Monday, December 12, 2005

The SL Economy in Review - 2005 Week 49

This week marks the beginning of the Holiday season so to speak and is shows - visually with all kinds of Christmas decoration, lots of snow particles falling everywhere and some sims even changing the terrain to snow textures. Maybe the season is showing in "the numbers", too. There are some indicators for that. Next week will tell more.

The most interesting events influencing the SL economy in the last week were (IMVHO; in my very humble and totally subjective opinion):
  • P2P knocking at the door
  • The InfoNet case
  • An island on the block
But first ... the raw numbers:

Cold facts
The exchange rate for the L$ seems to stabilize on a new level or 265L$/1US$, up some 4% from the typical 252L$ - 255L$/US$ in November. The daily trade volume at the LindeX exchange isn't growing much any more. Quite the contrary: after reaching some 4 Mio. L$ per day at the beginning of December, its back to a volume of 3.1 to 3.5 Mio. L$ per day again. As the LindeX is mostly a demand driven market, this might be an indicator of lessening resident activity - with residents spending more time (and money) in RL during the holiday season and less in SL.

That would fit with the measurements for "concurrent users online". While the curve for "residents grows steadily with some 10% to 15% per month, the number of residents online concurrently more or less stagnated. There is no detailed data available for inworld sales in December yet. So its hard to say if user activity (the commercial side) is really slacking or if this is just an impression. (Still hard for me to understand why this data is updated on a monthly basis and obviously in a manual way.)

Residents on the rise; concurrent users stagnating

Total inworld sales in November hovered around some 140 Mio. L$ per week. More than half a Million US$ every week. Not a huge market in RL terms - but "not bad" either.

But now, back to "current events and happenings in the SL economy":

P2P knocking at the door
Point-to-Point teleportation was still in heavy discussion on the forums with lots of residents still arguing pro or contra. Anshe - and other Land Barons - are still mad because of the lost value in Telehub land. But as usual - and rather understandable - LL proceeds with its plans without much visible reaction to residents comments or suggestions. Except ... Philip has written one of his rare blog entries to show us that "P2P is good for you!" Check it out! Even if it is nearly as long and meandering as one of my own posts it does contain some very interesting food for thought.

BTW: Has anyone heard of the "compensation" for owners of telehub land lately?

The arrival of Point-to-Point teleportation is now scheduled for Tuesday this week. And I dare to predict that it will have some interesting effects on the economy in the coming weeks and months. The devaluation of telehub land and the fall of the Linden are just the most visible effects. For example: Will it still be valuable for content creators to have smaller satellite stores at many malls? (With P2P there is not that much added convenience in browsing goods at a small stall. Two mouseclicks and you can be at the flagship-store.) If not, the mall business might have to take a further hit, maybe a hard one.

I for one would be very wary to invest much in simple malls with many small booths currently. That might be a business model of the past. Well done malls like Midnight City might be a different case. I am not sure, though.

I wonder, too, if poster-based advertising might not become much more interesting in the near future. In the past, these posters were a little like RL posters: eye candy, with not much interactivity. Now they can be like banners on the web. Not just a visual reminder but a device which gets you into the shop with just two clicks. Nice!

And I wonder too, what will happen, when scripted teleportation is implemented. Will we see "virtual malls" then, "rings" of shops which are not in a physical proximity but connected through teleportation gates? Just step through a door and walk on to the "next" store.

Interesting times for the retail business!

The InfoNet case
Another event which I found very telling again, was the reaction of the community (mostly the forum crowd) on the decision of Linden Lab to install InfoNet terminals in the WA and at all former telehubs. While much of the feedback LL got for that (and some "nice" feedback it was), can maybe described as envy, some of the participants had valid points.

InfoNet is a commercial endeavors which gets (presumably) free exposure in very high traffic areas with this deal. Other businesses with potentially competing interests are understandably worried. Some of the content in these terminals is of questionable nature - perfectly OK in a private publication but maybe not so OK when it gets the Linden stamp of approval by being integrated in Linden owned installations.

The InfoNet headquarter - with room for expansion

All of this is no big deal and could be corrected in a number of days. InfoNet is a nice solution to the information dissemination problem that will continue to be huge, until we will finally will get "HTML on a prim". It has no real competition (none visible to me). But still, the incident deal was not handled very professionally IMHO and is maybe an indicator for some "identity problems":

To me it seems that some people at Linden Lab still do not understand their delicate role between "managers in an RL business" and "part of a virtual government". Linden Lab is - or could be - the biggest and most important customer many SL business can have. So LL should be very careful with all their inworld deals, if only to kill any suspicion of favoritism or competition with SL businesses before it can even develop.

Island on the block
Another example of an ill received Linden idea was the Island Auction which went on to eBay last weekend. A complete island, together with two handful of premium and basic accounts, all recurring costs included for one year and landscaping and building services included. All this for only 10,000 U$ or best bid!

Contrary to some fellow residents opinion, I think this is not a bad deal and an interesting PR gimmick; not terribly innovative, but it should result in some media coverage. Its understandable that some residents who are in the land development business themselves are concerned about renewed Linden competition. But I would not see this more as a "one shot" just now.

But the devil is in the details - as usual. What I found most astonishing was the following excerpt
120 Hours of design and building development to build your dream island valued at $6,000
In effect, this means that the typical services needed in landscaping and building are valued at around 50$/hour - US$ mind you! This is not extraordinary. Actually it is a nice price for professional design services. Depending on the combination of agency and client rates are much higher often.

But compared to the prices the Lindens are paying themselves when comissioning resident work this is quite a sum. Eggy Lippmann thinks so, too. I wonder what the official publication of such rates will do for that market. Maybe its getting harder now to let the natives do the work and pay them in glass beads in the future.

But probably Linden Lab will always find residents willing to work for fame, honor and some Linden$. And who would condemn them? It's just too tempting and a very attractive business model for the company ...

No comments:

Post a Comment