Thoughts on the Land Market in Second Life and the Newer Virtual Worlds

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Photo by Jesse Roberts on Unsplash

Through the Second Life Friends group on Facebook, I found out about my new favourite thing/activity in Second Life. It’s a backpack by ScriptWorks that you wear, and when you click it, it teleports you to a random spot anywhere within Second Life! (You can set it to avoid Adult-rated areas if you wish.)

You can buy a set of 5 random teleporter backpacks on the SL Marketplace, which means that you can give them to your friends and go exploring together! A group of backpack wearers can be simultaneously teleported to any random location on the grid, estates as well as mainland sims. It is great fun and a great way to see Second Life!

In spending my time exploring the SL grid with this backpack, I have learned a few things while hopping around from sim to sim:

  1. There is a lot of empty/abandoned land on the SL mainland. According to the Second Life Grid Survey, between 20.7% and 21.4% of Mainland by area is abandoned parcels, but to my eye, it looks like much more than that. No wonder Linden Lab is trying to encourage more land use by decreasing the cost of tier and doubling the amount of free land given to Premium members.
  2. There are a lot of people who are land barons, who buy land, subdivide it, and rent it out to other people. I really had had no idea that it was such a big business in SL! I have visited some attractively designed communities like Cedar Creek, Lionheart, and Orchard Heights, where I was tempted to rent a beautiful home for myself.

Which got me thinking about the concepts of land and land rental in the newer virtual worlds. It’s going to be a lot harder for people to make money as land barons in places like Sansar, where you can get up to three 4km-by-4km spaces for free (and even more land if you upgrade to one of the paid subscription levels).

However, there may still be a market for people who create well-designed spaces that other people want to rent. Drax has said that he wants to rent out the currently empty houses that line the street in his 114 Harvest experience. I’d certainly be interested in renting one of those houses!

The thing is, once you own land, you want to build something on it. This, in turn, drives the economy, as people purchase houses, trees, swimming pools, etc. I used to own land in Second Life, both on the mainland and then in the planned community of Bay City, but I sold it years ago. For many years I was homeless, like many SL avatars (although I did have access to a secret spot with build rights, where I could unpack boxes and change outfits).

Then very recently, I decided to use one of my Premium accounts to get myself a Linden Home in Second Life, and right after that I went out and bought some new furniture from many of the designers whom I have met and gotten to know from my time in Sansar, like Maxwell Graf. Loz Hyde, Froukje Hoorenbeek (a.k.a. Dutchie), and Ria Bazar!

What about newer virtual worlds other than Sansar? I seem to remember visiting a domain in High Fidelity where avatars could set up homes for themselves, but I’m not sure what the status of that project is (and I’m not even sure if I could find it again!). Much like Sansar, Sinespace actually gives you a free home space which you can decorate as you wish.

Frankly, most of the people currently exploring and inhabiting the newer social VR spaces/virtual worlds are creators rather than consumers, who are going to build from scratch rather than select ready-made items from a marketplace to decorate their living space. This means that most people are going to use their own (free) land rather than rent it from a landlord. It might stay that way for quite some time, which could be bad news for wannabe land barons in the newer virtual worlds. And it could be even worse news for people who bought expensive virtual land in places like Decentraland, hoping to be able to make some money by renting it out.

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Linden Lab Announces a Mainland Price Decrease in Second Life

In a surprise move today, Linden Lab announced that they’ve reduced Mainland land costs by 10%. Here’s a before-and-after comparison chart of the changes (here’s the source if you are having trouble reading the fine print):

Pricing and Allotment Comparison 14 Mar 2018

Another big announcement is that they are doubling the amount of free land that Premium members get, from 512 to 1,024 square metres. So that’s actually a benefit that may entice some people to upgrade to a Premium account. Maybe. (I’ve always thought that Linden Lab doesn’t give nearly enough perks to Premium members. 60 groups instead of 42? Big whoop-dee-do. As an SL fashionista, I need at least 100!)

It’s no secret that Linden Lab is sitting on top of lots and lots of unused/abandoned Mainland, so maybe this is a way for them to sweeten the deal somewhat, in order to encourage more land ownership. I’m rather skeptical that this move will work, but we’ll see. People who were fed up with the high land prices in Second Life either downsized long ago, or packed up and moved to one of the Opensim-based virtual worlds.