15 hours ago
Tuesday, June 4, 2019
Commentary: Linden Lab's Surprise Price Hikes and Group Limit Cuts
Individual Lindens can be quite friendly and helpful. The moles I've run into at the SLB grounds, they've been very cheerful and reasonable. But when it comes to Linden Lab, older residents often have mixed opinions. We're grateful of course for their creating the virtual world, and admire the effort the first Lindens put into getting it going. But it seems once they became a big success, they began to change. They've kept the virtual world upgraded, with additions such as Windlight, Mesh, Animesh, and more. But they've also made a number of questionable moves over the years, a number of which got people wondering about their motivations and how interested they were in listening to the concerns of their customers: us.
While some residents were grumbling about the Lab moving Second Life's data over to Amazon Cloud servers, which they complained were leading to a number of glitches such as the teleport disconnects this spring, in general, the attitude about Linden Lab this year has been mostly positive. The new Linden Homes proved to be highly popular, and were almost certainly the big reason for the number of Premium accounts going up this year. Considering that more than 700 added were snapped up in less than half an hour after they were made available, all the Lab had to do was to offer more to further encourage residents to go Premium. Instead, they made the decision to raise the cost to residents for Premium accounts, in addition to doubling the fees to cash out Linden dollars.
As one person on the forums put it, this was bad timing by the Lindens. Being done so soon after their latest release of Linden Homes, it made the Lab look more than a little greedy. Plus being done just as Second Life's more active residents, such as it's media, were getting ready for two of it's biggest events of the year, the Relay Weekend and the Second Life Birthday, this became the latest "May/June Surprise" that the Lab has pulled. One wonders if they decided to make their move now so with everything else going on, it might not be noticed as much.
Talking and listening to the residents, while sims may be cheaper, with Premium going up so much the smaller landowners won't see a benefit. With cashout fees doubling, some content creators have been complaining this will hurt already small bottom lines. "Why are you punishing people that help keep SL more interesting, LL? ... the less I make here, the less time I can devote to creation in Second Life."
Of the Lab saying they would cut the group limit of basic accounts, the residents didn't buy the explanation of more groups per resident taxing the system. Some of the largest complaints came not from run-of-the-mill basic account residents, but by merchants, club owners, DJs, and content creators, saying they relied on people joining their groups to help advertise their events and products, and Linden Lab's move would throw a monkey wrench in how they did business.
Needless to say, the calling off of Linden Lab's planed basic account group limit cut was a sigh of relief to many. Still, people wondered why the Lab wanted to do that to begin with. Indeed since the Lindens cancelled that part of their plans, I've had people ask me if the Lindens never seriously intended to carry it out, but that was part of a strategy to satisfy the residents by ditching what would be the most disliked part of the announcement. One recalls their ordering all third-party virtual currency exchange businesses to close down operations in May 2013, and two weeks later after numerous and vocal complaints doing a partial reversal of their decision by allowing them to sell Linden dollars, but not cash them out (two years later, they would order them to shut down again, this time for good).
Going back to the account price and cashing out fee hikes, if Linden Lab was already poised to make some more money with people getting Premium to get one of the popular Linden Homes, why raise prices? Indeed I've been hearing various people saying they won't renew their Premium status. So while Linden Lab may be getting a little more money as a result of this move, the amount from Premium accounts will be significantly shorter than the 37% hike. Of raising the cashout fee, Jo Yardley of The Berlin Project pointed out some people just might bypass Linden dollars alltogether on some Second Life transactions, "If cashing out keeps getting more expensive, people might just start asking tenants, customers or clients to start paying them directly via Paypal."
Yes, we understand the Lab is trying to make land more affordable and reduce the "tax burden" on landowners. But as a Premium account is necessary to directly own land in the first place, how does jacking up the price by almost 40% benefit those who own only one to a few sims? Maybe a hike of five to ten percent now would have been understandable. But this kind of increase plus the doubling of the cashout fee just after how successful your Linden Homes have been just reminds us longtime residents why we are so wary of the Lab.
As this is the time that the Newser reflects on it's anniversary, yours truly can't help but look back at some of the parting words of our predecessor paper's editor Dana Vanmoer, "One thing I would hope for the future of SL is that the Lindens go back and realise what they are destroying with their policies. The sheer creativity, communication and international impact somewhere like Secondlife can be is being eaten away by the Lindens stupidly ignoring the content creators with their ill thought out policies which help no-one except their own pockets." Nine years later, it seems we are still dealing with policies that could have been thought out better.
Linden Lab, we're grateful for this virtual world, but how can we put much trust in you if you continue making moves like this time and time again?
Second Life Newser