Apr 11, 2012

Friends with (Premium) Benefits

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.



Premium Benefits




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.



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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.



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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.



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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.



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Anna’s Many Murders – Bryn Oh! | Click for SLURL 






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Immersiva – Bryn Oh! | Click for SLURL 



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.


  1. I've never seen premium benefits as really being worthwhile. And, as you've said, most of the alleged benefits are pretty inane. Better customer support is iffy, too. One friend of mine had trouble getting support from Linden Lab despite having a premium account. Linden Lab didn't take his support tickets seriously at all... until he downgraded his premium account to free.

  2. I have to agree with you. I understand SL mimicks the real estate business...like living in a gated community of mediocre quality with all of the restrictions of real quality homes.
    I've been in SL since BETA so I can't say how this would be for the average noob. I never intended to spend any money on the 'game' when I started to explore. I was more interested in the geekage. Thanks for checking that out for me. You answered a lot of questions.
    I give it a solid, 'meh', now that I'm in the know.

  3. I've had a premium account since 2005 and love the 500 lindens a week stipend. I pay $72 a year and receive over $100 worth of Lindens.

  4. I guess I'll be contrary... I have had land on a mainland sim since I started in SL. I feel I am contributing to the model - to SL as a product, as a place. I pay for access & development just as I did for BBSes, MUDs and MOOs. I invest in the product so that the product is there for my enjoyment.

    At the time, SL was the only grid available to invest in; there are others now. The Premium fee is less than I've paid for such communities/access before so that doesn't bother me. I realize this is an old-fashioned view.

  5. Lyr Lobo - Not to be contradictory, but LL clearly states 300L a week stipend. That comes out to about $5.00 a month in L$ at 1200L a month. See also the graphic at the top of this post, which is the one they are currently using for their premium signup page to explain the benefits. This is why I specifically chose 1200L in the image to buy lindens - to show it was about $5.00 worth a month. And the other $1.00 is paying for Customer Support?

    You've had a Premium Account since 2005, but I'm asking - is it worth it today?

    Based on what they're offering *today* the answer is no. In your situation, it's like comparing grandfathered sims and prices to today's costs for the same thing. It's not the same.

    Miso - Thank you for your thoughts on the topic. LL makes plenty of money on everything else we do in the system, aside from paying them outright in Premium Accounts. After reading your response and Lyr's I have to conclude two things:

    1. Apparently Premium Accounts were better in 2005 and more worth it than they are today by far.

    2. There are plenty of ways to invest in the product - mostly of which is that the community has built nearly everything that's in it for a virtual environment, continues a free market trade and sales system, which transactions offer revenue streams to Linden Lab, sales of simulators - even by third parties, still get bought through LL unless you're on OpenSim. The list goes on... so please don't think you're "supporting the model" through Premium Accounts... if anything you're "supplementing the model". Big difference :)

  6. Ive been in sl for 4 years and havent been able to rationalize paying for premium myslelf, mostly for the reasons youve described and I heard it was a big hassle to downgrade your premium service. Maybe if they gave some worthwhile incentives like x amount of free uploads and a non reoccuring payment option, I know theyre the bread and butter of alot of online services but I would feel more comfortable buying premium if it was not on a subscription model.And to comment on your post mainland isnt nearly as laggy as it use to be! Keep Keeping it real aeon, Love your blog