November 25, 2012

Ideas for improving Second Life land sales and retention

A 4-month old article on Tateru Nino's blog about land pricing and tier got me to thinking. If you read her commentary, she concludes that changing tier prices (ie. lowering them) would have little or no effect on the Second Life economy and in fact would likely result in significant reductions in revenue for Linden Lab. While I agree in principle with her conclusions based on the rather simple premise, I think there are some things that could be done -- call it tinkering in the margins -- that might have a very positive effect.

Customer retention & new players

I'm no expert on this but I can tell you that for most people, the new user experience sucks. The official SL viewer is bloated and over-weight. New users get no help on arrival save some guided quest type stuff. And suggestions on what you should actually do in SL are pretty thin at best. So here are some ideas:
  • Release two viewers. One a grandly simplified, lightweight, FAST practice viewer. No inventory, no building, no anything except picking an avatar and moving and interacting. Concentrate on making SL as fast as possible. This viewer would expire after 14 days by which time, you'd have to move to anything BUT the practice one.
  • NCI does about the best job of encouraging new users as anyone. I'd forge a stronger with them for new users.
  • Want more premium accounts Linden Lab? Increase the free tier allowance to 1024. I'll bet you'd have a lot of alts suddenly become premium in addition to reducing the frustration that comes from only having 117 prims available in a 512.

A moh bettah tier

While Tateru argues that simply lowering tier won't increase land usage, one of the biggest complaints I hear about (myself included as a complainer) is that any small land purchase that kicks you into the next tier level forces you to pay the entire amount for that level.

For example, if I hold 4096 sq-m of land and want to buy another 512, it will cost me an extra $15/mo since the tier for up to 4096 is $25/mo while the tier for 4097 – 8192m is $40/mo. I think Linden Lab AND its customers might be better served charging $25/mo for the 4096 plus a percentage of that level for anything over. For example, buying another 512 sq-m would only cost an extra $2/mo (about 1/8 the price of the current tier) and not $15/mo. A good example of this is a small 300 sq-m parcel next door to me. I'd probably buy it today except it would kick me into the next tier level since I'm right at 1024.

In fact, I had to carve up my original land purchase to get myself DOWN to 1024 by selling a microparcel on the backside of mine to a land baron. I know a number of people who have simply carved off micro-parcels and abandoned them (hoping of course that no one puts anything silly on them). If one could hold land that was in-between the tier breaks without getting charged the full amount, I'd imagine less land breakups and more contiguous parcels across most of mainland.

Anyway, those a few of my random thoughts. Any others? I know, I know. Second Life may be a lost cause but I keep hoping it isn't. :P


  1. Interesting idea for Mainland.

    The rub comes in that the vast majority of LL's revenue comes from private island tier, a somewhat different kettle of fish, given it is $295 a month (minimum - those in Europe also have to pay VAT on top of it with perhaps only a few able to reclaim), with the additional $1,000 (+VAT) "set-up" fee the recoup as well.

    So it's hard to see how your idea scales across private full sims - and that's without touching Homesteads, which further complicate matters.

    In putting our articles together (we did "twin" peices on the subject), Tateru & I both chewed the fat a lot on things (hers ultimately drew the greate part of the debate, rightly so given her greater visibility) & we came to broadly the same conclusions - although I approached the question from a slightly different (and longr term) view as to how some easement might be acheived.

    Increasing Premium land may also be counter-productive. If "free" land is made more readily available, and people take up premium as a result, it is more than likely they will live within their means (or that of their 1024 sq m of land) with the result that even LESS Mainland (and more particularly, prviate island parcels) get leased - resulting in a further drop in LL's revenue as even more of the latter stand to be returned to LL while more of the former falls under the auspicies of Governor Linden

    Interestingly, it appears that the viewer isn't actually regarded as a barrier to SL user retention, at least according to Humble, when he has spoken on the subject of user feedback gained through the "exit survey" process LL run, so simplifying it may not yield benefits.

    Apparently, the most common theme in feedback from users prociding feedback on why they quit is not technical / viewer problems - but simply that they could not connect with people who share their interest.

    As Humble himself put it in July, someone joins SL because they have an interest in aviation and building model aircraft, but they get frustrated because they sign-up and find themselves dropped into a club somewhere with people with compeltely different interests.

    This is where your idea of closer ties with the likes of NCI fits the bill perfectly.

    And it is actually ironic that on the one hand, LL acknowledge the issue of how to bring people with shared interests together, yet they have systematic withdrawn from any form of engagement with mentor groups, and have swapped out most of their facilities for helping new users for a system which does exactly what Humble cites as "the" reason for people not "sticking" (his term): leads them into SL them dumps them somewhere at random based on just the broadest of criteria, with no way to "get back again" for another try.

    Don't write-off SL just yet; if nothing else, it is tenacious, and while there is a lot of doom and gloom about, I'm not convinced that LL are anywhere near about to throw in the towel just yet!

    (I'm also not going to be so vulgar as to cross-post links to my own "twin" article to Tateru's here either; I wanted to reply to you, not engage in self-promotion :) ).

  2. I really wasn't thinking about private SIMs. They're on their own. I was really thinking about mainlaind since that's where most people start and it's their first exposure to buying land.

    I also don't think that Humble really knows WTH goes on inside of SL. I have my suspicions that their exit surveys, if they're as badly constructed as some of the current resident surverys, are next to worthless. But for sure, the connection to other players issue has to be priority one.

    When they killed the Mentor program, I really thought the Lab had taken an overdose of crazy pills.

    As to cross-posting your link to your article, feel free. If it makes the conversation more interesting, all the better!

  3. The two-viewer model you suggested would add about a 50% the workload of groups helping new users. The would be forced to offer classes, help, and orientation tutorials for two very different official SL clients, or face focusing entirely upon either the under 14 day new residents or the over 15 day and over new residents.

    Some of the larger resident help groups could no doubt pull off such a challenge--especially if there was some sort of LSL query that would allow a script to determine what viewer was in use by a particular person. However, I'm not at all convinced that such a two-viewer approach would be of much benefit. I think anything SL gained in first week retention would be offset by people who quit 15 days when they realized they would have to relearn the client. If I'm not mistaken, LL has already tried the simplified "newbie" viewer experiment and moved away from it.

    Collaboration with NCI (or other resident help groups) is a two-edged sword for both the help groups and Linden Lab. Linden Lab runs the same risk it did with the Mentor program--sending new users to unaccountable groups and individuals with no control over how SL will be introduced. Furthermore, by assigning "official" status to one or more resident help groups, LL runs the rise of having those groups held to be their agents or employees should such a relationship go south and end up in RL court or labor arbitrator.

    For the resident help group, the risk is that they would become dependent on Linden Lab for financial or tier assistance--or even more crucially--for a steady stream of new users. When LL invariably changed its mind a year later (and they would; they always have), the new resident help groups would find themselves having to scramble to replace the financing and infrastructure they had become dependent on Linden Lab for. In the meantime, the resident help groups would have to work with any mandates from the Linden Lab bureaucracy, most likely to the detriment of their primary mission.

    I take issue with your statement that "NCI does about the best job of encouraging new users as anyone". That may have been true three years ago, things change. There are a number of extremely competent and well-organized groups with similar missions to NCI. Groups such as my own Caledon Oxbridge, Virtual Ability, the Shelter, Builders Brewery, White Tiger Mentors, etc. do as good a job or better than NCI when it comes to helping new residents learn Second Life.

  4. Thanks for your perspective Carl. And yes those other groups you mention are good too. I have an alt who belongs to Caledon Oxbridge and I probably should have mentioned them in the same breath as NCI (which I belong to directly). I know NCI has its weirdness and flaws and cliques but they try and the classes are pretty good (still).

    And I wasn't thinking in terms of an actual monetary or financial relationship between Linden Lab and new user groups. Only that there be some sort of mechanism to direct people INTO them or promote them more proactively. Just for grins, I'm going to make a newbie alt, start from scratch and see where it leads me.


All thoughts are welcome.