Over at New World Notes Hamlet Au recently published a post about declining tier income for Linden Lab. In the post Hamlet argues that cutting tier prices is not the way forward, attracting new users is. I agree with him on the tier angle for now, cutting tier would drastically cut Linden Lab’s income. However I’ve long argued that Linden Lab need more income streams, Second Life is too reliant on tier. Hamlet argues that Second Life needs more users, but more users are not the answer to the tier conundrum on their own. They need to be incentivised to part with their money and tier is a barrier not an attraction.
Hamlet also makes the following comment:
“So no, the future for Second Life isn’t private land — it’s new users, and new platforms, and radical experiments in how Second Life is used and designed. For instance, some Lindens have been trying to add game mechanics to Second Life for several years, but have been stymied by bureaucracy and fear of protests by a minority of hardcore “Second Life is not a game!” users. But as we keep seeing, something dramatic has to change, or the hemorrhaging will continue, until it no longer can.”
The problem here is that game mechanics are not going to deal with the income issue, Linden Lab need new income streams which may in turn lead them to be in a position to reduce tier costs. The other issue is that game mechanics will put some people off because Second Life is indeed, not a game, although there are games within Second Life. A Second Life wide gamification system would be controversial. An optional gamification system that people could tie into their own game development would be potentially wonderful. For example a Linden Lab hosted achievement system that you could tailor to the needs of your roleplaying sim or even your store would have potential.
One way of attracting new users to Second Life is to have more games inworld. Linden Lab could develop pathfinding further and introduce skeletons that can be animated and used as NPC’s. That way more exciting experiences could be created, which in turn may attract new users.
However then we’re back to the tier is too damn high because there are not enough people who can afford to throw away USD$295.00 (plus VAT for some) to create the kind of experience that may attract new users. The fact that tier will be due whilst people are planning, developing and testing these experiences undermines the concept even more. Vicious circle indeed.
However there are games in Second Life. Estelle Pienaar’s SL Play Instinct is largely dedicated to highlighting games within Second Life. The destination guide also has a games category with pages of games. Some of the games are made to be played on parcels or breedable games. Breedable games are good for Second Life as they require those involved to have land. Other games are sim wide experiences, the latter are much harder to maintain.