Last month I mentioned that SL land baron Desmond Shang has a Minecraft server which he offers free to people who rent space on his steampunk-themed estate of Caledon, and here's an interesting follow-up: Minecraft is helping him keep his estate in Second Life thriving.
"I don't keep 'hard stats' on this yet," Shang acknowledges up front, noting it's just several dozen of his renters who play on his Minecraft server. "But it's quite clear already that some people are hanging onto their Caledon estate land, or have rented new land, simply because they want to support the Caledon Minecraft server experience.
"It's a modest boost," he adds, "nothing that is going to make or break an estate. It may ultimately save a Second Life region or two, but certainly not ten or 100." But the reason this works points to the problems with Second Life's land revenue model, and why people rent virtual land in the first place. And as SL sims continue to disappear due to heavy tier costs and natural attrition, his strategy is definitely worth considering. As Desmond puts it to me:
"It's basically a 'cool fun thing' to play with, associated with the estate and everyone's friends there. The community friendships are what makes it work. A weekly barbeque would work too, but that's harder to organise than a Minecraft server." Plus, he goes on, it shows "[t]hat the estate manager is actively looking for ways to make people happy... Failing that, it's a race to see who can offer the most unsustainably cheap land in SL. Don't 'win' that race." In other words, why offer your renters more land in Second Life, when you can offer them free land in Minecraft?
Desmond's advice to other estate owners who might want to add a Minecraft server of their own:
- "First, if you have five Minecraft-hating oldbie SL purists renting from you, don't bother getting a Minecraft server. But if you have 100 to 500 people on your estate, some of them will already be playing Minecraft with or without you.
- "Second, realise that Minecraft is more complementary to SL than competitive. This is important. Minecraft has no significant land or 'prim' limits, it's embarrassingly inexpensive (my hosting runs effectively $10 USD/month), and it's particularly ill~suited for dance parties and 'sexy' stuff. It generally won't eat into people's SL time, but may eat up all their Facebook game time.
- "Third, people will bring their parents and their under 16 year old kids. Relax, the world won't end, it's just fine.
- "Fourth, back up your Minecraft server files regularly, and whitelist it. Griefers constantly poke around popular Minecraft host IP addresses, and will destroy everything if given the slightest chance. It's simple enough to stop them, just don't allow them on your server.
- "Fifth: You will totally get used to the cubey nature of the thing. After awhile it's just one more quirk, like SL's 'air typing.' Not a big deal at all."
It's a smashing idea and a great strategy to retain the many sub-communities of SL without spending more money on virtual land.
Photo by Emilly Orr, featuring her and Desmond in the Caledon server.