Name Changes – the ability for Premium members to change their first and last names, with the first name being free-form, and the last being selected from a list – is due to be launched around January / February 2020.
As has been previously announced, Name Changes will be offered for a US dollars fee, and there has been some speculation over the last couple of months as to the the size of that fee (one prominent rumour surfaced at some User Group meetings has claimed the fee will be US $20.00, for example – see here).
However, with the announcement of the Name Changes contest (see Name Changes Contest is Upon Us! from Linden Lab and my own blog post Linden Lab launches SL Name Changes contest), we now have a prominent indicator as to what the fee will likely be, and it comes to us via the contest rules:
A. Description of Prizes. One free Last Names change (estimated value at US$39.99 plus $11.99 to represent the value of a month of Premium Membership) on an account of Winner’s choice.
B. Estimated Total Prize package value: US$51.98. Exact value dependent on account status.
Of course, the fee still has yet to be finally confirmed, but it’s fairly safe to assume that it is likely to be the $39.99¹ mentioned in the contest rules. This raises some interesting thoughts about the capability and its potential uptake.
On the one hand, a fee is to be expected, if for no other reason that that re-introduction of names changes has required extensive changes to many of the back-end systems and services that support Second Life (hence the time taken for the capability to be introduced). Also, given the impact of making a name change will have an extensive impact on those systems, the Lab needs to limit how frequently such changes might be made to avoid unintended impact.
There’s also the the fact that in order to meet demands from users for the Lab to reduce land tier (which they’ve tried to address over the last few years through the likes of the 2016 buy-down offer and the reductions to mainland (March 2018) and private region (June 2018) tier), there need to be ways in which the revenue can be made up (see Thoughts on Second Life fees, tier and revenue ) and Name Changes is one more option by which this might – in time – be achieved.
BUT … the potential for revenue generation needs to be balanced against the level of the fee: if it is set too high (and leaving aside the inevitable shouts about “gouging”, etc., from some quarters), then it could be self-defeating. Simply put: if users feel the fee is too high, they’re not going to run with it, particularly given Display Names will remain available. As such, there is something of a risk that Name Changes may take a good deal of time to recoup the costs of implementation – if it can.
There’s also the overall level of interest in the capability: while a lot of noise was made following the removal of last names in favour of “Resident”, the fact is that those who have been around long enough to have a last name (like myself) may well be so attached to it, so changing it may hold little interest. Even those partnering or with the “Resident” last name might prefer to stay with using Display Names rather than forking out for a Name Change.
Time will tell on both of these latter points – and there will likely be much debate on the fee as well as the capability in general. As such, I thought I’d try a straw poll of feedback on the subject from readers – make sure you vote in each box; once for interest, the other for the fee.
Update, December 28th: this poll is now closed.
- Lab blogs on Name Changes, Marketplace fees and events updates (November 2019)
- The return of Last Names – a further update with audio (June 2019)
- The return of Second Life Last Names – update with audio (March 2018)
- Note that Linden Lab has indicated the fee will be lower for Premium Plus once it has been launched. However, Premium Plus pricing has yet to be confirmed, and the option will not be launched until some time after the release of Name Changes.