Land Bots Prohibited – Now That Is A Surprise, Are Tier Prices About To Drop?

Well the surprises have arrived quickly, Inara Pey (via a shout out to Mona Eberhardt) reports that Land Bots are no longer allowed to be used to purchase mainland parcels. This would have been pretty hot news four or five years ago, I’m not sure what good this policy is in an age when land in Second Life is going for peanuts.

The official policy can be found here : http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Linden_Lab_Official:Inworld_policy_on_bots

The relevant sections of this quiet update state:

Mainland parcel sales and bots

Some bots are used to automate the purchase of Mainland parcels priced below fair market values.

Policy

Using bots to purchase Mainland parcels is not allowed

The use of bots, autonomous software, scripting (manual or automated), scripted agents, or any systems or software internal or external to the Second Life service that circumvent, automate and/or remove the human interaction required to purchase a Land parcel within Second Life on the Linden Lab owned Mainland is prohibited.

When I was a lad in Second Life I used to regularly go to the Jack Linden office hour, where land bots were often a hot topic. Land at the time would regularly be sold for L$10 – L$15 per square meter, if you’re new to Second Life those figures are probably eye popping, land has dropped way below L$1 per square meter in many parts of the mainland. Land prices are so low that land bots at this stage are probably more of a help than a hindrance as people can find the price to make some small income from selling, rather than abandoning their land.

I’m really puzzled as to what the motivation behind this policy is today. The part about purchasing parcels below fair market value has my spidey senses tingling, and not in a good way. I hope they are not going to try and set a minimum price for selling land or hoping for a new land bubble from people manually flipping parcels.

However maybe there’s a surprise policy change in the works, maybe tier prices are going to drop and the lab expect a free for all with people trying to buy more parcels. The policy would actually make sense were tier prices to drop, or people were allowed more tier free land as part of their premium membership.

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Something To Do Sims Need Some Linden Loving

Protest Gnomes

The first thing to note when it comes to issues surrounding tier payments is that Linden Lab have to pay their bills, they have to pay their staff and in order to pay their staff and maximise their income they need tier payments as they remain the largest slice of the income pudding. Therefore there are no easy answers to the tier issue. However tier remains an issue that stifles devel0pment.

Content creators have the Marketplace whereby they can sell their wares in a low risk environment. This is great, it means people can create content without having to worry if they’re going to meet tier and they only get dinged for fees if they sell an item and even then, the fee is low at 5%. However there are other costs for content creators that should not be ignored. Software, training, hardware and time, let’s not forget that time is money, but content creators do have a place where they can offer their wares without the worry of upfront fees for using Second Life.

I’ve posted before how the rise of The Marketplace has came at the cost of hurting something to do sims, because merchants used to rent space to merchants to help subsidise those something to do ventures. There has been a trade off, The Marketplace has pro’s and cons for Second Life as a whole but in the main, I support it, it’s also easier for customers to find items on the Marketplace, so it’s not just of benefit to merchants, but there is a cost associated with this. However I can recall in days gone by, people discussing in the Second Life forums how they were discouraged from creating content because of tier or rental costs, so The Marketplace certainly helps with a wide range of diverse content being available, it should also be noted that one of the complaints in the past was that Second Life had too many malls and stores and not enough something to do places.

Many Marketplace merchants, it should be noted, have an inworld presence and do have tier worries, but The Marketplace is a place they can engage without tier worries. When it comes to the arts, there’s no Marketplace option, but there is the Linden Endownment for the Arts. Inara Pey recently covered the fact that applications are now open to apply for land there, the applications are still open. The LEA have around thirty regions, twenty of which are available via these applications for inworld artists to display their wares for five or six months, Linden Lab donate these regions.

The number of LEA regions is nowhere near enough to satisfy the huge range of diverse art installations that Second Life could attract, but it’s better than nothing. However many in the artistic community are in the position merchants were before the rise of The Marketplace, tier and rental costs stifle engagement.

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From Tier To Eternity

Protest Gnomes

You will hear it being whispered in darkened corners of Second Life. Shadowy figures are abroad, they may even be coming to a mainland sim near you and with them they carry no tier contributions, but they will be in the possession of mainland parcels.

There’s something amiss and according to the whispered reports, there has long been something amiss. These shadowy figures are allegedly taking advantage of a rumoured exploit and getting for free, something that others pay through the nose for. I should be outraged, for some reason, and I’m not quite sure why, I’m not.

One reason perhaps is that some people will inadverently be taking advantage of this loophole. I’ll give an example, I’m frustrated that Linden Lab have made no moves to address the tier issue, tier remains too damn high. I have taken steps to downgrade my land holdings. During the course of this I started to unload some mainland parcels, then I decided to check my group contributions in case I had tier donations above and beyond what was needed. I found that I didn’t have enough tier donations in one particular land group, I found myself 2 metres under. Now 2 metres is neither here nor there and it may have only happened as I unloaded parcels owned by that land group due to losing land in tier bonus, or I may have long been 2 metres under and not realised it. I had more than 2 metres of tier available, so it was easy to put that right.

Another reason I’m not outraged is that even if Linden Lab send round the tax collectors and plug this hole, they won’t shift a damn inch on their tier pricing. The shadowy figures aren’t likely to pay for their tier, they are more likely to abandon, so the net result would be nil.

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Tier Is Still Too Damn High

I haven’t sold land in Second Life for quite a while. I purchased land many moons ago, when you could pay 15,000 Linden Dollars for a bog standard 1024m parcel. Those days are long gone and I knew that the land market had crashed.

So this week I looked at my bills, looked at the return I’m getting from Second Life and decided it mght be time to tier down. I’m exasperated that Linden Lab seem to have made no obvious attempts to address the tier issue, which remains too damn high. I know I know, cutting tier would be economic suicide right now, it’s better to slowly lose income than cut income too quickly and risk everything, yadda yadda yadda, but Linden Lab need to realise that their pricing model is outdated, that their options, are outdated. There aren’t enough payment options.

By the same token, my inworld business models are outdated, I haven’t moved enough with the times, the fact that my business models are no longer working is my fault, not Linden Lab’s. I mean sure, it’s easy to say they should lower tier, but they haven’t, so it’s up to me to do something about that in terms of moving on to a new business or pulling out. I’m currently in the middle mode of deciding it’s time to cut back. My decision to cut back is long overdue, especially as Linden Lab won’t budge on the tier issue, but ultimately, it’s my fault that my Second Life business isn’t doing as well as it once was.

So anyway, I decided to cut some parcels and test the water with selling some, rather than flat out abandoning, as I have tier capacity to hold parcels, it seems silly to abandon without trying t0 sell. However, I didn’t realise how flat the land market currently is. One parcel I cut, is admittedly rubbish, so I decided to sell this 512m parcel for L$120, it isn’t selling! Goodness knows what price the land bots kick in, although I will have time to test this.

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Ideas On Offsetting Tier Costs

Although we currently do not accept L$ in lieu of land sale and maintenance fee payments, we could. Acceptance by Linden Lab of just one month of land sale and maintenance fees in L$ denominated payments could cut the in-world money supply by more than 50%.”  – Zee Linden, 14th August 2007 – Second Life Economy Blog Post.

I’ve quoted Zee there, who was the chief financial officer of Linden Lab a while back, because The Marketplace arguments are tied tightly to the tier being too damn high arguments. I’ve argued in the past and continue to argue, that Linden Lab can’t cut tier until they find alternative revenue sources.

Inara Pey has an excellent blog post explaining why slashing tier would be problematic: Tier Cuts : Looking From The Lab’s Perspective. There are some eye watering figures on how much income Linden Lab would potentially lose from slashing tier by a third: “However, were the Lab to cut tier by one-third, they immediately slash monthly private region revenue by $1,400,520. That’s equivalent to 4,747 full private regions vanishing from the grid – 1.6 times more that the total number of private regions (full, Homestead and OpenSpace) lost in 2012.

This is the stark issue facing Linden Lab and one which explains why tier is unlikely to be slashed anytime soon. However this doesn’t mean nothing can be done, Linden Lab need to get their thinking caps on but a couple of areas which could be investigated are with regards to timed usage and greater use of Linden Dollar sinks.

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