I am shocked, shocked, to find that building is going on here

Protest at Linden Estate Services
Protest at Linden Estate Services

I imagine most people have heard the news about the increase in prices in Open Space sims.  And most of you have probably read the updated article from Linden Lab.  Some of you will have taken part in protests, voted for the JIRA, taken part in discussions on the Forum or in sims.

For those who have missed all this, I’ll summarise briefly.

  • Openspace prices and fees change on the 1st January with no grandfathering. The price rises USD$250 to USD$375, and tier fees rise from USD$75 to USD$125 per month – an increase of 66%
  • Class 4 Openspaces will be upgraded to class 5 in January.
  • The discount for educational and nonprofit organisations is is no longer available for Openspaces.
  • No Owner switching for Openspaces unless it’s a full transfer of Payor (which means a fee will be charged if you buy an Open Space sim from someone and then have your name placed on it as owner).
  • More proactive education by support staff to prevent unfair resource use by Openspace regions.

The justification for this is that people have been overusing the openspace sims since they were made widely available for sale in March.  The original post said that, although intended for ‘light use’: “Unfortunately most of the Openspaces are being used for much more than light use.”   This is echoed in the most recent post: “As mentioned in the post, Openspaces were intended for space, empty areas of ocean or forest. Take a look at the Knowledgebase article description here. By that criteria, the large majority of Openspaces have more going on than was the original intent.”

Well, maybe that was the Lab’s definition of light use.  But when they doubled the number of prims available on Open Space sims, without laying down criteria for say, the number of avatars or scripts allowed, they were asking for this problem – and if they didn’t see it coming, then they’ve learned next to nothing about the fervent creativity of their customers over the last four years.

Quite frankly, it smacks of Captain Renault’s famed exclamation in Casablanca, just before accepting his winnings from the roulette table.

Meeting with Jack Linden
Meeting with Jack Linden

So what is to be done?

There are indications that the Lindens are looking for compromises, although whether this was part of the original game plan being a stick then a carrot or whether it’s the startled realisation that they have a major public relations disaster on their hands is a moot point.  The fact that this has been unpopular has been clear through an unprecedented level of protest (some good coverage on Massively here and here) and in a very lively and packed meeting with Jack on Thursday 30th.

That the goalposts are changing is clear from Jack Linden’s statement at the meeting: “We don’t want this to be a long process, but we do want it to be as measured and correct a decision as it can be. So I would hope to be coming back to the community next week with our thinking. In terms of the price changes, they will not hit owners directly for 60-90 days depending on their bill dates but we know this has to be wrapped up so we wil lwork as fast as we can to respond.”

He will also be holding some extra meetings over the next few days to discuss these issues further – as today’s meeting made it clear that there are a lot more people wanting to talk about this.

Protest at Nautilus
Protest at Nautilus

Whether this will be enough and will appease residents and estate owners is difficult to see.

Let’s make no mistake – this is hurting people where they live – and not just because so many people have built their homes on open sims.  And it’s hurting businesses and nonprofits too.  It’s not just the land.  It’s the time people have put in – and the love they have for their virtual land.

Over my next couple of posts, I’m going to look at some case studies of how people are being affected: home owners, estate owners and small businesses.

And I’m also going to talk about the future – and how this is going to mean a major shift in the metaverse – or at least make it more likely, and sooner rather than later.

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