Tuesday, April 22, 2014

More Prims, Please!

The economy of Second Life is based upon the prim-- or land impact unit, as it were. Ever region comes with an allowance of 15,000-- which is a lot, and yet isn't a lot. That's how many prims you get; you can use them or not, but you can never have even 15,001.

Sim owners often "sell" parcels of land which carry their own prim limits, or rent land and prims. They use the income this generates to help pay their fees to Linden Lab, which charges them $295 USD monthly tier per private sim (the purchase itself costs $1000 USD). They hope sales of their items and donations from visitors will get them closer to that $295 nut.

Many sim owners hope they can bring in more money than they spend-- and some do. Estate owners have found ways to make this work and buy many regions, but most sim owners hemmorhage money every month.

Owners of full regions-- and only owners of full regions-- can purchase homestead regions, which come with 3750 prims, and openspace regions, which come with 750 prims; both, like full regions, are 66,536 square meters in size. Homesteads support enough prims to allow beautiful builds and are great for private living space; many estate owners rent them for that purpose. Openspaces are used mostly to create open ocean. They have prims enough for a few boats and some land mass with trees, but it would be difficult to live on one. Homesteads cost $125 USD per month and openspaces cost $75 USD.

At about two cents per month per prim or 1/2 cent per square meter per month, Linden Lab's pricing for full regions is high indeed-- but short of leaving Second Life and going to one of the Opensim grids, there's no other recourse. The price has been stable for quite a while now-- since at least 2006, when I came to Second Life.

Over the years server software has become less expensive and immensely more powerful. Every server now supports many regions, and with style. Nothing I've thrown at my sim Whimsy or my homestead Whimsy Kaboom have caused even a hiccup.In the past overloaded sims ran slowly; now they just keep humming along even when abused.

No, I'm not saying you can't grind a sim to a halt. I'm saying it's difficult to do so without actively trying.

Linden Lab hasn't passed on its lower prices to its customers. Regions still cost the same. And surprise-- the grid, which was growing rapidly back in 2006, is slowly getting smaller as sim owners give up and abandon their regions.

If the Lab were to drop the monthly tier for sims, I'm convinced there would once again be runaway growth in Second Life. I do, however, understand how doing so might be a scary proposition for a company whose primary source of income is rental of virtual land.

So here's a thought, Linden Lab: why not give us more prims? Why not go from 15,000 per full region to 25,000 or even 30,000? After all, thre's no 15k prim limit in some Openspace regions? Sim owners would be able to cut rental prices and still  make their sims more intricate and more lavish and thereby more attractive. They would be able to accommodate more tenants and give those tenants more prims than they can now.

In many cases this would change the equation from a monthly loss to a monthly profit. Estate owners would be motivated to buy more regions, which would, happy surprise, make more money for Second Life. Renters would be happy, sim owners would be happy, and Linden Lab would be happy.

Upping the prim allowance might make the servers work a little harder, but there seems to be power to spare. There would be little risk for the Lab, and, potentially, much to gain.

It's a mystery to me why Linden Lab hasn't already done this.

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