Dane Zander in the Lost Gardens of Apollo and IRL in a less costly natural setting
Last month, according to Tyche Shepherd, 135 private regions disappeared from Second Life, a small but not insignificant loss to Linden Lab's revenue. But it also tells of a larger loss to Second Life culture: One of those defunct regions was the Lost Gardens of Apollo, created by Dane Zander in 2005, and universally beloved as among the most beautiful regions in SL. In the island's final days, Dane stopped by this blog to explain why he had to abandon this place so many loved. And because his experiences vividly illustrate how Second Life's land prices can choke the love from Second Life -- especially in this era of continued worldwide financial crisis -- I wanted to share some excerpts here:
"I have to look after my First Life, first," he wrote. "Owning a sim in Second Life is, by all accounts, a luxury when looking at tier prices. I am not sharing this information for sympathy or the like either -- it is just no big secret, and simply the facts of life here on my side of the computer screen. As it is in countless other homes, both here in Europe and in the US."
As he explains in more detail:
Hit by the global financial crisis and a double mortgage that will require him to sell his home, Dane is applying for Debt Relief in his country of Denmark. “Doing so involves detailed scrutiny of my personal finances.” And therein lies the problem:
“With the grandfathered tier of $199 and Danish VAT of 25%, it comes close to $250, per month. I live on an OK-comfortable disability pension, but Debt Relief will change that to a bare minimum for a period of five years. Thus, I am at a point where a luxury such as owning virtual real estate is just not an option for me, anymore. I am being pro-active out of necessity.”
This despite the fact that Apollo was once sustainable financially:
“For years, Apollo broke even. It even ran a small profit at times. That was all invested in scripted wildlife, better textures, better animations, a dedicated music stream for quite some time and yes - a few improvements on my aging avatar. My visitors were always generous. They were so because they could afford to be so. Many came by every month and made a donation. But the crisis has hit hard all over the world, and with the crisis still bearing down on almost anyone, donations have dwindled slowly but surely. I, if any, know exactly what that can do to your spendable income.”
He did consider other financial options for keeping Apollo open, but in his view, doing so would diminish what made the place so beloved to begin with:
“Sponsorship would mean commercial billboards and posters all over the place... With Second Life becoming increasingly commercialized and attuned to consumerism, the majority of my visitors have found the sheer lack of adverts and posters and signs... delightful.” And that also made selling the sim difficult: “It would be pretty darned near impossible to sell off a sim to anyone, telling them: It basically has to stay ‘as is’.” Alternate revenue models aside, “it all comes down to me not being able to have this luxury on my bank statements anymore. At all.”
Despite this rising financial burden, “I have postponed this closing, and postponed, again and again... tinkering on this place for more than five years has earned it a special place in my heart, and in the hearts of those around me. Namely my very dear friends, who tirelessly, and for no pay what so ever, have policed, looked after and managed Apollo while I was off doing such mundane things as eating, sleeping, getting sick -- and getting well again. In sickness and in health... my friends have stood by me, all these years. I have been blessed in that manner. It has indeed been a happy union.”
Dane Zander has wrote to Linden Lab, and offered his region to them: “That way, it could perhaps stay open. Let us give them time to consider that, and see what happens.” But he’s understanding if that doesn’t happen: “Linden Lab has felt the crisis as well, so I completely understand their need to be ‘in business for the money’, and not do these things without due consideration.”
Meantime, having made a back-up copy of his Second Life home, Dane Zander is currently moving from his real home -- both victims to a financial crisis which ironically involved transactions even stranger than anything ever imagined in the virtual world.