A week after Linden Lab said it was raising the cost of buying and maintaining much of the virtual land in Second Life, leading to open revolt among many users, the company has significantly revised its pricing policies. Citing enormous customer feedback, Linden CEO Mark Kingdon laid out the revision today on the company’s blog.
At issue are the fate of so-called “Openspaces,” Second Life regions where wilderness and open ocean predominate. Such regions were designated for “light use” when Linden put them up for sale earlier this year, but that term was somewhat ambiguously defined, and what happened next is a case study in the challenges inherent in managing user-generated content. Many residents began building massive constructions and businesses on their Openspaces, causing unexpected server load. Meanwhile, others kept their land use comparatively light, adding Openspaces to existing property to buy a better view, for example, or to use as extra space for virtual sailing and other activities. No one was happy when the company announced the price hikes, but the light users in particular felt unfairly penalized.
In the revision, Openspace owners who comply with these regions’ original intent will be exempt from the increase, but will have to abide by technical limitations that Linden Lab is now implementing into their world’s server architecture, to insure they’re kept light use. Those who don’t comply will eventually pay the original price hike. So far, the virtual world’s user base seems largely receptive to the change. In an unscientific survey on my Second Life blog, reaction currently runs overwhelmingly positive, with nearly 70 percent describing themselves as satisfied — though much of them, just begrudgingly so.