During the Server Beta meeting on Thursday August 21st, it was confirmed that the first region to be rated a Skill Gaming region had arrived on the main grid. The region – called “Crunchy”, isn’t actually open for gaming; it’s a test area currently being poked at by Gecko Linden.
In addressing the arrival of the region, Simon Linden pointed to the Skill Gaming Approved Participants wiki page, and I noticed that the first set of Skill Gaming operators and the first batch of games have now been listed.
The test region is already set-up to exclude access to avatars which don’t meet the access requirements, which can be found in the Skill Gaming FAQ and on the Approved Participants wiki page. The access restrictions appear to work, as I was unable to reach the test region with my Crash Test Alt, but could enter it without a hitch with my primary avatar account.
There are some other tests going on in the region which are likely to be readily to performance testing, etc; robots fly and shoot, MOAP boards are displayed (and Gecko Linden seems to be a bit of a space science fan, like me).
Some 45 games (a fair few of them variations on Solitaire) were added to the Approved Participants wiki page on Thursday August 21st, split among a number of operators. In addition, some 30 Skill Gaming regions were listed as approved as Skill Gaming regions, although they have yet to actually be converted to the new region type.
With the revised September 1st deadline looming for the introduction of the updated Skill Gaming policy, these additions are the first sign that people are actually applying to become operators / creators, and it will be interesting to see how many more appear over the course of the next week. As it is, there still seems to be a lot that is still up-in-the-air with regards to the Policy and its associated FAQ – the latter of which hasn’t been updated since August 7th.
One area still to be cleared-up is that of quarterly fees, which may well be delaying some from applying to become licensed operators / creators. The lack of any clear indication of the fees was raised as a matter of concern at the August 2nd presentation Agenda Faromet gave on both Skill Gaming and the July Terms of Service update (transcript and notes to both available here).
In many respects, it is hard to understand why the Lab hasn’t announced quarterly fees. According to the FAQ, they are in respect of are in respect of “processing and compliance-related costs associated with maintaining this program”. Taking this as the case, then it’s not unreasonable to assume the Lab has an idea of the compliance related costs and other fees they are themselves facing in order to allow skill gaming on their platform, and so should have some idea of what the quarterly fees are likely to be.
This is not to suggest the Lab are attempting anything untoward in not revealing the fees; a was pointed out during the SLBA presentation, the likely reason the fees haven’t been announced is because the Lab have (or hadn’t at the start of August) got that far in their thinking. Even so, it is potentially causing people to hold off applying.
What also doesn’t help the Lab here is that Skill Gaming regions already have a higher tier associated with them ($345 + VAT where applicable) “due to the greater degree of ongoing administrative work associated with administering our rules concerning Skill Gaming in these regions”. So applicants are faced with that, the application fee, the cost of converting their existing regions – and then still have a possibly large question mark hanging over their potential total operating costs.
It doesn’t inspire confidence.
There are other aspects of the process that would seem to need clarification or risk confusion. As Ciaran Laval pointed out on August 13th, it has been suggested (not by the Lab, admittedly), that SL-focused stock exchanges are possibly exempt from the updated policy, but at least one is going through the application process (SL CapEx, again as indicated by Ciaran); ergo, further clarification on the status of exchanges would perhaps be welcome.
There is also the requirement (section 9 of the FAQ), that applicants engage a US-based and licence attorney to help with the legal aspects of their application (e.g. provisioning their RLO). However, this hardly seem correct when it comes to applicant from outside the USA, as a US attorney is unlikely to know the gaming laws applicable to another country (or can even give a legal opinion on the laws of another country). So where does that leave applicants from outside of the USA? Again, further clarification might well be welcomed.
In his article, Ciaran notes the fact that the Lab are willing to push back on the date from which the new policy comes into effect is good – and I agree (although like him, I’d also like to se some indication on whether they are also willing to push back the date from whence the nebulous quarterly fees kick-in).
But that said, the fact that more than a month after the updated policy was first announced people are still waiting for clarification on some matters relating to its introduction, does suggest the Lab has perhaps put the cart before the horse (and I admit, I’m tempted to put “again” at the end of that sentence).
Obviously, those wishing to create and / or operate games of skill have little choice but to comply with the new policy. Even so, it would perhaps be nice if the Lab didn’t continue to give the impression that the best way for people to decide whether they want to be or not is down to a roll of the dice, the current batch of applicants listed on the wiki page notwithstanding.