Alex Hayden carries an interesting blog post today. It appears that, for a limited time period, Linden Lab are offering “Starter Homes” to SL users.
No, not “Linden Homes”, available to Premium Members only, but “Starter Homes”, available to anyone who wants them.
For anyone who has chosen a Linden home, the e-mail will appear very familiar: an introductory graphic leading to a web page where you can select your home from a range of options or, if you prefer, an empty lot of land.
The promotion actually started on April 19th, and runs for the month through until May 18th. So what are LL doing? Going into competition with themselves? Are these some kind of “next generation” Linden Home being offered on the basis that after 15 days you must up to Premium to keep yours?
No and no.
The truth is revealed in the offer small print:
Linden Lab is sponsoring the Start Home Program, which will be operated and supported by Anshe Chung Sims. You acknowledge that if you agree to participate in the Starter Home Program, in addition to the Linden Lab Terms of Service you also agree to be subject to the terms of service required by Anshe Chung sims. After 15 days you decide whether you want to keep your home or not. If you do want to keep it you will need to pay for it pursuant to the applicable terms of service. If you don’t want to keep it you won’t be billed for it.
Yup, Linden Lab are “sponsoring” ACS; which, when you look at it, is mind-boggling in itself – but I’ll refrain from digressing… I’ll also avoid re-treading ground Alex covers so well.
One cannot actually blame ACS for this per se - unless some form of unequal leverage was brought to bear on Linden Lab in order for the “sponsorship” to be initiated, as least.
The problem here is, as Alex points out, LL’s willingness to start playing favourites, and in the process, tilt the board in favour of one reseller.
Over the last couple of years, Linden Lab has been trying to repaint itself as a service provider. Well, this is all fair and good, but as Crap Mariner pointed out via Twitter, in the service provisioning business, one does not advantage one reseller over another. Yet that is precisely what LL are going here. Whether or not they opt to repeat the “offer” down the road, it still results in a very unpleasant taste in one’s mouth at the thought of the market being so blatantly manipulated.
Of course, LL may feel justified in doing so inasmuch as there is little their other resellers can do. Their power is limited, and their finances are almost completely locked-in to SL. Again, as Crap observes:
This has been pretty much an ace-in-the-hole for Linden Lab in many respects, and doubtless a comfort blanket for them when they do opt to start tinkering around with more than the technical aspects of their service. Which is not to say that at some point it won’t come back to bite them on their collective arse.
In his piece, Alex asks, “How can you justify sponsoring the Starter Home Program and yet not sponsor a collection of Sims so that the Annual SL Birthday Celebrations can take place?”
Well, the answer is simple. This sponsorship programme carries the promise / potential of financial gain to Linden Lab; providing sims for SLB doesn’t, period. If this scheme is successful, ACS may well end-up ordering additional regions to handle the demand. And if they do, who is to say other estates, their feathers ruffled, won’t be offered a piece of the action as well. As such, the Lab may again feel perfectly justified in poking their collective mitt into things. It doesn’t, however do much for the growing number of SL users who, like Alex, are feeling as if they are being treated as little more than a commodity ripe for the financial picking.
The offer also raises some wider questions as well, such as what prompted the deal in the first place?
- Is it that estate owners are growing increasingly jittery over region losses, and have been demanding LL “do something” (and, however much we’d like it to be, simply “lowering tier” isn’t going to be seen as a “safe” option within the Lab). If so, this approach is still decidedly one-sided, unless offered month-on-month to other estates, which is hardly likely to happen
- Is it that LL themselves are worried about the continuing decline in regions and, having seen that the “Land Sale” from last year failed to achieve long term benefits (although the immediate benefits cannot be denied), they are desperate to try something else in the hope of hitting upon a magic formula to recover “lost” revenue?
- Or is it, again as Crap wryly observes, “merely” the case that “ACS may be squeezing Rod’s nuts”?
There’s another aspect to this as well. A month ago, Rod Humble made a big play about talking community and getting back to the family / frontier “feel” of Second Life. In it, he said, “I will be kicking off another monthly roundtable (probably Monday) to chat about getting that family/frontier feel back with an eye to some area-like project,” [my emphasis]. Shortly thereafter, this promised “round table” morphed into “closed door” discussions. Now I may be doing Rod Humble a great disservice here in linking the two – and if I am, I’ll say here and now, I’ll have no hesitation in apologising openly – but, if this arrangement has anything whatsoever to do with developing “some area-like project”, then I’m fast losing faith in what is going on at Battery Street.
With thanks to Alex Hayden for his kind permission to re-use screen captures from his blog.