Saturday, December 10, 2005

Your Game Is Their Business

This is an interesting time in SL, with the return of P2P teleportation and the repurposing of Telehubs. I'm pretty psyched about it myself.

Although I would like to see hubs still used for their original purpose, about a year ago I suggested to a LL staff member that the hubs would be much stronger focal points if their offerings were expanded. I suggested adding a way for members to check for LL news and announcements right there -- inworld -- new freebie content, and some sort of seating area (maybe like a cafe) where people could hang out. No, I don't figure I influenced the Lindens, nor do I believe I had a psychic flash. I think it was just the right idea, which the Lindens naturally had as well. Sharp folks, those Lindens.

Yeah, some people who hold land near the hubs are going to take a loss. Sort of the way I did, when LL released an avalanche of snow sims and the value of my snow land, in particular, plummeted. Good thing I was only reselling land on a very small scale, and that was when I got out; I don't risk more money than I can afford to lose. You know, no one cried for the land barons then! But since then more people have come to accept the reality of the SL real estate market. I guess some have forgotten (or weren't around during) the dark ages when it was considered sinful to turn a profit on land sales. Never mind that, by buying large blocks of land, subdividing them, writing up the listings, carrying the tier, etc. the horrible land barons save Linden Lab the cost of at least one or two (or more) full-time land-sales-managing employees -- a cost that would have been passed on to members. I dunno, maybe LL could have formally hired someone on a contract basis, and that would have been more palatable?

Oh wait, no. I mean, when LL announced a formal agreement with InfoNet, the forums rang with screams like unto those one would suffer in Dante's lower bolgias. It's pretty awful to watch, but sort of humorous, too. Awful in that I figure the nice folks running InfoNet had no idea they were suddenly going to find themselves in this shitstorm one day, and they don't deserve it. Humorous in that . . . well, watching a grown adult whining and stamping his or her foot like an overtired five-year-old ("Mommy, it's not faaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiirrrr!!!") is the sort of thing that makes me love the forums. Okay, so InfoNet got the contract. Other news outlets want to put their info there, too. How many of them asked and then got no for an answer? Even a two-year-old ASKS before settling in to hold their breath til they turn blue. The answer might be surprising to some, but I'll bet L$ to virtual donuts that LL is already working on plans for the inclusion of other media at the hubs.

LL is a private company run by smart people. Your game is their business. But, immersion is a powerful thing, and some folks just can't separate the two. I mean, we have people saying that they can't do business in SL because they can't have an enforceable contract . . . wtf? I mean, sure, so long as you won't use your real name and get a real signature on real paper, yeah. That's because you're playing a game, not doing business. Big clue: Don't play Monopoly with real money, kids!

This InfoNet deal -- or any deal where LL hires someone without searching through fourteen tons of craptastic submissions -- isn't about an unfair ref playing favorites at a sandlot ballgame. It's about a business deal where one company is hiring another (you know, just like big grownup online services hire content providers or have corporate partners). They can hire whomever they wish . . . their friend, their nephew, or even (gasp) someone they don't really know who happened to have built and maintains a strong product and service that fits their needs and style really well.

Some people protest that this whole idea of repurposing the hubs is just a waste, and LL should sell the land and be done with it. But those plots of land all over the world, marked on the map, held by LL, known by all, will prove valuable to LL in the future. LL should hang onto them and maintain their visibility. They're going to find those useful for various projects of their own. And, in fact, established high-visibility spots like those could be rented for a pretty penny to corporate partners who'll come to LL sometime down the road. O noes, but money is so *dirty*! The thing is, LL is a business and it needs to make a profit, or we won't be having any more of these charming conversations . . .

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