Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Speaking of Evil Scientists...

I left the Independent State of Caledon last night in a happy state of affairs - ISC chat was heating up the aether with a discussion of lesbian vampire movies, or some such - only to find that much can change overnight. The Lab That Dare Not Speak Its Name announced a substantial price increase for Openspace sims - on the order of a 2/3 increase in tier, and a substantial increase in the purchase price as well.

TLTDNSIN motivates this increase by claiming that users of Openspace sims have put excessive burdens on these properties by, I assume, treating them as normal sims. I have no reason to dispute the Lab's claim, although it seems to me that the prim limits on Openspace sims should have reflected any decrease in performance. But let us assume that TLTDNSIN has a legitimate problem that it is try to solve, rather than assuming, oh, that the timing of the price increase, just after the marketing blitz for the new Nautilus sims (and not so far after the opening of the new Bay City sims), is not a coincidence.

The Guvnah met with various citizens and fellow travelers last night (for a transcript, see Baron Wulfenbach's post at http://steeltopiaempire.ning.com/profiles/blog/show?id=2439169%3ABlogPost%3A87) and, quite rightly, urged calm reflection rather than hasty action. Of course, broadcasting the announced changes loudly and as widely as possible, through our Aetheric Journals, also seems like a wise course of action.

Demand for void sims is, presumably, downward-sloping, so that a price increase reduces the quantity demanded. If TLTDNSIN had been pricing like a good monopolist, so that demand elasticity was -1 at the old price, this implies a reduction in demand of about 2/3 - or around 13 or Caledon's 20 void sims. Now, for various reasons, this is likely to be a substantial overestimate of the fallout, should the price increase go through (as Carl Metropolitan noted, That Lab often rescinds or modifies unpopular policies after announcing them), particularly in Caledon. Nonetheless, I would not be surprised if some owners of void sims give them up - the Duke or Duchess relinquishes the title and becomes just one of the Little People (no, not leprechauns, just Regular Folk) - while others absorb the price increase that the Guvnah will be forced to pass on. I feel for both groups.

Caledon has a strong sense of community, so I believe it will weather the storm - this time, at least. Other themed communities may not be as lucky. Certainly no area will be expanding as quickly as previously planned. Everyone who participates in these communities will be worse off, as the void sim owners provide a great deal to the community, from waterways and skies that can be enjoyed by all, to large ballrooms or meeting halls that can accommodate well-attended gatherings.

I cannot help but feel that, in the long run, TLTDNSIN cannot be better off reducing interest in long-established themed areas and reducing the incentive to develop new ones. As Mr. O'Toole points out (http://hiberniaskids.blogspot.com/2008/10/new-void-sim-price-hike-will-destroy.html), a variety of other activities, on-line or elsewhere, vie for the attention of the Second Life dweller. Mr. Excalibur Longstaff, on the Forums, announced that this will spur his efforts to develop a competing 3D social environment, and I cannot imagine he is alone in his efforts. (And please, when you all leave for happier environs, invite me along!) I understand cost increases, I understand suboptimal pricing of the sims in the first place, and I understand the desire not to undermine TLTDNSIN's own land sales. But such a large price increase is difficult to understand for any of those reasons - particularly when the alleged problem relates to region performance, and changing the pricing does nothing to change the performance of void regions that continue to exist. If there is a legitimate problem, solve it in a more direct way. If this price increase is really about protecting TLTDNSIN's own sales, then restrict the amount of new void sims it offers. I simply do not understand the relationship between a massive price increase and performance, and I truly do not understand how this is good for the company.

I have rambled enough. In addition to the links above, other people who have already commented, no doubt more coherently, include, in no particular order: [Edited several times to add links, most recently 10/29 at 10:34 a.m. SLT. I have seen other posts as well. Suffice it to say that opinions abound.]

Miss Fogwoman Gray http://fogwomangray.blogspot.com/2008/10/openspace-changes.html

Miss Eva Bellambi http://redroseofcaledon.blogspot.com/2008/10/unexpected-news-from-linden-labs.html

Miss Bamika Easterman http://steampatent.blogspot.com/2008/10/emergency-town-meeting-in-caledon.html

Mr. Otenth Paderborn http://otenth.homefries.org/2008/10/28/linden-research-inc-sleight-of-hand/

Mr. Edward Pearse http://victorianaesthetic.blogspot.com/2008/10/early-new-years-present.html

Mr. Darien Mason http://darienmason.blogspot.com/2008/10/linden-labs-trick-not-treat.html

Miss Ordinal Malaprop http://ordinalmalaprop.com/engine/2008/10/28/shouting-into-the-void/

Dr. Rafael Fabre http://voyagesofdrfabre.blogspot.com/2008/10/open-space-sim-discussions.html

Miss Eladrienne Laval http://caledonstroll.blogspot.com/2008/10/oh-le-sigh-lila-what-have-you-done.html

Baron Wulfenbach http://klauswulfenbach.livejournal.com/24453.html

Miss Emilly Orr http://razorblade-cookies.blogspot.com/2008/10/youre-running-after-something-that.html.

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