During SLCC 2011 Rod Humble mentioned that Premium accounts would be improving during the current months in terms of the benefits afforded to those taking out such memberships, and at “no extra cost”. Also during the convention, Vogt Linden indicated the Linden Homes may well be up for an overhaul as they weren’t perhaps performing as expected.
Quite what the changes to Premium memberships were to be, or whether changes to Linden Homes would be an immediate part and parcel of the changes or something separate, wasn’t made clear during the convention. It also sounded like the changes might be a little way down the road.
Well, in the latter regard, it appears that we didn’t have long to wait for things to start changing.
Today, Linden Lab have formally announced changes to Premium accounts, “starting with exclusive gifts and sandboxes”. Here’s a couple of extracts from the announcement:
“Premium members will regularly receive exclusive virtual items that you won’t find anywhere else. The very first gift is a stylish set of furniture crafted by Colleen Desmoulins of The Loft. The set features a sofa, tables, plants and lamps to enhance your home’s cozy factor. You can change the look of most of the furniture to fit your home’s unique style and decor — whether you live in a Linden Home or elsewhere.”
“Explore your creative side or just get down to the business of creating without the distractions of a more public space in one of the many Premium-only Sandboxes in Second Life. There are four new, exclusive Premium-only Sandbox Islands you can access right now to give you more room than ever to bring your creations to life. Members can visit right now.”
I’m actually all in favour of seeing Premium accounts overhauled and improved – but I’m curious as to how the gifts such as the furniture mentioned above are selected. The words “exculsive” and “won’t find anywhere else” suggest the items have been especially commissioned by Linden Lab. If this is so, it’s probably going to raise eyebrows (and questions) as to how the content creators making the gifts are being selected, and whether they are being renumerated by LL, etc. This in turn could easily lead to some negativity and claims of preferential treatment / the creation of yet another FIC.
The idea of gifts needs to be carefully balanced in other ways as well: while they may encourage newcomers to sign-up for Premium, but give away too many practical gifts and there is a risk of being accused of “strangling” commerce. Take this initial offering: furniture. As the announcement states, the items could be used within a newcomer’s Linden home – so at a stroke, LL appear to have “prevented” any need for newcomers taking up Premium membership for having any need to go shopping for basic SL “needs”.
So while a welcome idea, this is going to need some consideration and thought as it rolls forward, lest it results in upset elsewhere.
Premium sandboxes are liable to prove popular among those that cannot afford to set aside prims / space for their building work, and as such are liable to be less potentially fractious.
As a long-term SL “resident”, these two aren’t enough to encourage me beck into the realm of Premium membership – not for the concerns raised above, but simply because I already have so many things in my inventory, it is hard to conceive of a “must have” gift I don’t already have, or would be willing to buy from a fellow content creator anyway. Similarly (and while I may be in a minority), I have all the private build space I need, so exclusive sandboxes aren’t an attraction.
Which is not to say I dismiss what LL are trying to achieve. Far from it.
Rather, this initial benefits seem aimed towards the “newer” user within in SL, rather than the “established” user base (where Premium accounts are in the minority). Ergo, if the hope is to encourage more “oldbies” to revert back to Premium / take out Premiums for the first time, it is probable that LL are going to have to offer different incentives to those of us who have been around the block a few times.
Nevertheless, beefing-up Premiums is a good idea, and a lot of people are sure to be watching what develops in this area in the coming months.
Addendum 1st Sept 4:17 PDT
Linden Lab updated their blog post to include a video extolling Premium membership, which I’ve embedded below.