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Thursday, March 10, 2011

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Loki

Tell me about it!

Loki

I own a full region, i want to share fun activities built from my love of making things. I should be able to recuperate the costs of tier for the efforts i and my friends put into the grid.

The things that fight against me are...
1) - high tier costs.
2) - crap inworld communication.
3) - Rubbish Search
4) - Icky Viewer2
5) - MarketPlace
6) - Low perception of value.

Hamlet Au

Those are all problems, Loki, but even if they were fixed, without new user activity and spending growth, it will still be very difficult for landowners to make tier.

Ajax Manatiso

Loki is so much on the mark -- all 6 items are true. I also faced a choice of selling/abandoning my sim or making a go of it. I sold off some off-sim holdings to delay the decision, but LL really needs to lower tier quickly or see an ever-widening span of emptiness

Nalates Urriah

OpenSim while an alternative is not a good alternative. The physics sucks. And the divergence between viewers for SL and OpenSim continues to grow.

Regions like Numbakulla, built by Myst Online Uru Live (MOUL) fans leaving that closed game, have suffered the same fate as many games, poor player retention. One supposes that if LL can turn SL around and get more players to stay, things will be better for everyone. I suppose that is a possibility. But, I don't see it as a guaranteed saver for games like Numbakulla.

Even popular games like Land of NoR have shrunk from 29 +/- regions with 80 to 200 players almost anytime of day to 12 regions and 40 or so players. While Backyard Monsters on Facebook draws millions of players.

There are lots of ideas about what is wrong with virtual worlds. Lots more about what is required to make them more popular. But, so far I'm not seeing much working.

Deebrane String

Hamlet --

"... if (Loki's list of problems) were fixed, without new user activity and spending growth, it will still be very difficult for landowners to make tier. "

It would be easier for landowners to make tier if they didn't have to make so much of it every month... ahem. LL is trying to ask 2008 prices for its virtual real estate in a 2011 economy. That strategy isn't working in First Life; why would anyone assume it's going to work in Second Life?

Further, Second Life's current economic model relies on providing creators a place where users can enjoy themselves and the content created and supported by the paying landowners. If LL doesn't support that experience with robust *in experience* social tools like a Group Chat system that works, and a search function that actually allows users in-world to find events, an influx of users and spending is markedly less likely.

SL's biggest strength, when competing with OSGrid and the like, is the size and vibrancy of its' community. I don't understand why LL isn't bending every effort to keep users' eyes on social tools IN the LindenGrid, as opposed to pointing them to out-Grid tools like Facebook...

after all, if you're out-Grid, why not look other places for your fun?

Hamlet Au

If Linden Lab decreases its tier fees, it'll take a huge revenue hit and have to start laying off more employees and scaling back its support and services even further. And even if they cut tier fees in half, it's very unlikely that they'd get more customers -- though it may convince existing customers to stay (for awhile longer) and keep the company alive (but in a greatly reduced form.)

Saffia Widdershins

Ah, if you only knew how many sites we've featured in Prim Perfect that have disappeared over the last four years. Sometimes they faded away before the next issue had time to appear!

Ciaran Laval

This requires more creative thinking and discussion that comments on a blog allow, it's a very real problem.

Running roleplaying sims and game type sims has been a problem for a long time, the reason sims end up with malls and such like is because sim owners want to recoup at least some of the costs of tier.

How we get to a situation whereby people will pay small subscriptions to be members of sims I don't know, I know it does work for some sim owners but it's certainly not a widespread practice.

I know I've resisted calls to expand the land on one of my sims for this very reason, people enjoy the roleplay aspect but roleplay alone won't pay the bills and this issue isn't just about roleplay, it's live music, entertainment and creating more use cases that are hindered, there is no easy solution but it is an issue that should be considered important by Linden Lab.

Loki

@Au Hamlet
But surely fixing that list would boost "user activity and spending growth"

1) - Cut high tier costs, allowing more land to be bought by the rich and the poor can even consider joining the market. For me, having a lower tier means less worrying about tier costs and more concentration on building stuff for people to do.

2) - Fix communication, allowing people to share and communicate what they like about SL more inworld boosting user activity.

3) - Fix search, engaging and interesting places to be discovered again boosting user activity and even spending.

4) - Fix the Viewer, making it easier for the user to find, communicate and enjoy the activities.

5) - MarketPlace, needs to be tied better to inworld experience. But i already think Market place has ruined inworld shopping leading to impossible tier targets across the grid.

6) - people need to value items in SL higher than they are. Some 3D content stores charge $200 for a 3D model of a jet plane to use in a 3D program. In SL you can buy a very well made jet plane thats scripted to fire rockets and fly and all manner of magical things for under $10.

Adeon Writer

This is really a shame. The Myst games (specifically Riven) and the genre of games it spawned have always been my absolute favorite type of videogame/storytelling. I've been part of many SL regions they try to get thing like this going and we have always had similar results. Sad indeed.

Tateru Nino

Numbakulla didn't close. It got a one-month reprieve a few days ago. It's still on the sick-list though.

John Lopez

"If Linden Lab decreases its tier fees, it'll take a huge revenue hit..."

And if they keep everything as it is, the decay of interesting content will continue.

I come into SL for art content these days (having given up on pretty much the rest of the content) and the various art groups keep shedding sims just as the game and roleplay sims are shedding away. Educators abandoned sims in droves due to the loss of discounts, so price sensitivity *is* a big issue.

This is a lose/lose: they either keep the current attrition rate and lose a primary driver of use (user generated content) at an alarming rate, or they buck up and realize that they can't just keep *ignoring* the cheaper open alternatives because they are buggy and suffer the consequences of reduced revenue that way.

I have to deal with bugs to connect to the Linden grid. Dealing with the open grids isn't *that* big of an adjustment. If the interesting content ends up there, that is where I will be, bugs or not.

Which isn't to say that the alternative grids don't have rafts of problems which keep me mostly on the main grid... for now.

Robustus Hax

If SL lowered tier to $195 a month for private islands, instead of owning 1 sim for $295 a month I'd definitely contemplate a 2nd sim for $390 actually increasing my spending in SL. I'm not sure though how many others would feel the same way, but what is worse, taking a temporary hit on revenue or just slowly but surely bleeding the world dry?

Emperor Norton

Ciaran Laval @ "Running roleplaying sims and game type sims has been a problem for a long time, the reason sims end up with malls and such like is because sim owners want to recoup at least some of the costs of tier."

And then the malls kill the role play with the lag from the vendors. Charging subscriptions won't work because no one is willing to pay them. Higher sim traffic means nothing, beyond more griefers to eject from the sim and more whiners to mute. Pretty much all role playing/game sims are vanity projects operating at loss. The passion goes away, like Numbakulla, the sim closes.

The real solution to sim closing is as Loki says, make sim ownership less of a burden.

Senban Babii

I believe LL used to charge a subscription rate for the avatar? It was only later that they switched to basing their business model on the sale of virtual land and went down the route of free accounts?

Obviously the business model which used to work for them is no longer functioning, right? So why not return to a model where people pay for accounts instead? It works for systems like EVE and in fact people pay for months in advance, not because of the small discount but because their experience is engaging and they want to keep being engaged by it.

You could also follow the EVE model by giving three avatars per paid account.

The current SL business model is broken. And while complaining about various broken aspects of the platform is legitimate, those things will not recruit and retain new residents in themselves. You have to make the experience far more engaging than it currently is and that requires a degree of Linden input to create an engaging world. The idea of leaving everything to the residents to create is a quaint idea that needs bringing into the present.

SL is dying. The residents want to do something about it but the costs prevent them from doing so. Only the Lindens can save SL but they're holding on too tightly to broken business models.

Do we have any volunteers to play in the band as the ship sinks beneath the waves?

smithy

i think linden biggest problem isnt the charge for the sim itself it is more the primcount and primdevelopment. (mesh is nice idea but when? why no voxel prims?)

why is it still impossible to animate sculpties(i mean real animation and not that sculpties-map-replacement-extreme-lag-scripts)? manipulation of prims is on the same level linden had years ago.

the technical support and interactions of teams in the process of creating and game development is a joke. Many things are elite-organisated. Deleting game sims because of RL-copyright first and talking with gamers then is not realy the best choice to draw peoples atention.

skripting is slow. there are many great drag and drop programs for creating interaction-scripts. why none is making such one for SL? it will also make less wrong programmed skripts in SL.

Laetizia 'Tish' Coronet

Hamlet, you're missing the main point and it is what sets SL apart from many other, eh, such worlds. SL needs both the new clients and the enthousiastic 'old hands' like Loki. If Loki and the people behind Numbakulla - and a lot of others - go away, there is not much to really attract people to SL and keep them there.

Unless the Lab is going to create all the content themselves, and charge realistic prices for it.

Ordinal Malaprop

@EmperorNorton

> Pretty much all role playing/game sims are vanity projects operating at loss. The passion goes away, like Numbakulla, the sim closes.

This is the major issue, and a major part of the passion going away being just the day to day pain in the posterior of running something that people can't find, costs a bomb, can't be talked about in groups without ridiculous lag, and nobody wants to pay for.

Arcadian Vanalten

And drama. Don't forget drama. Most of the RP sims I've seen disappear ultimately folded b/c massive OOC conflicts erupt and the people footing the bill wonder why they're paying for the abuse. Money IS a factor, but it's far from the only one.

@ Ciaran, your # 6 point isn't LL's fault at all, though. That's market competition. Unless you find a way to engage in price fixing, well...not sure there's a resolution for that one.

People can and do pay well for good stuff, but it depends on how it stands up to other competitors. I've dropped over 2k on an outfit that I thought totally rocked, but I've also seen slapped-together stuff I wouldn't pick up as a freebie simply b/c it wasn't worth cluttering my inventory with it.

Alberik Rotaru

It's a bit strange, on a blog that often advocates game-like features for Sl, not to hear support for gamification of tier levels. Worlds like Eve Online and WoW run on a subscription model and do not have the user retention problems that SL has. Sl demands that region-owners pay very high fees and then denies them any way to recoup those fees except by opening yet another mall. I doubt that the alternative grids will ever catch up with SL in technical terms, but there may come a point where they are close enough to make SL uncomepitive.

There are also some smaller issues.

I suspect many of the OOC disputes are driven by the ownership structure that SL imposes. Only individuals can own regions. If there were a way for groups to own regions, and pay tier directly, subscription sims would work a lot better than they do.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

OpenSim physics work well enough for what I experienced in Numbakulla. The quest motif does not require outstanding physics: just a good story.

Am I making too big a generalization, or is it my English-major background to claim that humans crave good stories?

Numbakulla had that. Good luck with the move.

Mariko Nightfire

The problem of high tier cost can be partially alleviated without loss of revenue to Linden Lab. Linden Lab can greatly expand the size of the sims and the number of prims per sim and not raise tier. Full sim owners can then break up their holdings into very attractive sized primy plots to rent out and still maintain a sizable plot and prims for themselves to express their creativity.

Alberik Rotaru

@Mariko

That's an attractive idea, but it would still lead to a revenue hit. If sims can accommodate more residents, owners will need fewer of them. What LL needs is to reduce tier fees without losing revenue, so there needs to be some alternative stream. The obvious one is a subscription model, or perhaps a transaction charge.

Caliandris

Numbakulla has been saved for another month, due to the generosity of some donors who sent me large amounts of Lindens. I don't know if they are happy for me to publicise them by name.

There were Uru fans among the creators of Numbakulla, but they weren't members of a particular fan group. There is no drama or falling out associated with Numbakulla; quite the contrary, it was a real team build, and it has been saved twice by fans of the game. 28,500 people registered with the game over the years, and around 10% finished it.

It is hard to support a game sim except by donations as others have found. Charging for a game puts people off even starting it, and putting a lot of commercial stuff into a sim where the game play asserts that you are shipwrecked is a bit of a problem.

I do think that Numbakulla was ground-breaking at the time when it opened, and is one of the few places from 2005 which still exists. I'd like to be able to get 32 people to donate 512 tier and be able to save it that way, or to have some sort of tier discount which recognises the fact that it is a free activity which has been in operation for six years.

If anyone is willing to donate Lindens or dollars to keeping the sim open, I'd be grateful if they would contact me, Caliandris Pendragon. If anyone feels like appealing to the powers that be for help in saving it, that would be wonderful.

Arcadia Codesmith

I don't know if converting SL back to a subscription model after being free-to-play for so long is going to be possible. Industry trends seem to be moving in the opposite direction.

I do agree that the current tier model is unsustainable.

As far as I can see, the best course is to drop tier fees dramatically (not by half, by 90% or more) and make up the revenue by a combination of sales taxes and other percentage-based fees.

Charging by income rather than holdings makes big art and entertainment builds a LOT more feasible while shifting the cost burden to the people who are profiting from SL. That's fair. If you get the most out of the system, you should put the most back in.

Hamlet Au

Second Life does have monthly subscriptions: They're called Premium accounts. Only about 100K Residents have them. If LL made these mandatory, it's unlikely many more would pay for them. More than half the user base logs into SL for less than 4 hours a month, why would they pay $15 or whatever per month for such small usage?

Even if it did work, Linden would be making way less revenue. Eve Online has 350K subscribers, but the company makes $50M a year, compared to LL's $80M or so a year.

Ciaran Laval

@Arcadian Vanalten and @Emperor Norton, as I said, this requires a wider discussion than the comments here really allow.

Yes, malls can kill roleplay, although there are options there to incorporate vendors into the roleplay, such as selling their buildings that you're using etc.

Competition is a fair point, but the current model stifles people from trying their arm, there was talk at one time of allowing the 512M premium tier allowance to be applied to estate sims, that would help reduce costs for some sims but certainly not for all.

I know of one subscription model that seems to work, it's based on LL and other MMO's such as Lord of the Rings online, free access but subscriptions get you extras, it can be done but it's not going to work for many.

Alia Baroque

I will be already happy if LL would cut Vat costs for non Us citizens, that also inviting to buy more lands. I do understand the reason of Vat, but still not fully for what concerns virtual goods. Never saw vat applied to costs for any other virtual game payments of service and content owning, even if I guess there are probably other examples.
All harder with 20% of cost more if you maintain sims for personal passion.

I love Numbakulla.

Aliasi Stonebender

Hamlet, you're missing some basic economics. The entire point is to find the sweet spot of price on the supply/demand curve, no? Right now, LL appears to be shooting themselves in the foot by demanding everyone pay for a service that really isn't needed; a full-scale, full-class sim ready to go 24 hours a day even if only one person is visiting every three hours.

Homesteads are a step in the right direction, but those are unnecessarily limited to those who already own a full sim, if I recall. Would the additional number of purchases make up for a lower monthly rate and setup fee? I don't know, but I think the Lab needs to take a serious look at running the numbers. Land in SL has never been all that inexpensive beyond a small private plot, but it's fairly ludicrous at this point.

Seph DaSilva

I think that LL needs to look at how the Apple has become so successful with the iPod/iPad and its iTunes store. They get proceeds from *every* sale.

What LL has currently, to compare, would be like charging users a monthly fee to *get in* the iTunes store (or owning an iPod?), and then not taking a cut of any sales.

Do away with tiers. Tax a penny on the dollar or something from sales. I almost guarantee things would take off again.

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