Linden Lab announced yesterday that they’ll be starting Linden Homes a new land program to entice users into upgrading by providing premium users with a free 512 sq.m. mainland plot, including an unfurnished house. There will be some restrictions on the parcel, though: “the house cannot be removed and the parcels cannot be sold, joined, terraformed or divided. Events and classifieds cannot be created for these parcels; only Premium Members can own them, and only one per account.”
I’ve heard some grumbling from various established Residents, along the lines of, “Why do they think I would want this?” Indeed, it’s a really weak incentive for existing premium users who are already established in Second Life. A small parcel you can’t sell, a house that you can’t change or remove, and no events or classified listings allowed? Pshaw! Who would want that, when you can own your own, fully featured and customizable land?
Well, to all the people unimpressed with LL’s offering, allow me to point something out: It’s not for you. Or for me, or anyone else who has owned or rented land before.
The Lindens don’t think we would want this. They probably don’t care much what we think about it. We’re simply not part of the target market for this program. For an established land owner to ask, “Why do they think I would want a Linden Home?”, is like a professional mountain biker scoffing, “Bah! This bike shop sells training wheels! Why do they think I would want training wheels?”
If you want to evaluate the effectiveness of this plan, you must consider its goals. Jack Linden writes in the announcement:
A key aim for the beta is to provide easy entry into inworld home ownership (especially for new Residents) while not competing with estate owners. These estates do an amazing job of providing quality experiences for Residents. We want to create an on-ramp so new Resident can learn how valuable and simple owning land can be, but then move naturally on to larger parcels elsewhere.
The Linden Homes program is the spiritual successor of the ill-fated First Land program of years ago. Jack Linden wrote when the First Land program was discontinued, way back in February 2007:
The First Land program was put in place to encourage land ownership for those moving up to Premium membership. Increasingly we have found that these cheap L$1 per meter parcels were not benefitting those people as intended. Because of the low price, they were being immediately sold, or bought via alts, purely for profit.
So, the goals of this plan would seem to be:
- Entice non-land-owners into upgrading to premium accounts.
- Introduce more users to the benefits of land ownership.
- Provide a safe and positive first experience with land ownership.
- Encourage users to move on to full-fledged land ownership afterwards.
- Prevent the new land from entering the commercial land market.
- Avoid directly competing with estate owners and land rental businesses.
We’ll see whether the plan will actually achieve these goals in the months to come, but I think there’s a very good chance that it will be successful. The Lindens have clearly put thought into this, and learned from the problems of the old First Land program — even the ones they didn’t mention directly, like the unattractive sprawling masses of tightly-packed “shoebox homes” that one would find all over the First Land areas.
What’s more, there seem to be very few downsides, and few ways in which the plan could seriously backfire. Of course, many estate owners and landlords/ladies will probably stamp their feet and curse Linden Lab for competing with them. The wiser and more far-sighted of them, though, will be pleased that LL is growing a new crop of future customers for them.
All in all, this is one of the best plans I’ve seen come out of Linden Lab in a long time. Well thought out, well communicated, with their goals and motives laid out in the open. It’s not often I get to say this, but gold star to the Lindens on this one.
Now, returning to the current premium owners who are bemoaning the fact that this offer is useless to them: notice that none of the goals is “provide an additional incentive for established land owners to keep their premium account”. This plan isn’t about you.
So when you ask, “Why does Linden Lab think I would want this?”, what you’re really asking is, “Why is Linden Lab paying attention to someone other than me?” Whether we established Residents like it or not, the answer to that question is obvious and simple: Linden Lab is a business, and they have judged that it’s more profitable to put most of their effort attracting new customers, than to spend their days fawning over the ones who keep coming back anyway.