Is that the *clunk* of the other shoe hitting the floor?

John Zdanowski (“Z Linden” – alphabet fetishism rules!), has posted a 2008 Quarter 4 report that makes for some interesting reading.

After waffling on about user hours and logins – figures that have always been highly questionable as a measure of the stablity / growth of SL – Zdanowski drops a corker that is breath-taking in the amount of spin it contains.

He gushes: “Based on Resident feedback and the resulting purchases, conversions and cancellations, we believe the changes we made to the product line incorporated the concerns of the majority of our Residents…”


To exactly what feedback are you referring, John? The 4000+ votes on the JIRA that opposed the changes you were making to Openspace sims? The 3,000+ entries in Jack’s / “M”‘s own forum thread on the subject, the majority of which were against the move?

Or are you chosing to ignore these voices – the voices of those most affected, hurt, or simply downright concerned; going for the age-old falsehood that because people are silent, they must be in agreement?

It’s easy to point at so called “daily log-in figures” of 70K+ and decide that 4,000 voices on the JIRA simply don’t stack up by comparison (it’s less than 10%, after all). But to do so and try to claim that, by extension, the “majority” of your user base is, by implication, “happy” with the switch-over is, well, somewhat disingenuous.

Statements such as this simply provide the unkind with ammunition that Zdanowski’s title should actually be Chief Fanciful Officer, for trying to pretend nothing untoward happened between October and December in terms of a user-base outcry.

If one were bloody-minded, one could also point out the face-slap contained in the statement:

“Only about 300 or 2% of the original Openspaces remained Openspaces, conforming to the limits that the Openspace product was originally intended to support.”[my emphasis].

If OS sims were always supposed to be little more than water and trees, John – then why did Jack et al make such a song and dance over the the prim increase to 3750? Indeed, why increase the primmage at all on the Voids? 1875 is still a LOT of 1-prim sculptie plants and linden (or sculptie) trees, and it is still a lot of underwater “landscaping” in terms of corals, etc. Why also, given it must have been evident that OS simwere being “abused” relatively early-on, did you all spend so much time trumpeting the “growth” in land ownership and use in the months following the release of the Openspace product?

However, while some may still smart over the Openspace sim situation – which has done an extraordinary amount of damage to Linden Lab’s relationship with its active user base, whether Zdanowski, Kingdon et al are willing to admit it or not – the fact remains that it is now history, and thus moot.

What I find more telling in this posting is a line casually thrown in towards the end: “As we continue to refine our land offerings,” Zdanowski says, “we look forward to being able to support a lower priced full region offering along with a premium full region for higher load situations.”

Now, in case you haven’t got it – go back and read it again – specifically the words “a lower priced full region offering along with a premium full region for higher load situations.”

He’s not talking about Homestead sim here. He’s quite clearly talking about a new full sim product, to sit alongside the current full sim offering. Sounds exciting doesn’t it?

Read it again. Note the words, “premium full region for higher load situations“. If that doesn’t set alarms bells ringing – it should.

Speculation has been rife over the last several weeks (couple of months) that 2008 will see a change in tier rates for both private sims and the mainland. In the case of island sims, opionion has been split as to whether tier will be increased or whether it will be dropped (to around $250 USD a month).

At the same time, SL as a whole has run into significant resoucing issues which I touched upon not too long ago. Simply put, we’re all now owning / running so much that we’re gobbling up the essential services contained within the server hardware than is required to support sim operations (memory etc), so much so that on a server running fours sims (1 per CPU), a fair amount of processing time within the server is spent “memory swapping” in order to run all the scripts the four sims use – so much so that overall performance of the sims themselves is being degraded.

So what are we to make of this latest statement when compared to these facts?

It could, as Ciaran Laval suggests. be looked upon in terms of a “glass half empty / a glass half full” statement. On the one had, it could be taken to mean that LL are going to offer up a full sim package that sits between Homesteads and the current full sims in terms of price and capabilities (i.e. a 15K prim sim, but with resources more rigorously throttled than full sims, but not as badly as the Homestead offering looks set to be). On the other hand, it could be so brand-spanking new sim / server set-up that allows massive new usage (increased primmage, perhaps the ability to rez and manipulate default prims bigger than 10x10x10, capability of running more concurrent scripts, for example).

But, however you look at this, the lesson of Openspace is clear, whatever the product offered, any associated pricing will not favour users.

For a start, it is hard to see how such a product can be dropped in between the current “full” sim product and the Homestead product – not unless LL are again playing a little game with us. Why is this? Well for two main reasons (I’ll discuss the game-playing in a moment).

  • If the new product is priced up towards the current “full” sim levels, then it will be stillborn. People really won’t see the point in spending what is “almost” full sim prices and tier for a product that offes significantly less than the existing full sim offering
  • Similarly, if the new product is priced close to the current “full” sim price / tier, and then the latter is raised as a result (thus becoming the “premium” offering Zdanowski mentions), the backlash created will completely dwarf that seen during the Openspace fiasco. Which is not to say Mark Kingdon et al wouldn’t try to shove it in people’s faces….

Of course, there is a third option in pitching the new product between the current “full” sims and Homesteads – and that’s to pitch the price / tier down towards the Homestead end of the scale. But again, this could be risky. Price it too close to Homesteads, and there is a risk it’ll simply kill of Homesteads as a sellable product – after all, why pay $125 USD a month ( as from July 1st), when for (say) $200 a month you can get pretty much everything a full sim offers, and the ability to gain sufficient tenants to recoup a large part of the tier….

Mind you, as I’ve mentioned previously, killing off Homesteads may well be part of LL’s longer-term strategy, as they know full well Homesteads are unlikely to be economically viable after the July 1st tier hike to $125 USD a month (and I seriously doubt we’ll see this new product before that date). If so, then pricing the new product down towards towards Homestead levels could be seen by LL as a means of killing off the lame donkey Homesteads while still maintaining a lucrative income stream.

And if the new product is some kind of “super-sim”?

Well, it’s a no-brainer. With current full sims already hugely over-priced at $1000 USD “purchase” price and $295 USD per month CPU tier (that’s a honking $1180 USD a month per server, an insane price to charge, however one looks at it), then you can bet your bottom dollar any product coming in over it will be equally over-priced. Given we were were all once happy to shell out $1675 USD for full private sims, one can see this figure (or one close to it) hovering in the background, together with a tier price perhaps in the region of $400-$450 a month.

One awaits developments with interest.