Thursday, June 23, 2011

Luring Back Educators: A Different Revenue Model for Second Life

 VWER 6/16/11
Location: Prognosticating

I see a very different shadow from the dynamic ones in the new viewer. Some weeks, every other post by Hamlet Au is a "Deathwatch." Recently we have lost, or are about to lose, The Virtual Globe Theatre, the Minoan Empire, The Lost Gardens of Apollo, and the Numbakulla quest-game region. All of these have been long-promoted landmarks in the history of Second Life, as were Rezzable's famous creations.

In each case, the tier structure of Linden Lab's world became an issue, if not the sole issue leading to the loss of content of note. Linden Lab cannot give its world away if it wishes to keep the servers running, but they are losing good content, and I have no idea yet--though it merits a follow-up to my earlier survey--how many educators have left the world or at least reduced land holding substantially. I've a hunch, from our VWER membership, that land ownership continues to decline.

Other worlds survive on a subscription model, and I cannot comment on an appropriate model for other users, something Senban Babii essayed in a reply to Au's post about the end of the Minoan region. I'll consider a model that that might be educator-friendly and emerge to replace tier for that population of users:
  • Free 30-day trial with an avatar of decent design, a working if basic animation override, and some inventory good enough for a professional meeting.
  • Education-only orientation and welcome areas, with a mentor program, on a new education continent zoned for General and Moderate regions.  On the continent it would be "invitation only" to those not affiliated with education, as it is on our campuses.
  • Lower regional pricing than is currently the case, yet higher than OpenSim (in consideration of the excellent content SL can provide).
  • A monthly subscription after the free trial ends, $10US for educators and $5 for students. The student price should not amount to more than a cheap textbook, to avoid too many complaints that would discourage use by education. If the student decided to stay after the end of the term, that would be fine. I could see giving educators one alt account with their memberships fee, students none. Adding more alts to either would cost more.
  • A small plot on an educational continent with building rights, that might be merged with other plots so faculty and students could design simulations. Plots could be traded to make land adjacent but they could not be sold. Abandoned land would revert quickly to the pool for new accounts.
  • Movement toward becoming the de facto standard for all grids, by first leveraging the Linden Dollar and SL Marketplace for use across approved grids.
  • More work on the abandoned interoperability initiative: Perhaps for an extra monthly fee, selected inventory might reside outside the avatar and be downloadable as an IAR file on grids approved by Linden Lab and a consortium of grid-owners.
The educational continent, something that was a dream of ours for a while and a rumor just before the massive and unfortunate layoffs at Linden Lab, would be a powerful incentive to get educators like me more involved. Many of us pay nothing beyond a premium account fee.

The new CEO has wisely tried to get more "buzz" for SL with virtual pets and other flashy innovations. Will Linden Lab find enough revenue there to stay in business, as its older creators and creations vanish? And will the CEO renew any efforts to woo back educators, who do make financial commitments likely to persist longer than the latest crazy for cute pets?

1 comment:

Elaine Greywalker said...

I've been thinking about Second Life trying to be everything to everybody the way AOL used to do. In all likelihood the virtual life "game" will change just like the internet did and we will have virtual worlds everywhere built specifically for various purposes, like (for example) education. Which makes being able to travel between them pretty important.

I like your suggestions for a specialized education orientation and mentor program. The plot trading idea is lovely!