Are #SecondLife Premium Accounts Really Worth It?
Just finished reading the Eternal Sunshine of the Metaverse blog where she weighs in on whether or not a Second Life premium account is worth the money, and I have to say I’m a bit torn on this topic. For many, this is one of those things where you point to what you’re getting and proclaim “Yes! This is worth the money.” but I’m not entirely convinced. Let’s take a moment and really deconstruct what you’re getting for $72.00 US a year.
Your Own Private Home
I’ve seen the Linden Homes… and I’ve also noticed they are virtually unused en-mass by anyone who shortly realizes that far better options exist. I happen to live in a private home sitting on 1/4 + 1/8th of a sim, with an access list for friends to come visit. It’s about as private as it gets, really… but I’m a free user. The actual house I live in is far better than the ones that are pre-fab in Linden Homes, thanks to the creativity of entrepreneur residents on the grid and a little thing called Marketplace. The land is a rental, and it’s pretty stable… thanks to the pre-existing real-estate market in Second Life. I’m kinda missing the added value of the Linden Homes at this point, with the whole being crammed together on some mainland in no particular order with crappy houses and limited options thing.
I share the land with a couple of close friends – Jewlie Diesel, Sanylan Texan and Maschi… so right there, that’s more people than I’d expect to see in the entire area of Linden Homes in one spot. But is it private? Yeah… I mean, there is plenty of space and skyboxes on the land to retreat to for our privacy when needed, and to be honest, the house seems pretty empty most of the time when I’m in my room writing.
Do Linden Homes offer Giant Yarn Balls? We think not.
Virtual Currency Rewards
I should skip this one outright, because it assumes the P.T. Barnum line of thinking on the part of Linden Lab. It’s no different than just purchasing the L$ once a month and spending it like we normally do… so it’s not really a bonus or a reward because that assumes you’re getting more than what you are paying for. 1200L isn’t a bonus… working at a club for a few days (or if you’re really good an hour) will net you that in tips alone if you do a good job – or if you’re like me, pull about 10,000L at random, which should be the equivalent of about a year’s worth of “allowance” from Linden Lab under a premium account.
The point with this one is that it only works under the assumption that Second Life isn’t a pre-existing community with the built in ability to work, create, sell and make money from the start, or at the very least that you cannot buy L$ as a free member. So, really… this just boggles me as a reason why Premium Membership is worth it.
Exclusive Virtual Goods
The novelty of this wore off almost immediately the moment we came to our senses and realized that yes, indeed, Marketplace still exists and so does countless in-world stores. There also exists the concept of Freebies… which there is no shortage of, and even if the majority of freebies are crap, there are plenty of high quality freebies on offer from existing vendors without the need for paying a premium membership to receive.
This is an added value that simply assumes that there isn’t a Marketplace, existing free-market system of trade and sales, or ten thousand alternatives available to whatever it is Linden Lab thinks is a premium worthy “exclusive virtual good”.
It also assumes that “exclusive” has any meaning by comparison.
I have exclusive items too, and mine are way better than what I’d get from a Premium Account in Second Life. Doubly so if Linden Lab had enough sense to utilize their own marketplace, in-world content creators, and strike deals with branded IP to create truly exclusive premium items… like this TRON Arcade cabinet… See, this is what in-world marketing looks like for brand names and it happens to be exclusive at the same time.
Exclusive Premium Only Areas
I’d just like to say at this point that the majority of the Linden Lab strategy for Premium Memberships seems to be focused entirely on the premise that the entirety of Second Life doesn’t already exist, and each “benefit” is pretty much a rehash of things people already have in abundance and many times better for free or through existing channels elsewhere for acceptable pricing. There is so much content in Second Life that is accessible, that the statistical odds that I’ll ever see it all are slim to none in my lifetime. Exclusive Premium Only Areas in Second Life are not something I’m interested in shelling out a ticket to see on top of that, especially since each and every time somebody writes about those areas, it comes across like they are a pale comparison to what the residents on Second Life have already created on their own and open to the public.
However, the biggest example I can think of off hand is Bryn Oh! who pretty much creates artistic and well thought out immersive masterpieces on a consistent basis. Comparatively to say, Linden Realms… it’s like trying to win the Indy 500 with a tricycle and Bryn Oh is showing up with a Ferrari.
Now, if we’re talking about Premium Sandboxes, then forget it. I’ve already covered this in the prior “Private Home” section, which coincidentally doubles as an excellent private sandbox for building things.
Option to Get Land in Popular Mainland Areas
Seems like a sweet deal… wait, never mind. I just remembered that “Popular Mainland Areas” are synonymous with “Lagged to hell”. Come to think of it… I don’t think I’ve really stepped foot on the mainland in months for this very reason. But that’s just me, really… I’m sure there’s a benefit in this somewhere.
The only way I could see that mainland areas would be a benefit over the islands of simulators and existing third party rental market is if Second Life search didn’t exist nor the ability to teleport… where we’d actually have no choice but to charter a boat to sail across the seas to get to those other islands outside of the mainland; which would actually be pretty cool, come to think of it.
But since teleportation exists, and so does Second Life Search, the contiguous space of the grid is destroyed in the process, making the contiguous space of Mainland areas not a big deal. Of course, now we know why teleportation didn’t exist in the Metaverse of Snow Crash… for this very reason.
What else is there?
“Because your membership is almost for free” – I’m not really buying that line from the Eternal Sunshine blog. If you pay yearly, it boils down to about $6.00 US a month, but what exactly are you getting for that money? Well, Customer Support… which you’d think would be obvious with or without a premium membership. It’s in the best interest of a company to help the users of their system without making customer service a premium service in itself, at least in the context of Second Life. Think about it – the users are single handedly creating a vast majority of the content, supporting the free-market transactions, buying L$, and essentially making the entire virtual world what it is… and you want to charge them for customer service? That’s just asinine.
For a lot of the additional features, there is already an equivalent option through existing channels for free users, and many times these options are better than what you get for the premium membership.
I can think of actual added value things that should go with Premium Accounts that would make perfect sense while not intruding on existing methodologies and prosumer practices in the virtual world, but I’m not interested in offering freebies to a company that charges for customer service, while padding the rest with fluff. So far, Linden Lab hasn’t shown me a single reason why their idea of added value actually means anything with a Premium Account… other than the following:
I can rent land from Linden Lab instead of rent it from somebody else… and my transaction limits are raised.
Oh, and I can get customer support as a priority.
Somebody… anybody… please offer me some compelling reasons in the comments below. Because from what I can see so far… Premium Accounts are a waste of money, and I’d really like to see it differently. I’m not saying they aren’t worth it… I’m just saying that I’m not seeing a reason why they are, based on what the stated benefits are, versus what I already have access to as a free user. So please, somebody enlighten me.