For the longest time, Catwa absolutely ruled the Bento mesh head market, almost having a monopoly. But I get the impression that they are now under attack from all sides lately, and possibly losing market share.
The Genus Project has truly fired a shot across the bow with their release of the completely free, absolutely gorgeous Strong Face Bento mesh head group gift, which comes with a couple of fully-featured HUDs (including some things that Catwa used to charge extra for, after you shelled out L$5,000 for one of their heads). Seriously, this has got to be one of the best freebies I have ever picked up in Second Life, and I have seen one hell of a lot of freebies in my 14 years in SL!
I did a little tinkering with the free Strong Face head, and last year’s free group gift of the Altamura Juliet body, and I came up with the following look, which I am rather pleased with:
This avatar is wearing:
Mesh Head: Strong Face by Genus Project (free group gift; includes the mesh eyes)
Mesh Body: Juliet from Altamura (free group gift from Valentine’s Day 2019)
Skin Applier: Mila in the Milk skin tone, from Insol (dollarbie hunt prize in their current hunt); matching Omega body skin applier is free!
Lipstick Applier: free group gift from D’Selles from last year’s eBENTO Advent calendar
Hair: Bella hair in blonde (free Advent calendar gift from JUMO)
Ballgown: Cannes ballgown (free gift from Son!a Edge from the Valentine’s Day Shop and Hop event)
Necklace and Bracelet: Wild Whimsy by Chop Zuey (former free gift from The Free Dove)
Shoes (Not Shown): Sonnet pumps (free group gift from Hilly Haalan)
Animation Override: Chubby Girl AO by [ImpEle] (free from the SL Marketplace). This is a nice, simple, calm, free AO with no crazy movements. I added a free, separate Bento hand animator from the Altamura Juliet package. I am also using the Basic Animation HUD that was included with the Strong Face head by Genus Project.
TOTAL COST FOR THIS AVATAR: Only L$200! (L$100 to join the Altamura group, L$99 for the Omega system kit for Altamura mesh bodies, and L$1 for the Insol skin applier.) If this isn’t proof that you can have a stunning-looking avatar in Second Life without spending a lot of Linden dollars, I don’t know what is. I mean, that works out to less than one U.S. dollar, folks!
This is genius advertising for Genus Project heads, and if I were Catwa, I would be worried. Akeruka has also been slowly chipping away at Catwa’s lead with semi-annual free group gifts of Bento mesh head gifts over the past few years (although they seem to have stopped now). Other Bento mesh head retailers are having sales more often, I notice. Add in the recent avalanche of free and inexpensive Bakes-on-Mesh compatible Bento mesh heads, and the writing is truly on the wall for Catwa.
It didn’t help that, back in 2018, Catwa threatened rival Bento head creators Akeruka and GA.EG with a lawsuit, saying that they had copied the Catwa head UV map (The Whisperer website has all the receipts). Eventually, Linden Lab was forced to release a statement to respond to the brouhaha. Catwa was widely seen as bullying other, smaller Bento head creators, and as a result the company lost a lot of goodwill and respect among SL users.
The question is: how will Catwa respond to the Bento Head Wars? Will they hold their head high, pretend nothing has changed, and continue to charge L$5,000 for their heads? (To be fair, most other well-known Bento head brands cost a similar amount.) Will they lower their prices, throw more sales, perhaps even give away a free gift of their own?
Things are getting very interesting…please discuss amongst yourselves, and feel free to leave a comment with your own thoughts on the matter. Who do you think is winning the Bento Head Wars?