Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Cost of Land vs. The Perception of Value

The Cost of Land vs. The Perception of Value
Land in SL is Cheap!

 Since I first joined SL in 2005, right up to today, one of the most common complaints I've heard from SL users is that land is too expensive in Second Life. What's more, this is considered to be one of the biggest obstacles to SL's mainstream success.

 I disagree.

 Now, don't get me wrong, if LL dropped the price of land then I'm sure they'd see a huge uptick in landowners. My position is simply that land is not as expensive as people realize because pretty much nobody is enjoying the full value of the land they're paying for and I see this as a much bigger issue than the actual cost of land.

 Let me show you something.

This is a small skybox I threw together recently. To give you an idea of the size of this skybox, my 6' tall avatar is present in both screenshots, can you find me?

 How much land impact do you think this skybox uses? How much land area? Most importantly, how much do you think this skybox costs me in tier?

At the time these screenshots were taken, I was using a grand total of 481 land impact points. This skybx could fit on a parcel only slightly larger than 2048sq.m. In other words, you could own a piece of SL like this for a mere $3.71 a month.

"Wait!", you tell me, "A 2048sq.m. parcel costs $15 a month in tier!"

 Here's the thing, if you set up a premium account you get 512sq.m. of tier with that. A premium account costs $72 a year, but if you cash out the L$300 a week stipend you're only paying $11.13 a year for the account. If you set up four premium accounts, that amounts to $44.52 a year (which is only $3.71 a month)  for all four accounts and 2048sq.m. of tier between them.

 In addition to that, if you lump their combined tier into a group you get an extra 10% bonus tier, so you're actually getting 2253sq.m. of tier for $3.71 a month.

 Of course, this still leaves the issue of how did I cram so much into only 2048sq.m. and less than 500 prims?

 That just boils down to building to scale and being smart about what you want to rez on your land.

 A 30LI Greco-Roman statue just isn't worth the prims when you can get statues just as good looking for 1-10LI. The same goes for chairs, beds, and everything else.

 All my usual points about building to scale stand, especially in the age of mesh. When you have a mesh house that is double scale, when you shrink it down to 1=1 size you also reduce its land impact cost down to 1/2 or even 1/4th of its original impact cost. Almost all mesh content can have its LI cost reduced in this way, from chairs and statues to castles and space stations.

 This is what I see as the big problem for land in SL. Very, very few people realize they can get this kind of value for their money, or even if they realize it's possible they often wouldn't know how to do it themselves. How many people would rush to own land in SL if they realized they could get all this for a few dollars a month and it was easy for them to do so?

 From LL's perspective, 2048sq.m. costs them just as much to host no matter what you rez on it.So LL gains nothing from this situation. Worse yet, those who are unwilling to spend more than $5-10 a month on SL land yet feel what you get for that is not enough because of this deflated sense of value ultimately opt not to purchase land at all, so LL has lost all of those potential landowners. People willing to spend $5 a month on land vastly outnumber those willing to spend $300. If LL could show people just how much they could get for that, they would see a huge increase in landowners.

 Of course, LL being LL, I'm not going to hold my breath on that. However, you, dear reader, now know how to get crazy amounts of value for your monthly tier.


  1. Thank you for this .. Iv always had a 5'5 or less avi...everythings way to big,lol

  2. Tiny quibble here: that L$300 per week stipend cannot actually be cashed out: there's a rule stopping that. But that flow of L$ would certainly cover a lot of costs in-world.

    1. @zhochaka

      I can find no information regarding any such rule and I have been cashing out the entirety of my weekly stipend for years. I'm curious as to where you heard this.

  3. Awesome blog post, Penny!

    Of course $280/year beats ~$350/month; so that's another reason they might not scream about this from the roof-tops.

    I've cashed out all kinds of Lindens -unless things have changed, I've never been yelled at for cashing out out my stipend (of course, I never kept track, either).

    1. Here's the thing, a customer willing and able to pay $280 a year for land in SL is not necessarily willing or able to pay $300 a month. LL is basically pricing themselves out of reach of most of their potential customers.

      Or to put it another way, let's say you have two burger joints across the street from each other. One sells their burgers for $300 apiece. The other for $3 apiece. The burgers are pretty comparable from the customer's point of view.

      Which burger joint will be more successful? Sure, the first gets $300 for each burger, but how many burgers do they sell compared to the second place?

  4. excellent points, perhaps we should all start building skybox settings for first time buyers. RE mesh and LI, it is just amazing how much more you can get for your prim allowance.
    @ zhochaka, of course your stipend can be cashed out, many premium members also regularly/weekly cash out their Lindens, and I have certainly never had a situation or seen a warning that 300 of those were earmarked for inworld living only.

  5. The cost of tier is debatable. For a company like LL running a goldmine in New York, where the $US flows in, for them tier is not expensive. I will stand back if the rest of the world can agree with that statement of the costs of tier in SL. Now you should also take notice that residents in the mainland(with premium accounts) mostly don't get proper service delivery from LL. Then i also find it difficult to understand why the same regions in the mainland have the worst lag all the time & why LL failed to take control over griefing(which is out of the hands of residents). The whole tier system should be changed aswell to avoid more increase in abandoned land & many who don't use premium accounts.

    1. @Câllïe Jordaan se Huis

      While I'm sure there's parts of the world where $3USD a month is expensive, my point was that most SL users believe you must spend far more to achieve what I have shown here. I know people who spend $75 a month to create an experience comparable to what I created in this skybox.

      That's wasted money and it is a result poor presentation and badly designed tools on LL's part, combined with a culture which actively discourages efficiency (see how people make 8' tall avatars and insist on using content blown up to double scale).

      If you want to talk about lag, I can tell you where most of the lag comes from. It's no big mystery, it comes down to basic game design principles. On mainland, you are rendering far more than when you're in a single, private region and content in SL tends to be very badly designed, using far too many vertices and far too much texture memory, so the impact it has on performance stacks up very quickly.

      I do agree that LL created a bad system for land ownership which leads to problems like griefing on the mainland in ways land owners can do little or nothing about, and LL seems to do little, if anything, to deal with it.

  6. A very good post, and certainly thought provoking. I build a lot on the OpenSim platform, inworld in OS Grid, on my own standalone Hypergrid enabled mini grids and on regions that run purely on my LAN.

    There is no doubt that a lot can be achieved using the methods you use, but that would not deliver for me as my builds tend to be at least a region in size, and usually multiple regions, my biggest being a 63 region megaregion.

    All these things aside, SL still doesn't have anything to offer me that I can't also find in OpenSim, apart that is from griefers - they exist in OpenSim, and can be as destructive as in SL, but by and large grid operators tend to take griefing very seriously indeed, and if possible will IP ban miscreants from the grid. On many grids it's also possible for individiual region owners to ban troublesome individuals, and even deny access to avatars from specific grids - a problem not encountered in SL as there is no Hypergrid in SL...

    I still visit SL for the social side of things, as I have a lot of friends there, and I also like to visit the more scenic regions, lag allowing, as these give me inspiration for my own builds in OpenSim where I can backup and archive my builds at will.

    The biggest problem with LL's SL is LL. Anyone running OpenSim regions on their own server know just how much it costs to run a region, and it isn't anything like the $295 a month that LL charges - even having regions hosted at a datacentre would cost a fraction of that.

    If someone wanted a nice place to call home in SL they would be well advised to learn from your experience, as 2048 m sq is a decent enough size with enough of a prim allowance to be able to achieve something quite spectacular if care is taken. Your point about avatar size is especially relevant, size really does make a difference. I build to scale, and often have complaints about my doors being 'too low'. My retort is always that my doors are 6' 6" and it's the complainants avie that is too tall. Making an avie smaller, and also making things like furniture and houses etc smaller does really postiviely impact on the sense of space on any given area.

  7. A belated response, but I did want to reply.

    If you're using an entire sim, them the tips I provide won't make the sim cost any less, but they will allow you to fit far more content in a single sim, while allowing visitors to your sim to experience higher framerates.

    Why pay for a full sim if you're not going to get the full value out of it? Why drag down framerates for yourself and visitors if you don't have to?

    Of course, the rules are different if you're using Open Sim. I believe OS allows unlimited prims in their sims (or at least more than SL allows per sim) and, of course, you get megaregions. Still, you're using more resources for less content if you don't optimize, and that still reflects in cost and performance. OS sims might cost less, but whether it's $300/mo or $60/mo, you still want your money's worth.

    That said, I agree completely that the biggest problem with SL is Linden Lab themselves. Not just for the costs, but also their own lack of understanding when it comes to their own product. They're like a videogame studio that refuses to hire anyone who understands graphics and user experience. Just marketing people and software engineers. They're in for a rude awakening with their new virtual world if they haven't learned their lessons with SL. Their actions in recent years has told me they haven't, if anything they've learned the wrong lessons and will make even more mistakes moving forward.

    Speaking about "sense of space", with virtual reality headsets booming in popularity, environments which can produce that realistic sense of space are going to be far more engaging and immersive for people using the Oculus Rift or the Vive or whatever headset of choice.