Shocked, shocked, to find that building is going on here: Part 2: The Estate Owner

The Isles of Fatima
The Isles of Fatima

This is a continuation of my series of posts on the Open Spaces issue.  As you all know, we’ve been hearing a great deal about the “abuse” of Open Space sims.  These posts are looking to see what that really means.

I’ve talked to several people, all using Open Sims in different ways.  One is an estate owner, Fatima Ur.  Then there’s a small business owner, Soliel Snook of Snook’s Garden Centre.  Then there’s Roberto Viking who has his home on an OpenSpace sim he shares with a friend.  And lastly there’s Francesca Cassini, who has been using an OpenSpace sim to support a non-profit, 46664, Nelson Mandela’s AIDS charity, which does amazing work in Africa.

What has their experience of OpenSpace sims been?

The Estate Owner: Fatima Ur
One of the arguments advanced by Linden Lab has been that Open Space sims have been used for more than was expected.  In the initial post from Jack Linden, he said: “Unfortunately most of the Openspaces are being used for much more than light use.  Based on analysis performed in August and September, Openspaces are being used about twice as much as we expected, in other words being loaded with double the content/avatar load than we’d expect for a region that is supposed to be light use.”

The use that was supposed to be made of them?  According to Jack Linden again: “For those that don’t know, an Openspace is a type of private island that we made available for light use countryside or ocean. We figured that if Governor Linden can have ocean and green spaces, we should let private estate owners do the same.”

But, in fact, Open Space sims were never solely used in that way.  As well as the genuine open use of, for example, the sailing community, right from the start, when there were limits of only around 1900 prims, these islands were being marketed and used for residential housing.  Largescale land companies such as Dreamland and Otherland quickly spotted the market need for private housing on individual sims, and responded accordingly.  Even in Caledon, where the Firth was created as a long line of Open Space sims to encourage aerial experimentation and sailing of various kinds, there were low prim houses on each island (the Duchies).

So when Linden Lab lowered the prices, upped the prim limit and started selling the sims seriously, they already had (or should have had) a good idea of what types of usage they could expect, based purely on what was already happening.

Of course the existing land companies expanded their operations and capitalised on the increased availability of an already proven product.  But the lowered prices and increased limits also encouraged a different type of landowner, the ones who had been running estates of less than twenty sims, often with a strong community or theme, such as Winterfell, Wunderbar, Regent Estates and the Isles of Fatima.  With the delighted support of residents, they either split existing sims into Open Space private islands (forming, usually, private homes) or started to expand through purchasing additional Open Space sims.

Garden in the Isles of Fatima
Garden in the Isles of Fatima

This was creating a new type of landowner and community – one that could be quite tightly focused on a small, strong community with shared interests.  Winterfell has a darkly Gothic, medieval atmosphere, for example, while both Wunderbar and the Isles of Fatima were predominantly Victorian in theme, although while Wunderbar has a strongly rural Germanic feel, the Isles of Fatima (which featured as the Sim of the Month in our Summer 2008 issue) have a lushly romantic appearance.  I really want to stress here that all these landowners were progressing carefully.  These were not the type of people who had vast sums of money to play with, made from large scale investment in the Second Life property market.  Indeed, the care they took in landscaping and developing the community meant that the profits were not nearly as large as they were for land owners who merely handed over a plain sim with a few simple rules.

Larger estate managers may have the power to suck up major changes (although one does feel for groups like Otherland, which have been hit by VAT charges as well).  But for the smaller community landowners, this was nearly as much love as profit – and whenever we covered these sims – such as Winterfell for Halloween in 2007 or the Isles of Fatima in Summer 2008, what we had were glowering accounts of how wonderful the landlords were, how caring, how supportive.

So what effect have the Open Space sim changes had on them?

Pirate ship off the Isles of Fatima
Pirate ship off the Isles of Fatima

We spoke to Fatima Ur who, with Incanus Merlin, is the owner of the Isles of Fatima.  Prior to open spaces being changed from 1875 prims to 3750 and the price lowered, they owned three full sims and four open sims.

When the changes were announced, they ordered several open sims by request for customers to rent and a couple of months ago they converted Fatimas Beauty from a full sim to four open sims.  Throughout this time, they have maintained close to full occupancy and the estate now consist of  twenty-nine sims, four full sims and twenty-five open.

These figures in themselves, I think, give some indication of the proportion of purchases that have occurred during the expansion.

But Fatima and Icanus have not allowed unchecked building.

“Our open sims have always been light use residential with very few exceptions,” Fatima explains.  “Scripts are checked regularly and issues addressed where needed.”

They have run with relatively low lag, and most residents find them far less laggy than mainland.

“Financially, we were never in the open space business to turn a huge profit,” Fatima points out.  “We made a very small amount monthly on them.  It was more for beautiful content and community.  Residents were given a place they could be a part of a large estate chain and create beautiful landscapes of their own.”

When the changes were announced, Icanus and Fatima contacted all of our residents with the following note:

THIS AFFECTS ONLY RESIDENTS LIVING ON SIMS OTHER THAN FATIMAS LOVE OR FATIMAS DESIRE.
As most of you know, Linden Lab have changed the pricing structure for open sims with no notice.

Garden in the Isles of Fatima
Garden in the Isles of Fatima

Effective December 14th we will be changing our pricing structure for open sim tiers (we have to start restructuring 2 weeks prior to avoid tier charges for unusable sims) as Linden Lab increased the tier we pay on them DRASTICALLY – from US$75 a month to US$125.

Below you will see our new weekly charges for open spaces – all we have done is to convert the additional tier charge into Lindens – we are not making any money on this (in fact we will be running at cost).  We ask that you get back to us as soon as possible with your decision to stay or leave after the new tier takes effect.  We will be most likely returning any sims that are to be moved away from, and the face of the Fatimas will change.  We WILL however be here and staying.  Your island may change its position on the map of the isles but if you choose to stay, with the higher tier, you will have no changes in our service to you.

If you own/lease or rent a full open sim the new tier will be 9895 weekly (42900 per month)

If you rent or lease a portion of an open sim, such as those on Fatimas Wish, Smile, Blush or Beauty…we will be contacting you personally with notecards regarding your individual plots.

We are sincerely sorry for what Linden Labs has done to Second Life.  This will affect the entire look of the grid.

Incanus and Fatima

One of the bridges on the Isles of Fatima
One of the bridges on the Isles of Fatima

Sadly, almost immediately one of their longest residents left her sim – and closed her account and left Second Life.  Two open sim owners took plots on full Fatima sims that were available and left their open sims.

“I have had two residents say they will stay and keep the sims at the higher cost,” says Fatima, “but I’m certain there will not be many that can in the end.”

She points out that if Linden Lab made it free for them to roll them back to full sims, it will save many estates.  This will mean decreasing size but still offering quarter sims to folks with the same cost and prims they had prior to the announcement.  If they do not, that is where it becomes a severe hardship for large estates, because it costs 100 dollars to roll them up to a full sim. Also it costs 100 dollars to move sims, and with all the changes there is no doubt sims will have to be shifted around in many cases.

However, the problems do not end there.  The open sims changing as we know  has further implications, rippling out.  Fatima is in a good position to be aware of this for, in addition to the Isles of Fatima, she also owns the period furniture store, Antiques Artistry, and has recently opened an expanded garden centre, while her Victorian prefabs are popular around the grid.

So it is with real feeling that she says, “Not only will people lose sims and places to live, but many businesses will be affected.  Landscaping, garden centres, sim developers, home builders and furniture makers – all supplied the many, many home owners that had beautiful lands to furnish and garden.  Sales have dropped drastically since the announcement, at this point I’m sure due to uncertainty and not knowing what will happen.”

The Isles of Fatima
The Isles of Fatima

As far as the Isles of Fatima go, Icanus and Fatima are determined that they will continue, that they will survive.

“But the face of our estate and indeed the entire grid will change,” says Fatima.  “My confidence and trust in Linden lab has been completely lost.  I feel as if I was robbed.  Each sim cost 250 dollars, the moving fees 100 dollars, the charge to change from full to open 100 dollars … and of course the cost of the original full sims which was 1600 dollars.   That 1600 dollar sim was converted to four opens and those are now for all intents and purposes worthless.”

For those interested in reading more about the Open Space sim issue, Vint Falken is providing an excellent resource, drawing as much together as she can: Linden Lab has its business model ass backwards.

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