Friday, June 8, 2012

World of tiers

Interesting discussions going on here and here on the general decline of land ownership across the Grid, and what LL might do about that....

Now, I've mentioned before that the reduction in land ownership is only to be expected, really, because 1) the RL economy sucks for everybody right now, and that's bound to have a knock-on effect on SL, and 2) the growth of Marketplace is acting as a disincentive for merchants to acquire land for stores.  It seems, too, that a number of factors have conspired to make a temporary glut of virtual land in SL, and like most temporary gluts, it doesn't last - that is, after all, what "temporary" means - and a period of readjustment is bound to happen.  Inara Pey's analysis of how LL might weather that readjustment makes for interesting reading.

Anyway.  Tateru Nino looks at the advantages, or otherwise, of one possible option for making SL land more appealling - the obvious one of dropping the cost, a global reduction in tier.  There are sound economic reasons, which Ms. Nino goes into, why this wouldn't necessarily be a good idea....  However, it got me to thinking.  What other ways might there be of making land look more attractive?  And it didn't take long before one occurred to me.

Land, as we all know, is kind of an abstraction of computing power, and while a certain amount of land equates to a certain virtual area on the SL grid, it also - and, for most of us, more importantly - measures the number of prims (or quantity of Land Impact) that you can put on it.  So... What would be the results, economically speaking, of increasing the Land Impact available, from its current rate of 117 per 512 square meters?

First thing, I suppose, is to look at the costs of this, and this is an area where I don't have hard numbers, and I suspect no one outside the Lab does.  Each virtual object in SL costs computing power to render, and I don't know how much the current 117/512 costs in real terms, or how much it would cost LL to raise that.   However, I suspect there's enough slack in the system to support a modest rise with no significant additional cost to the Lab... indeed, to some extent that has already happened!  With the introduction of mesh and the switch to Land Impact rather than prim count, a canny builder can fairly easily get an effective reduction in prims - I've heard figures as high as 43% being tossed around, though the finagling required for that is beyond the skill or the patience of most of us.  But - well, 143% of 117 is a tad over 167.  So, you have to figure that LL think the Grid can take that increase without any additional cost to them (because if it cost them more money, they would sure as hell pass the cost on to us.)

So... is there any slack left in the system, after we figure in that mesh-based reduction?  Well, computer power continues, overall, to improve year on year, and that 117 per 512 has been a constant for a while now... you have to figure that there may well be.  And if there is, LL might be well advised to use it!

Because, on a purely psychological level, it makes more sense than cutting tier fees.  If you make additional capacity available to people with no extra cost, the tendency, always, is to use it - as with Parkinson's Law; prims expand to fill the capacity available for them.  Suppose LL upped land capacity by about 10%, from 117 to 129, let's say.  How is the average SL merchant going to respond to this?  By reducing their landholdings overall by 10% to save money?  Or by setting out 10% more vendors on the land they're already paying for? 

And, for the non-commercial landholders - like, in a very small way, me - this is an incentive to tack another floor onto our homes, or design extra flashy things for our art projects, or improve and extend our clubs or our RP settings, or just to splash out on that steam-driven coffee-machine-and-bondage-bed that we didn't quite have space for before.  In short, to make SL more interesting and better looking, and maybe to spend more on SL merchandise and thereby give the SL economy a shot in the arm.

It's a thought.  I have no idea if it's feasible technically, or if it's viable commercially, or if LL is even thinking in those terms at all.  But, if they want to make land more attractive, this might be a better way to do it than lowering the tier fees.


  1. Yessss....moar primzzzz...mussst have primzzzz.....

    (Chant of the Zombie Builders of Second Life!)

    1. If they're tier-paying zombies, that's probably just fine. In fact, a tier-paying zombie may well be LL's idea of the perfect customer!