In an attempt to keep its coffers full, Linden Labs is raising the prices of Openspaces, the cheaper parcels of Second Life land. The setup fee for the virtual space will increase by 50 percent from $250 to $375, and the monthly maintenance fees will increase by 66 percent from $75 to $125. Land manager Jack Linden said the increase is needed because too many Second Lifers are setting up apartments or shops on the land — not using it for “open spaces” like the forests or beaches that it was intended for — and the heavy usage is straining Linden Labs’ network and database infrastructure “at a much higher ratio than is reflected in the current pricing.”
Unlike pricier parcels of “Mainland,” and private islands that typically get their own CPU, up to four Openspaces are connected to a given unit at any time (hence the lower maintenance fees). And the lower fees seemingly attracted users who wanted to maintain their virtual existence and be budget-conscious at the same time. SAI’s Eric Krangel says Linden Labs’ announcement is indicative of larger issues facing Second Life: a declining paid user base, an in-world real-estate market that’s bottoming out, and dwindling demand for the pricier Mainland. New CEO Mark Kingdon may well be wondering what he’s got himself into. After all, if people are having a hard time paying their rent in the real world, how quickly (and easily) do you think they’d default on their virtual mortgages?