On July 28th, I received an e-mail from the Lab announcing that they are once again running their “limited-time” Premium membership offer. As with the previous promotions (run in 2011 and 2012), this offer comes with strings attached:
- The discount only applies to Quarterly membership billing plans
- Only the first quarter will be discounted; the rest of the year will be charged at the full Quarterly membership rate.
The offer will be running until 20:00 SLT (PST) on Sunday 11th August, 2013, and those wishing to take advantage of it can do so via the sign-up page.
It’s likely the offer will draw upset from some quarters, with people pointing to the Lab “failing” to address issues of high tier. Whether such complaints are valid is actually debatable; when it comes to tier, the Lab is very much between a rock and a hard place insofar as tier cuts are concerned, as any significant reduction in tier could actually hurt their revenue stream far more rapidly than attempting to weather the storm of declining in private region numbers (and perhaps trying to deal with matters through other means).
That said, there is a finger to be pointed at the Lab where Premium membership and land use is concerned, and that’s in regard to Linden Homes. These were originally intended as providing a means to “get people started” on the road of having a house and land in Second Life. However, this has never been the case. There are no time-limits on Linden Home occupation, no incentives to encourage people to move on elsewhere, etc. So people tend to stay, and the Linden Home regions grow, quite possible to the detriment of the land market as a whole – and I actually speak as a guilty party; I have a Linden Home and reduced all other land holdings to zero last year.
The problem here is what to do. The fact is that Linden Homes are one of the “better” perks of Premium membership, their age and (in some estate cases) their so-called “slum” looks notwithstanding. If they are taken away, or if people’s use of them is limited, it could lessen the value in having people go Premium. Plus, even if the time people can have a Linden Home is limited, it doesn’t automatically mean that once that time is up, they will simply move elsewhere and rent land; they might simply opt to go without.
Incentives are needed, and this again introduces problems: what should the incentives be, how should they be directed, and who should be involved? Some kind of co-operative venture between the Lab and rental estates might be possible; but again, which estates? And how would it be managed without the Lab being accused of “playing favourites” or damaging the market for the smaller rental operations or without the whole thing becoming too complicated to be easily managed by estates and / or the Lab?
My own thoughts remain that the entire Premium membership package needs a complete re-think; although I admit identifying how this could easily be achieved to the satisfaction of all isn’t as easy as it sounds. Back in 2011, Will Burns suggested one possible direction this might take:
Might I suggest that if the Premium Accounts were instead treated as Professional Accounts, changing the focus from casual consumer to producer, then the Gaming Toolbox options for experience creation would be an excellent (and genuinely new) Added Value to the Professional Account holder.
Since Premium/Professional Accounts require some sort of identification, this makes the Professional Account holder directly accountable for their actions using the professional toolbox systems.
The problem here is that not all current Premium members are content creators. So what happens to them if the focus is to “rebrand” Premium accounts as “Professional” rather than to introduce a new “Professional” membership category? That said, the introduction of such a “Professional” membership package, with access to a unique set of tools and capabilities, in addition to a re-vamp of the Premium membership package would appear to have merit on a number of fronts (even if it would be liable to generate its own controversy).
There are doubtless dozens of ideas which could be put forward on the subject of Premium accounts (and the future of Linden Homes). Whether the Lab would consider any of them, no matter how workable, is another matter. For now, however, the promotional offer is open. If you’re interested, I offered some thoughts on the matter a year ago, and which probably still holds true today and might be worth reading before making the jump.