Editorial: An Outrageous Price for Second Life Avatar Name Changes, Particularly for Non-Americans and Those Suffering from the Economic Shock of the Coronavirus Pandemic

The strength of the U.S. dollar vis-à-vis other currencies is making
the new avatar name change feature outrageously expensive
(photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash)

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.

However

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.

I spent TWICE as much as this to change the name on my avatar.
(photo by Michelle Spollen on Unsplash)

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.

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9 thoughts on “Editorial: An Outrageous Price for Second Life Avatar Name Changes, Particularly for Non-Americans and Those Suffering from the Economic Shock of the Coronavirus Pandemic”

  1. Yeah its very greedy and stupid imo. If it were cheaper without needing premium they’d make more money long term because they’d get more impulse buyers. I mean 50$ your gonna think hard before spending. 10$ you won’t think about as much. Now you’ve potentially got a situation where someone may impulse change that name 5 or more times. Especially I bet people who want there in game parents or spouses last name. Etc.

    1. They’ve always been greedy and it wasn’t until this service people have taken notice and have spoken about it. Most games have premium memberships with perks but it’s ridiculous and unheard of to have to pay a fee to change your user name because normally that’s part of a premium perk. But premium gives you the right to change your name , meaning you’ll have the right to see the page for it but that’s it , you’ll need to pay further to do anything else. Does that make sense to anyone? If there’s anything that will run down second life it’s going to be whomever is making price tags for small actions such as these and not doing their research into online games and microtransactions.

  2. I agree that it’s a lot of money, especially taking into account exchange rates. However, there are some factors that I think played into Linden Lab’s decision to set the price where they did. For one, I doubt this is something they want people doing on a whim, as it would play havok with their back-end services. For another, they want folks to think about if this is something they really *need* to do.

    In any case, though, I think they’re damned however they price the Name Change system. And lowering costs overall, especially for non-US users, is going to be a protracted process at best. Maybe without the cost and distraction of Sansar that’ll speed up, but not by much, I suspect.

    Personally, I will probably change my username at some point, for the single reason that I’m tired of people calling me that instead of my display name. It looks like I’ll be waiting a while before they make available a last name that’s closer to one I can live with.

    1. Honestly alot of games have the function for you to change your name and they’ve never mentioned anything about about it being too much trouble on their system . Be it big or a small game. They should at least make it that after you’ve changed your name you need to wait 3 months before doing it again etc. That would be better in the long run.

  3. The only possible positive hypothesis I can offer is that they were worried about being hammered with name change requests, so they made it expensive enough that people will think twice. I have no idea how much of a burden large amounts of name changes would be on their system per Emily’s imagined avatars impulse-changing their names five times. If it’s no significant burden at all then I don’t know what their excuse is. The timing is poor, but it is unlikely to be better any time soon, and this is a consequence of their endless dawdling. I agree that what you had to pay is shocking and that a lot of people right now would have to choose something like buying food instead.

  4. Honestly, I think people are getting way too upset over something that is basically a vanity issue and not at all necessary for anyone in SL. If it’s too expensive (and I agree it is), just don’t do it.

  5. The price of USD$39.99 per name change (not including account upgrade) was decided before the coronavirus raised its head. The $40-a-pop is designed to deter trolls/griefers from running wild with name changes. And no one could have predicted the downturn in currency exchanges due to the pandemic. Having said all that, yes, only those with big pockets can now afford to change their names, unless LL decides to drop the price.

  6. Inara Pey has some answers to why the price is so high. The official reason is to discourage over-use, as the name changes affect *every* level of the SL system.

    Inara writes: “The fee has been intentionally set at a level where for those who are attracted to it will not use it to excess. This is because Name Changes go to the very heart of a Second Life account, and thus touch every single element of the platform – from the name you see on the screen over an avatar to things like inventory data, land information, the things and products they make and / or sell, transactions they have made, the groups of which they are a member, and so on and so forth. As such, every name change impacts a range of services and databases which may sound “simple” in terms of field / array update – but which still have an impact.”

    She adds in the comment section: “The official reason is to discourage over-use. The fact that implementing the capability has come at the expense of two years worth of work as result of SL being built on the premise that user names would never change also plays a part (and so making the shift probably more involved than just changing lines in a few databases) in that LL would like to recoup at least some of the cost of that expenditure. Which is not to say I agree with the fee being (initially?) pegged at that level, given it will be an outright deterrent for a (possibly large) proportion of those who are in a position to use it and might actually want to use it – but time will tell on that, I suppose.”

    https://modemworld.me/2020/04/13/linden-lab-announces-the-return-of-last-names-and-some-notes/

  7. That would leave the question being “Why even bring it back?” if it was going to be this problematic?

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