Hamlet ne Linden Au is waging class warfare against land barons in Second Life again; this is an old story, because Hamlet hates land; he's even now cooked the numbers to show that there is a "one percent" of greedy evil landlords in Second Life who own most of the land.
Of course, this overlooks the fact that the people who rent homesteads for wholesalers and have all the rights to the land are in fact virtually the same thing as a private island owner. The only reason they have to go through a wholesaler is because Linden Land set up a requirement that homesteads cannot be leased directly from the Lab, but can be leased directly only from intermediary landlords -- because only they can meet the requirement buy homesteads
Hamlet so seeths with class hatred against the rich, but it's hilarious, because he, as a San Francisco hipster making money from his blog and various metaversal consulting contracts, is far more wealthier and privileged than the average landlord in Second Life trying to make ends meet. These people in fact aren't the rich of real life, because if you were rich in real life, you wouldn't need or want to make money by long, thankless hours in a virtual world waiting on often nasty and difficult tenants. With the exception of a few larger companies, which are still essentially Mom and Pop operations, like Anshe Chung Studios, most of the "land barons" of SL are women who don't make much money in RL, and in SL, don't become wealthy even in Linden dollar terms. Many of the people renting out sims to others break even or even lose money, because they want to *curb* or *control* the costs of SL but *not* make a profit (that's really too hard to do, and few who make a profit on paper are actually paying the cost of their own labour or benefits).
Example: I have a homestead that I got when they were having a fire-sale at the grandfathered price. I had a project idea I wanted to do it and pursued for awhile but then RL circumstances intervened and I couldn't do it as I wished. But I didn't want to take down the build or the sketch of the idea and the tribute to the Belarusian democratic movement, so I left it up, and rented out most of it at cost. I lose money on that thing each month, but I like keeping it. I have other projects in SL like the SL Public Land Preserve that nowadays, only loses money, I can't make it break even.
Hamlet just has too much contempt for land, the land model, the people who actually make the SL experience for most people, to really investigate it truthfully. Most of the people consistently logging on every day rent from "land barons". And they are happy to. Because they get a better deal. Somebody would have to pay Linden Lab $25 a month to get a 4096 on the mainland, plus $9.95 a month to get an additional 512 for a total of 4608 meters. If they rent from me, they get the same 4096 land for just $20 US a month, and if they want extra prims, it's just about $4.50 US more for the equivalent of the 512, not $9.95. Most land barons out there are renting the 4096s on islands for around US $20 or giving them homesteads for $125 US with estate privileges, saving them some money on tier and the set-up cost.
Should this requirement of having an island before you can buy a homestead be lifted? Well, it's worth considering, given that the market is really for homesteads. Many people who want a Second Life are willing to pay just for a homestead, but don't want $1000 for an island.
What would happen instantly if the Lindens moved to a system where anyone could lease a homestead from them? If my private island of tenants renting 4096s emptied out, then I'd sell or give up the private island, full stop. If you don't get tenants because they've flocked to another product the Lab offers, you dump that island -- and island worth four homesteads in the Lab's valuation and counting system.
So they know that if they institute that system, people like me *if* they face a loss of customers would dump their islands in a heart beat. Who needs to pay even $195 a month for an empty grandfathered island?! They are hard enough to fill these days with the homestead competition from other land barons.
Those who are in the big wholesale purchase business with 100s of private islands and 100s of homesteads don't care what the price is as long as they keep the same margins. If the price is slashed, as Hamlet suggests, they just change their numbers and keep the same margins. Yes, they've lost their investment, but if they are sophisticated accountants, they never called the set-up fee an "investment," with some kind of equity, but called it an expense. It's not land; it's lumber and paint.
Hamlet tries to make it seem as if the landlords are "in the way" of the Lindens "making progress" on moving to cheaper tier and moving away from their tier-based business model. I don't see how the Lindens can reduce tier or move away from the model, even with their new games, even with more sales' commissions on the marketplace. They need tier like air; it makes up the bulk of their revenue. Remember, that $75 million a year! Running worlds/games are expensive due to servers and employees, as Michael Wilson as helped us see. Second Life will continue to be LL's bread and butter for a long time to come. They may dislike their core product and its customers, but they want to eat, too.
Hamlet also overlooks the reason why the Lindens don't move to a system where more individuals can buy land or servers -- customer service. Customer service in virtual worlds in ENDLESS. By having the landlord class, the Lindens get a free set of helpers who remove MOST CS problems from their plate. That's golden. They know that. Land barons help newbies, trouble-shoot sim problems by resetting them or policing their content; they help solve governance problems, they provide interesting things to do from socializing to exploration to live music to shopping.
Hamlet also doesn't provide enough granularity on the concept of the "land barons". He talks about private owners based on Tyche Shepherd's invaluable grid survey. How many of these individual private owners were in fact evil land barons he hates? And the sims he thinks are "rental sims" or "owned by land barons" could be artists' groups, music venues, etc. that in fact are providing either loss-making non-profit experiences or get only negligible revenue or just make ends meet. A creator who makes content and runs their own sim as a store and uses the revenue to pay for tier -- now, is that somehow "cleaner" or 'better" than that evil greedy landlord who merely rents out 16 4096s so other people can have a Second Life? I'm not getting this. Hamlet's socialist ideological bent and his "progressive" ideological strait-jacket doesn't enable him to see the diversity and beauty of the SL economy *and its legitimacy* from all participants, whether content creators, land barons, or artists.
I don't think the loss of 2000 sims is something that is fixed by making the set-up fee $100 instead of $1000, because really, the class of people willing to spend even $1200 "on a game" is going to remain very niche.
Maybe with the Steam invasion, the Lindens have to set up a new product, which is a mod sim or a game socializing sim that is a homestead sold independently, free and clear of the requirement for
That might bring in a tide of new tier-payers and inspire some landlords to become bulk homestead wranglers.
But then, the entire reason the Lindens shut down the homestead re-rentals in 2008 was because of this very phenomenon: lower the price (it was $75 for a void sim), and you enable people to buy in bulk and resell to others, without much concern for customer care and performance of the sim, because they simply flip a switch *and enable them to ask for CS directly from LL*. The Lab was overrun with people on what were properly called "void sims" and described accurately by LL as "a stretch of water or forest" to go *in between* other full-fledged sims and fill the water, hence the term "void". Those customers stuffed the "stretch of water" with boats on physics, pets, sex beds, and avatars -- and then screamed when they fell over.That was a big factor in the Lab shutting it down -- that, and seeing that the hustlers were making money on the flips, not them.
Maybe, with more robust sims, with better customer service that can handle direct influxes, maybe it would work now? But I see no signs of the Lindens thinking in these terms.