One of the latest controversies roiling the Second Life commentariat is the role of freebies in the economy, those free or very low cost items that store owners give away, largely for promotional purposes. (Ana Luetia has a round-up of opinions here.) As the latest Linden figures suggest, the number of profitable SL businesses has decreased in the second quarter of this year, and some are pointing fingers at freebies, which contribute to an oversaturation of content, and a presumption among newbies that they should spend little or nothing on Second Life items.
Prad Prathivi goes so far as saying that "the freebie culture needs to be nipped in the bud and set up so it can’t be abused at the expense of designer’s generosity." To Dusan Writer, freebies are a symptom of a much larger problem, since they're a way to attract customers in an economy where "branding, community relations, and information management systems" are "clunky, difficult and time consuming".
What's this say about the larger economy? In a post that's roughly the length of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, metaverse intellectual and entrepeneur Gwynneth Llewellyn lays out "The Hard Facts About The Second Life Economy". The much shorter, readable version of her insights comes from Sophrosyne Stenvaag: in essence, Gwyn believes that just 100,000 Second Life users comprise the real SL economy, that (as Sophrosyne puts it), "there are too many producers chasing too few consumers, and that the situation's unlikely to change." Ms. Stenvaag has an even harsher personal take: "SL is a third world economy. The vast mass of people here are economically irrelevant: they produce and consume nothing." Perhaps overstated, but the over-saturation of content is hard to deny.
All of which brings me back to an open forum Iris Ophelia and I posted yesterday: What is the most precious item in Second Life? For however small the economy may be, there are still creative works that some Residents are willing to pay a high premium for. What are those commercial objects of desire that still maintain their value in this apparent recession buried by freebies? Some suggest the famed Dominus Shadow muscle car; others, the prefab homes of Scarlet Creative; still others, the steampunk flying submarine by Carrah Rossini. Please post your own suggestions here.