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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How to Change Your Avatar Name in Second Life: A Step by Step Guide

Today, Linden Lab finally released a much asked-for and eagerly-awaited feature: the ability to change your avatar name!

Given the ongoing interest in “last names” among our community, we’ve reinstated “last names” effective today as a new option for Second Life Premium Members. If you have a Premium account, you will be able to visit https://secondlife.com/my/account to change your first, last or both names. In the true spirit of the original “last names” option last seen in 2010, participating Residents will once again be able to choose from a rotating list of available last names. Some names may only be available for a limited time, so if you see one you like then you might want to claim it quickly! 

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you …Bumbly Rumpler:

Yes, that is her actual, honest-to-God, legacy name. (I honestly do not know what I was thinking at the time.) Such an unfortunate name to be saddled with, for such an elegant lady. I have been itching to change it for years, and now I finally have my opportunity!

Now that Linden Lab has—finally—made it possible to change your avatar’s legacy name, I thought I would draw up some step-by-step instructions on how to change your name.

Before we begin, you do need to understand the difference between your avatar’s legacy name (the name you chose for your avatar when you created your Second Life account) and your avatar’s display name (which you can change to pretty much anything you want, one change per week). What I am talking about here is changing your avatar’s legacy name, the one you picked out when creating her.

Step 1: Upgrade Your Account to Premium

First: you will need to upgrade the Second Life account associated with your avatar to Premium. (You will not be able to change your avatar’s legacy name if you are using a free, Basic account.)

So open up a web browser, log in to the Second Life website, click on Login in the upper right-hand menu on your screen, and enter your avatar name and password. You will be taken to your account dashboard.

At the dashboard, click on Account in the left-hand menu, then click on Premium Membership:

Note that you have several options when upgrading your account from Basic to Premium: annual, quarterly, or monthly payment. You will have to pay for at least one month’s worth of Premium membership in order to change your avatar’s name, in addition to a separate fee.

Step 2: Click on Change Name

Look in the left-hand column of your dashboard at https://secondlife.com/my/account (you should still be signed in from the previous step). You will see a new option called Change Name. Click on it.

You will see the following information, including the charge for the name change: US$39.99.

Click on the Next Step button to continue.

Step 3: Choose a New First and/or Last Name

To change your first name, check the checkbox next to the words Change First Name in the TOP BOX, and type your new first name into the text box underneath. (If you wish to keep your legacy first name, uncheck the checkbox.)

To change your last name, check the checkbox next to the words Change Last Name in the BOTTOM BOX, then click one of the radio buttons next to the list of last names presented to you. (If you wish to keep your legacy last name, uncheck the checkbox and leave your original last name, which appears at the bottom of the list, as the selected name.

If you are changing both your first and last names, then when you are done, your screen should look something like this:

Remember, you must be logged out of your account on your viewer before submitting your name change!

When you’re ready, click on the Review Changes button.

Step 4: Confirm Your Name Change

You will be presented with your old and new names:

If you are satisfied with this, click on the Continue to Checkout button. Otherwise, click on the Go Back link and start over again.

Step 5: Pay for Your New Name

Review your charges and click the blue Buy Now button. (Note: the current exchange rates between the Canadian and American dollars are killing me. CA$62.33 is a lot more than I expected to have to spend to change my name! I’m quite sure other people using non-American currencies are feeling the pinch, too.)

Step 6: Success!

If you are successful, you will see the following familiar message on your screen:

And finally: a message of congratulations on your name change:

The message reads:

Your account name has been changed to Moesha Heartsong

It may require a few hours for this change to take place in all of the Second Life systems, viewer and web site. In the meantime you may see a mix of your old name and new name. If you continue to see your old name anywhere in Second Life after 24 hours, you may file a support ticket.

Congratulations on your new identity!

Now, ladies and gentlemen, may I present my rechristened avatar…Moesha Heartsong:

And there you have it! Six easy steps to change your Second Life avatar name. If you still have questions, Linden Lab has published a Changing Your Username FAQ, with answers to the most commonly-asked questions Second Life users may have.

Editorial: Why Is the Second Life Avatar Name Change Feature Taking So Long?

We want it NOW, not later!!!

You might be interested to know that my blogposts about being able to change your Second Life avatar name are among my most visited (notably, this one, with over 9,000 views so far).

We have been waiting a long, long, long time for Linden Lab to release this eagerly-awaited feature. The last time I wrote about it, I quoted a Linden Lab blogpost that said:

Soon it will be possible to change the name of a Second Life account. This is one of our Residents’ most requested features and we’re working furiously to make it available by the end of January. 

Soon?!?? It’s already March and we are still waiting. I don’t know about you, but I am starting to get fed up.

At the very least, give us a new timeline and/or deadline, Linden Lab. This is getting ridiculous already.