Linden Lab has a well known track of record for doing the wrong decisions to the wrong time, annoying the hell out of their paying customers frequently, not really listening to the needs and wishes of their customers, being bad at communicating decisions and overall bad customer service/care and limiting themselfes many times over and over. Still, Linden Lab has a good product, which is ahead its competition, which the people love and cherish and come back frequently, to invest into it and spend money into it. It’s what pays the bills.
The last few months there was not really happening anything in that kind of field, but now the Lindens did it, again and pissed off many paying customers great lengths.
In former times Linden Lab had high hopes in being profitable by selling premium accouns. This hope has been crushed completely. You don’t need it at all to play in SL nor you get anything really for it in return. So this is a product which gets quite few love and, being a shelf warmer.
What’s really paying the bills for Linden Lab is selling land and getting the tier fees from the land owners. So this is what the Lindens really want and need to push to make profit — land sales.
Most people, if they are surviving the first few months in SL, sooner or later want to own their own land. But getting land on your own has always been a little bit expensive, considering the costs for a full, private sim (you get around 15000 prims for upfront payment of 1000 $ and have to pay $295/month after it). So must just rented land on private sims to live or make business, and besides, no one loves mainland because of the speculation happening there and the former problems like ad farms, no strictly revised zones and such. Something the Lindens have started to change recently now.
So, in March this year the Lindens started selling a lighter variant of their sims, called Openspaces sims or Openspaces for short. Those are still of the normal dimensions of full sims found everywhere else — 256 x 256 ms — but they carry on much less prims. First they had only around 1750 prims, but soon in April they changed it to 3000 prims. Payment was 1/4 of a normal sim all the time, meaning $250 for the initial setup fee and $75 monthly tier fee. Openspaces sims were intended as “light usage sims”, whatever this may mean. In order to be able to get an Openspaces sim you still had to own a full private region on your own, and first they sold them in packages at four, later you could order them alone.
And what happened? The Lindens had created an instant success, people ordered those sims in thousands like mad, and all were happy until this blog entry from Jack Linden this week. He’s basically telling the people, that the Openspaces sims are being overused, in many ways not intended, that they are not being profitable for Lindenlab at all, are a strain to their infrastructure and network and to remedy the situation they plan to increase the monthly tier for Openspaces sims from 75 $ to 125 $ starting in January, which is a rise of about 67%. And, of course, people are pissed like hell about this recent change of events from the Lindens, especially since it came out of the blue and with no kind of forewarning like “Please put less usage on Openspaces sims down” or such at all. And, no grandfathering scheme either like they did in former times.
So, bad communication again. First question is, of course: are they telling us the truth about it or is it just a political motivated move to stamp those sims down? What we got here, is a success in terms of selling them. Openspaces sims show, that many people want to own their own land and are paying for it, if the price is right and not too high, meaning there is much need and potential growth in that kind of area, something worth to investigate and nurture further. A normal, private sim is far too much for most of us, Openspaces sims just felt that gap nicely. They are nice, low density areas, ideal for roleplaying, as residential zones and such.
The protest and reaction from the community is harsh — and quite bad, of course, it’s like a storm swapping over Linden Lab right now. The question is, if Linden Lab is really going to hear about what their customers want to have or if they are going to make their plans come true in January. I still remember when they introduced the class 5 sims, that the monthly tier fee was risen from 195 US$ up to 295 US$, many people complained back then like now, but they did it anyway. Of course, many people are going to leave Second Life because of this recent turn of events, too. The thread accompanying the discussion in the Second Life forum is counting already 1886 answers and still rising rapidly.
To sum it up: the Lindens did it again — they pissed off many people great lengths with their recent announcement, the question is now — are they going to make their plans come true like intended or are they going to change it? What they are doing here is slaughtering a potential cash cow, so really unwise in terms of coporate politics. It’s also showing, that you shouldn’t see land in SL as investment at all. Don’t do it until you really know what you’re doing. Land comes and goes as the Lindens like it, they are making it like they want and you are at their whim, at their mercy. And, you are not only paying them, but they are also getting more and more into competition with yourself in terms of lands, with projects like Nautlius and such, a battle, where they are always holding up the upper hand, since only they are able to connect more servers to the grid and no one else is doing this, yet.
What we are going to see as a result is the loss of many Openspaces sims, they are just going to vanish, poof, whatever and more interest in the competition like Opensim, again. Well done, mission accomplished.