The end of October marks a year since I returned to Premium membership. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been mulling over whether to renew again or not.
My reasons for re-upping to premium came about as a result of a renewed optimism about SL, particularly following last year’s SLCC-2011. A lot has happened since then.
It is fair to say that, particularly of late, there are elements of my premium package I’ve come to appreciate. I’m spending far more time in my Linden Home now than I am at my “main” home. Even with just 117 prims, the Tahoe offers comfortable and flexible living space. Shop right, and it can easily be furnished for a very modest prim count.
Yes, the build quality is very 2007, it may even be cookie cutter (although im my opinion a lot less cookie cutter than other Linden Home offerings) but the fact is that it works. The real art in getting a good Linden Home is picking the model you want carefully (including going and seeing them in-world) and being prepared to hop around with multiple applications (bearing in mind the 5-in-24-hours rule) until you find a location you like. In this I was lucky. I hit the bullseye first time.
I’ve also only recently discovered the full freedom of sailing due to one of the premium gifts.
I have a new appreciation for places like Blake Sea and the ability to sail around coastlines and across water from continent to continent. All this is to the good; but there is still a problem. When all is said and done, premium membership really only has strength of appeal to incoming users to SL and / or those who have yet to establish themselves. For anyone who has been here a while, particularly if they’ve invested in a decently sized parcel of land on a private island, the benefits of upping to premium are perhaps harder to quantify.
One can actually understand why LL bias the premium offerings towards newer users. Getting people to pay for something they can otherwise a enjoy “for free” and be as much a contributing member of the economy as anyone else, is a tough nut to crack. So to make the package more attractive, LL aim for enticements which will encourage those signing-up to opt for premium directly. My only real objection to them doing this, as I’ve covered elsewhere, is the elastic nature of some of the descriptions of the premium benefits. More privacy? More land? A personal and private home? These are all things anyone can enjoy regardless of account. Sure, the last one costs – but it will even with premium if you want something bigger, prim-wise than a Linden Home.
Of course, there have been numerous suggests as to how to improve the premium offering, up to and including revamping it to a “professional” account, ideas which themselves are liable to lead to as much debate as to the value of the present system. However, unless and until LL indicate a willingness to put more effort into making premium attractive to a wider audience we, have what we have. As such, my previous advice to those long-established in SL as basic members remains the same. Consider your options.
So, does this mean I’m be abandoning premium from the end of the month?
Actually, no; I fully intend to carry on with another annual payment. Not because I do see value in premium, but rather because my SL times and activities have changed dramatically over the last 12 months.
On the one hand, I still find a lot of magic in SL, and still believe that LL (for the time being at least) are trying to pump new life and new blood into the platform in terms of people and capabilities rather than simply strip-mining it as some would have it. I love exploring places and reviewing them; fiddling around with viewers, digging-out news stories, finding out about events, seeing the incredible artistry in SL and so on. I may not get to attend everything I write about, but I love getting the word out and showing what support I can, because despite all the doom and gloom which can so easily become the focus of attention, SL is still pretty amazing. Not free from fault or issue, but amazing.
Yet on the other, I’ve found myself shunning many aspects of SL I once found of interest and which captivated me and got me involved. I tend to shy away from large gatherings; old haunts are increasingly rarely visited and old interests, such as building, no longer have quite the appeal they once did; certainly not to the point where I need a huge amount of space of my own in which to shape sculpts and bang prims together. The result of this has been something of a conscious withdrawal from parts of my “old” SL life, coupled with a gradual downsizing of things like my private landholdings in SL.
It’s an odd dichotomy in some respects. I still feel “involved” in SL, simply because of the time I do spend (if I say so myself) rooting-out stories, visiting regions, witnessing artwork, playing with viewers and so on.. Yet, at the same time, my energy / desire to engage in various aspects of SL life which used to interest me is virtually nil; in fact there are times when I am content to log-in and go off and do non-SL things elsewhere.
You might say that over the course of the last year, my raison d’etre for being in SL has shifted and in many ways I’ve become less a participant and more an observer, and that much of my focus has shifted towards blogging about SL rather than being “a part” of SL. Perhaps that is true, and this blog bears some responsibility for my shifting focus; but on the other hand, I love to write – and so the blog gives me creative expression.
Even in those areas where I am still directly involved with in-world activities, such as sailing and now flying, don’t really require things like private island land holdings and are things I can enjoy every much on my own.
So, given all this, remaining at premium and shelling out another $72 (+ VAT) for a year actually makes sense for me, simply because it is so cost-effective. Not only will it save me some $24 a month in private land rentals (and so pay for itself in 3 months), it actually provides me with what is currently the one anchor I need to my SL time: a modest little house where I can “be myself” (oor park myself) and in which I can entertain friends occasionally and from which I can continue to explore the grid and enjoy those things which are increasingly of appeal to me.
However, this also doesn’t mean my underlying opinion of premium has changed; I do still think it is skewed, and that those who has established themselves via basic membership do need to consider their options clearly before leaping into premium. Had my personal circumstances over the last year not changed so dramatically, there’s a fair chance my decision would have been different.
So, as with all things SL, YMMV.