Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style
Looking for a drama fix? Don't worry, Second Life fashionistas "gacha" covered (as usual) though this time the debate's pretty profound.
It's gacha time again at The Arcade, one of the most popular shopping events in Second Life (and one which I've covered in the past.) Unfortunately there's been a fair amount of drama souring the event for some, and it all boils down to one question: After you buy an item, do you still have a responsibility to the designer or is it yours to do with as you will? The answer may seem simple, but you might be surprised...
A little background info:
SL-style gacha, based on Japanese gachapon (or "capsule") machines, combine fashion lust with a light dose of gambling and trading by making players pay a low price in extra for a random drawing from the items within. It's as fun as it is frustrating for the hardcore gachaponistas, and it's definitely a seasonal event worth looking forward to. Most of the items sold from gacha machines have their permissions set so that they are transferrable, with the intention that people who get duplicates (which is almost inevitable when you're playing a machine repeatedly in pursuit of an elusive rare item) can trade them with others. This has been a key part of SL-style gacha almost since the beginning of the trend in Japanese shops and sims. Trading can be a bit of a hassle sometimes especially for those in varying timezones, so many people have taken to setting up yard sales where they sell their unwanted gacha goodies for others to buy. This lets people buy the item they want without repeated plays of the machine, usually at cost. Some people will jack up the price on rare items, or lower the price on a common item to undercut other yard-salers (and even the original designers themselves) but most of the bigger yard sales try to moderate pricing to avoid this kind of predatory behavior.
The reason that this is a problem for anyone, even with fair pricing, for anyone is that instead of spending a couple hundred L$ to get the perfect item straight from the gacha, people can go to a yardsale and pick it up immediately instead with no risk. Yes, the designers have already been paid for that item technically, but the reason that gacha pricing is so low is because it's assumed that the people playing multiple times will balance out the costs of those who only play once. Yard sales (and even trades) in essence mean more one-play customers, and less business for designers and their gacha machines. I doubt that anyone knows how much of an effect that actually has on possible sales though. Maybe it's a dramatic loss, maybe it's negligible (especially as these events can help spread awareness of gacha events) or maybe that's missing the point entirely.
It's not us versus them.
Designers need to respect customers' rights as much as customers need to respect designers' rights. I appreciate the yard sales that police their pricing and that exclude the items of designers who don't want their items resold, but it's still important for designers to remember that the Second Life permissions system is what it is, and there's no way to let people trade without also letting them resell. Treating them like criminals for doing what you've technically permitted them to do definitely won't help business either. More to the point. yard sales, reselling, and trading aren't news; they've been going hand-in-hand with Second Life's gachas basically forever. If you're signing up to participate in a gacha festival you have to expect them and take them in stride. They're part of the deal.
All drama aside, The Arcade's gacha events are some of my favorite seasonal shopping events in all of SL, and you should definitely check the current round out before it's over on March 31st. Check here to see all the items available, or here for more info on the event, and when you're ready to empty your virtual wallet swing by the event itself in SL [SLURL]. And of course be sure to tell me in the comments where you stand on the issue of gacha yard sales: Are they a core part of the gacha experience, or a violation of designers' good faith?
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Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.