Ayesha Lytton: SL Land Stability Squeezed by Marketplace, Largest Land Barons (NWN Comment of the Week)
"[T]he vast majority of land barons care about their residents," writes Ayesha Lytton, owner of Solace Beach Estates, echoing the thoughts of fellow Second Life land baron Desmond Shang. "Frankly if I wanted to make a lot of money, there are much better business investments." However, she argued in an interesting and important comment from last week's New World Notes, land owners like her are being squeezed by the SL Marketplace, Second Life's e-commerce site, and the very largest land barons -- both of which threaten the stability of SL land in general:
"The Marketplace has really caused commercial land to take a hit. Many stores no longer bother with an in-world presence. The most successful ones still do, however most are no longer operating mall or branch locations. Clubs and organizations that depended on rent from branch locations have lost that revenue source, so many have closed, further compounding the problem. There needs to be an incentive to operate in-world locations, or a disincentive to list on Marketplace if you don't own land.
"The problem I am struggling with most right now is that there are a couple of the very largest land barons who rent large amounts of land so cheaply that the rest of us can't compete. I'm not talking about Atlas members, these barons are bigger and get discounts not available to anyone else. No one but them even know what the discounts are. Unless you're willing to own hundreds of sims, there's no way to compete with their pricing. They can offer such low rates not just because of quantity, but also because they don't invest back into the community. I have to charge more because I have event sims that don't cover their own tier, as well as costs to pay live musicians and hosts. If I can't offer those things then I would rather not have a business. Sadly, it's getting close to that point.
"The economy puts further pressure on residents to choose the cheapest possible land. I've lost count of how many potential customers I've had come to me with a horror story about someplace they rented from before. Then in the next sentence they ask me why I'm not charging some ridiculously low rate they were paying there. They don't see the connection between price and good service. I have closed 20 sims this year, and nearly all of the tenants I've lost have said they could not longer afford their rent, due to getting laid off work in RL, their in-world business failing, etc. I've also lost a few Rip Van Winkles who weren't very active and chose not to move to a new location, despite being offered free tier, when I was forced to consolidate sims for financial reasons. Some people get very attached to their virtual patch of land, and an unstable land market is bad for everyone across the board.
"Second Life has always in the past been friendly to small business. It's a place where anyone can get started creating or selling at low cost and succeed based on talent. As in real life, monopolies can destroy competition and hurt small business owners. Diversity and healthy competition is good for the economy. Linden Lab should not be in the business of creating content or themed communities beyond what they've already done. Instead they should support small businesses, and offer incentives for selling in-world, running quality events and creating themed communities. It is our world and our imagination, and no single company should have too much power, whether that be Linden Lab or an in-world business grown out of control."Tweet