I have had a chance to do some serious thinking, now that I have gone through the process of changing the legacy avatar name on one of my alts in Second Life. It was an easy, painless process, for which I thank Linden Lab. They seem to have done a good job of implementing this much-requested feature.
I knew that it would cost me, but I am shocked at just how much it did actually cost me. This is an avatar whom I upgraded from Basic to Premium, both to take advantage of the new name change feature, and to snag one of those lovely Victorian Linden Homes.
But if I had just wanted to change my avatar name, how much would I have to spend at minimum? I would have had to upgrade from Basic to Premium for one month on the Monthly plan (US$11.99 per month). Then, I would have to pay a one-time name change fee of US$39.99 to be able to change my avatar’s first and/or last names. Then, I would have to cancel my Premium membership once I had changed my avatar name (at least, that’s how I understand it would work).
That works out to a grand total of US$51.98. Now, factor in the exchange rate between the Canadian dollar and the American dollar, and that works out to an eye-watering CA$78.99 (I used today’s exchange rate for the US$11.99, and added the CA$62.33 Linden Lab actually charged me for the name change fee.)
Yes, you read that right—ALMOST EIGHTY DOLLARS FOR A NAME CHANGE. That is approximately double what I was expecting to pay for such a feature. This is outrageous.
Because of the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, many non-American currencies are losing value against the American dollar, which has traditionally been seen as a “safe haven” for investors (along with gold) during times of economic distress. The Canadian dollar has gotten hammered, and it makes everything I do in Second Life much more expensive than it would normally be: the cost of a Premium membership (I now have three), buying Linden dollars, etc.
In a recent interview on Lab Gab, Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg was asked about those people who are experiencing difficulties in paying for sims due to pandemic-related financial difficulties (with Second Norway being a recent example, where the owner cited the failing Norwegian krone exchange as part of his problems making ends meet). Ebbe encouraged those users to call the Support team to discuss their particular situations, which would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Well, that might be well and good for major landlords in Second Life who are struggling to make ends meet. But I rather doubt that the Second Life Support team is going to help me out by offering to lower the cost of an avatar name change because it’s so goddamn expensive in Canadian dollars
Obviously, Linden Lab is going to make some serious coin off this new feature. They have a decade of pent-up demand, after all. But non-Americans, whose currencies are suffering in comparison to the mighty U.S. dollar, are getting walloped. I really don’t see how many people around the world can afford this service.
I mean, for eighty Canadian dollars, I could outfit my avatar from head to toe in a new mesh head and body, and still have money left over to go shopping for new hair, clothing, and shoes. What’s the better use of my money in SL, my appearance or a name change? You’re going to have to have some seriously compelling reasons to spend that much cash, just to change what other people see when they look at you in their SL viewer.
And, at a time when many are facing mounting economic hardship, when people are losing hours of work, gigs, or even entire livelihoods during this pandemic, these fees seem particularly harsh, tone-deaf and out-of-touch.
And it’s not just non-Americans I am thinking about here; many Americans now face unprecedented economic hardship, too. A virtual world like Second Life is probably not going to rank too terribly high when people are more worried about how to pay their mortgage or feed themselves and their families.
Frankly, this just makes Linden Lab look greedy. Not a particularly good look at a time like this.
What do you think? Do you think these fees are outrageous? Should Linden Lab take into account that many foreign currencies are getting hammered, and make services like this less expensive for non-Americans? Should Linden Lab consider the economic shock of the pandemic in setting their fees going forward?
Please feel free to leave a comment below and tell me what you think, thanks.