Expiration date

The version of Second Life we’re using today has an expiration date. Sometime in 2016, as Linden Labs new CEO has recently revealed, it will be replaced by its succeeding virtual incarnation, already popularly known as Second Life 2.0 in the blogosphere. Since the first one launched in the summer of 2003, let’s think SL2 might be available by the summer of 2016. That leaves us with little less than two years to enjoy our current creations, but as everybody knows, time flies, so better start preparing for the impending doom, no? That is, supposing SL2 is really an improvement over the actual one, and knowing LL as we all do,  that supposition is, in the best case scenario, a hope/-ful/-less pledge.

When that announcement was made my first question was: then, is it worth buying land right now? You know, because acquiring a plot in SL is a real investment, and taking into consideration all the money some people ask for a prim farm these days, you should ponder if that expenditure is worth what you’re going to do in a two-year stay, because when SL2 opens, SL1 will probably lose all of its value. Or would SL1 be around as a legacy product, and for how long? More importantly, would you like to stay behind? What I would really want to know is, would there be a mechanism of some sort to allow transferring our SL1 belongings along with the rights of any land we own to the new platform? Would we get some kind of vouch that we would be able to redeem in the new virtual, yet still American frontier, or would we have to start from nada?

As a buyer, my real concern is what should I pay for land in SL nowadays, taking into account the given expiration notice. The most sound answer I’ve come up with so far is this: whatever comes close to what I would pay in rent over the course of two years on a rented parcel of equal size. For example: Why should I pay L$50,000 for a 512 sq.m. plot? Yes that seems to be an average price for a waterfront parcel in a prominent mainland area in the hands of a reselling company right now (or L$190,000 for a 1024 sq.m. one in an exclusive neighborhood such as Bay City). That has always been an outrageous sum of money from my point of view, undoubtedly. But see: I’m currently paying L$250 a week (that includes owner’s earnings of course) for a plot like that, and I even get a discount if I pay monthly (L$940 instead of L$1000). In two years, L$250 amounts to L$26,000 (with the discount, it’s L$22,560 only). Basically, should that be the standard price for a premium parcel like that? (A protected waterfront lot is like the top of the line for most accounts).

Are there any other elements that may impact the base value of a plot? Certainly, I would say. When I’ve been looking for land in mainland, I’ve taken into consideration –from a personal perspective–several “likabilities” for my future property, such as:

  • Location: Is the plot in a nice place? Are the buildings around it acceptable or even good-looking? Is the neighborhood any good? Does it look like a stable area, or does it show signs of instability?
  • Desirability: Do I really like the place? Do I really want to live here? Would others like it, you know in case I decide to sell the place later on to move to a different location?
  • Utility: Would I be able to build in here what I have in mind? Is it the right plot or the right neighborhood for such venture, or should I look elsewhere?
  • Scarcity/availability: Are there any other and better places I would like to live instead of here? How many? Where are they located? Is this parcel like one in a million?
  • “Trasferability”: Would the plot sell quickly if I don’t want it anymore? Will I be able –at least– to recover my initial investment?
  • “Sociability”: Would my build look good in here or would it disturb the neighborhood? Would I be welcome or despise? (Alas, it seems not many people ask themselves that question, but for me it weights on my decision to buy a parcel or not).

There are probably more variables to add to the equation, but how do we calculate the value of each of them and how do they add to the final price? Will they amount to the L$24,000 difference between what some people are asking for and what I calculate –and maybe esteem– as a “reliable” and fair price in practical terms?

I actually wonder, is it worth buying land right now, or is renting a better –or even the only– option, now that SL1 is only best before 2016?

In the picture: My immediate vicinity with all its “imperfections,” such as a low altitude skybox, and several styles of equally obnoxious privacy screens in all their glory. Yet, I think it’s a nice neighborhood by mainland standards. Isn’t it? My property is mostly hidden from view in this shot due to one of the said privacy menaces.


Quality of (second) life

Plurk, a micro-blogging service widely used by Second Life residents, is more known for the self-praising and occasional drama spurs than for its rational adult conversations. Yet, this morning, Kriss Lehmann, owner of Botanical garden store, started an interesting discussion, advising fellow creators to slow down their participation in SL events for the sake of making money and to start concentrating in what he thinks is more important to SL: quality control. From his point of view as a creator, trying to be in too many events logically lowers the time you have to dedicate to the creation of a product that will stand by the quality of your brand and its reputation. Less time also means not pushing yourself to do the best to surpass your own know-how as an artist, learning new tricks in the process to better the trade. He goes to the point of saying some well-known stores are degrading their production by tricking themselves (not the customers) because of this “frenziness” in meeting deadlines for SL events.

Now, let me tell you this, SL content creators: We customers do notice when quality goes down, and we take “corrective measures”: we stop buying from those that don’t meet our expectations. I don’t know if creators participating in a hundred SL events at a time check their transactions to see who’s buying from them regularly (that would be planning on building loyal customers), but if they do, it wouldn’t be a surprise to find a random list of names that are usually unique. Do you know what I mean?

You can read the entire discussion by following THIS URL (make sure to click on “more responses” to read it in full). But before you head out, let me share a few ideas for content creators:

  • Some customers take deadlines more “seriously” than others, and don’t buy products from coming soon content creators when they abuse that mantra. When you can’t meet a deadline we tend to think you aren’t committed enough to the event you’re supposed to support, even being irresponsible to your potential customers for not showing up in due time.
  • When quality goes down, I’m sure you, as a creator, know it. Selling low-quality products by your own standards is trying to fool your customers, and let me tell you this: we do notice, and then you won’t have our money again.
  • Events are promotion opportunities for store owners, but for event organizers it’s their way of making money. The more events they plan, the more money they make. Do you realize that? What do you think events and event organizers would be or do without you? If you fall so easily to their lure and things keep going at a pace you can’t rightfully keep, you’re not giving yourself the respect you deserve. Or do you think there would be so many events if it weren’t for your creations? Take control of the situation; don’t let them command you so easily.
  • The more releases there are, the less we customers enjoy them. We can’t keep up with you, we can’t keep spending so much money because that human invention has never come out of thin air nor from Linden money trees.
  • Lately, it’s becoming too obvious that content creators that are able to participate in many simultaneous events do so because they’re just recycling ideas, from their own or other sources they take inspiration from. And again, we customers spot that too. It’s the same products time and again; maybe they change a texture or add a negligible detail, but it’s still the same chair, the same bench, the same “collection” of cushions and pillows, the same bottles or pots with flowers of a variant color… We notice and then we stop buying too.
  • You may not know it but we are fully aware when five content creators suddenly come up with the same mesh item, each claiming originality (we know you got it from an online repository), with textures we’ve seen before (yeah, we know you got them online too).
  • Something extra, but related: I tend to “reward” those store owners that also have an inworld presence, not merely a marketplace page. I think those with inworld stores also care for SL itself. So they’re not only trying to make a living, but maintaining alive the world they cash from. True fans will rush to buy new products regardless of where you launch that new article. If you’re not able to make enough from main store releases, then you’re failing at marketing.
  • Similarly, some content creators claim people don’t visit inworld stores anymore or don’t like main store releases; that they prefer one-place events. That’s because you accustomed them to that kind of shopping experience, it’s not the other way around. Customers get used to what you give them. People are lazy by nature, so they will always go for the easiest/simplest alternative. That’s why they say they prefer event releases (because they don’t have to TP to each store), but then you’ll hear them complaining about the lag in that event, about not being able to get in after a thousand attempts, cursing failed transactions, grumbling about crashing constantly, and so on. Does that happen so often with store releases?
  • If you start failing in SL as a content creator, I will seriously urge you to check your first life: that one may be starting to miss the best of you too. A good second life requires maintaining a balance between both worlds. Breaking down in SL may mean your performance in the first one is also starting to miss the rhythm.
  • Lastly, I want to make it clear: Buying a product and giving you some of my lindens, is recognizing your work, skills, abilities, talent, originality and efforts as an artist, and hence crediting the quality of your crafting. For me, shopping in SL is not merely buying an item for the sake of owning it because it looks good; buying is rewarding the creator for his or her good work, and I don’t give prizes to people who only want to make easy money.

Banish the gacha

It’s hard to say this because I know it’s a very popular practice in SL economy right now, but I’m sick of the gacha overdose we’re currently experimenting in this virtual world. There is no single event in which at least a few participating stores offer their products using that seductive shopping modality, and I’m especially hating it when it’s actually the only way to purchase the items I would like to get. Maybe I’m only yearning for the days when store owners celebrated the release of new products in their own inworld locales… it seems ages ago. When it was done that way, back in the “old days”, you would never have to spend days just trying to get in to buy that latest cuteness on the grid; now it seems to take a week sometimes.

Gacha events are so in excess right now because their apparent low pay-to-play pricing is synonym of bargain to many a gamer, but the way the mechanism works may be contributing to create a gambling-like culture among residents that are becoming addicted to this market practice. When playing gacha, people tend to spend significantly more than they would normally pay to acquire their wares by other means, like regular old-fashioned shopping. From my point of view, if you encourage a habit, a bad one when people can’t self-control or limit their spending rationally, and start to exploit their obsession to your favor (even unconsciously, because I like to think creators “may not” be aware of this), then you start to tilt the balance to the negative side of the equation, me thinks. In that same way, you also indirectly subsidize the rapacious tendencies some resellers are mastering in yard sale camps. So I’m getting sick of those as well.

Gachas are also creating a surplus of crap, because anything that remains “unwanted” becomes debris in somebody’s inventory, or a tabletop item on a flea market after the hype is over and the product doesn’t sell. Then it turns into a small locus of lag that competes with the one belonging to new merchandise whenever they are added to the trade.

I know, it’s just me…

GazeboIn the pictures: more shots of Atelier Visconti’s Adria Gazebo (check yesterday’s post for details). I didn’t have any fitting images to add to this random rambling, so I picked two most closed at hand. I guess I should add this disclaimer: “The objects depicted in these pictures have nothing to do with the post’s message. They are not intended to illustrate any idea discussed in the text. They are for decorating purposes only.”