:
Now I almost lost C as a customer. C feels that they have been scammed, that they have spent US$ 5,650 for nothing, have asked me to downsize their presence in SL to one sim instead of 4 (most of the vanity offices will simply dissappear and some will be relocated to C1), are actively considering the possibility of renting a void from me if the conditions for Homesteads are confirmed, and have asked me to research other virtual worlds. They feel abused and threatened, they don’t want to have all the eggs put in the same basket any longer, and will migrate to another virtual world as soon as it’s technically feasible; they trust Linden Lab no more. They have started to ask themselves why does one need a realistic, vibrant environment just to hold meetings and give some classes, and will start to use SL in a more “practical” way. “Practical” meaning that they won’t care any longer that it’s realistic or beautiful, as they previously did; it will be much cheaper that way.
In the Condensation archipielago, things are not much better. Most of my tenants are not willing to accept a price increase; they were not using their land much anyway, so that’s a good occasion to become homeless altogether. Ludmilla is about to hang herself; she’s invested a lot of her precious money and now she feels it’s been for nothing; she will not be able to stand a 66% price increase, and she’ll have to downsize her terrain. I will buy one of C’s unused openspaces, pack it with the North, South, and SouthWest islands in a full sim, and attempt to sell it, if there’s still a sim market after the current debacle. I will only keep Condensation Land and Condensation Beach at the moment; it might well be that later on I sell Condensation Beach, if Ludmilla cannot pay for it, or abandon land in SL completely.
Before the crisis the Lindens were getting 4*300 = US$ 1200/mo from C and me combined; after the crisis they’ll be getting 2*300 + 125 = US$ 725, or 300+2*125 = US$ 550 if C1 is converted to a homestead, or 300+125 = US$ 425 if Ludmilla finally decides to abandon Condensation Beach. In the best scenario for them, they’ll be making (1200-725) * 12 = US$ 5,700 less a year. If we sum this loss of income to the money lost by C and by me, that’s 5,650+13,100+5,700 = US$ 24,450 of collective loss in a year. And 9 islands will become 3 islands, maybe two. Less landmass. Less SL. Less world. And less “residents”.
I’ve become interested in other virtual worlds. Some days ago I just ordered a private cluster of 4 sims in Openlife. I intend to recreate the full Condensation archipielago there; I’ll be posting the results to Flickr.
Now I understand that Second Life is switching from a social experiment to a business platform. The point is that, as C people keep saying lately, to have Immersive Workspaces-like meetings you don’t need ultrarealistic environments, WindLight, expensive furniture or good looking avatars. In that market, a new world will surely appear, much more lightweight, sooner or later. The SL client is overkill, and SLim is simply ridiculous.
On the other hand, SL richness come from the fact that people like us, the creative people they are now neglecting and abusing, love to live in SL and make it beautiful and take pics and videoss of it. If we get fed up, we will migrate to another world, and then the Lindens will have an empty world that nobody will use, not even entreprises, because SL is overkill for the enterprise.
Me personally I’m much more than fed up. I’m infuriated.
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