Friday, 9 March 2012

Second Life - The Cost Of A Freebie Culture.

If you type "Second Life Freebies" into Google you will be spoilt for choice with websites and blogs dedicated to providing links and information on where you can grab a freebie from in Second Life

I am one of many people in SL who don't "like" freebies and who don't appreciate people who give away quality content just for kindness, feel good factor and fun.

Its a tough argument to make because naturally there are a massive amount of people who just love a freebie.
Who doesn't?
So by saying "I don't approve" automatically slams me in the "Greedy Capitalist Jail"

But please allow me to defend my reasoning before you condemn me as a Party Pooper!

The act of "giving" is seen as an act of kindness and good will which by default puts the act of "Selling" as selfish and greedy.
I see it a lot on my SL Marketplace reviews were consumers will mark me 4 out of 5 stars because they felt whilst they love the textures, they felt the price was too much.

As I say, its a hard battle to fight and for the purpose of this article, I am including 10L (or less) items in my argument.

The fact is, if a stay at home mom decides to gift her time, skill and resulting wares away instead of selling them,  then we can assume she (Or he) is financially secure in real life.
They are fortunate enough not to need the possible income they could generate to pay their real food, heating or rent bills.
Perhaps they have a very well paid husband/wife or perhaps they are retired on a nice retirement fund.
It could be many or a mixture of reasons but clearly they don't "need" the potential income or else they would be converting their time and skill into cold hard cash,  just like anyone would if they "needed" it.

But the majority of people in SL (and more so in the current economy) do not have that luxury.
They are mostly trying to pay for the land they rent from Linden Labs or if they're very greedy (lol) trying to pay their real life bills.

Now, you might argue: "So? Let the givers give and the sellers sell"

Some people give things away because "they can" and in return get some kind of feel good factor which gives them a sense of purpose or popularity and others give their content away to entice new customers to their store in the hope of them making a purchase or at the very least, to boost their traffic.

But when ever some one "gives" an item away that could otherwise be sold from someone else, that "someone else" looses a potential sale and this leaves a small but definite negative mark on the economy.

You could say that "someone else" is paying for that freebie because the money a merchant generates from the goods they sell,  goes towards the upkeep and maintenance of SL and Linden Labs which the freebie merchants are using.
And some merchants don't own land or have premium accounts as they just "give" on the SL Marketplace which costs them nothing.

On the subject of the SL Marketplace, the same rule applies. Those freebie merchants are using the website and platform (And associated manual labour ie: Linden Labs) to upload and distribute freebies.
It's the "real merchants" who pay for the running of the SLMP by paying a fee of 5% on each Linden Dollar sale they generate.

Again, "someone" is paying for the freebies, but it's not the consumer.

The amount of freebies available in SL is overwhelming and has had a direct impact on the economy and consumer spending habits and expectations.

There are people in SL who have a free account and their very virtual existence is based on collecting freebies.
In fact, it's THE reason they log in.. it's the object of "the SL game",  if you like.

A strong and healthy economy is vital for Second Life to exist.

A weak economy means Linden Labs as a company would eventually fold, taking SL down with them.

As more and more people "gift" or lower the prices of their content,  then the demand for Linden Dollar drops too as less people need it or decide "Why buy it when there are so many freebies?" 

I can relate to that reasoning. 

When I was new to SL in 2004,  I too decided I wanted to avoid having to buy Linden Dollar. But back then the freebies were generally low quality and scarce.

So I, like many others of that era used the free 512 plot of land that you got when you paid for a premium account opened a store and started to make and sell content.
This meant that we were putting something back both into the pockets of Linden Labs and into the SL economy as a whole.

Today, there is little incentive to pay for premium account and even less to rent land or buy content because we have the SLMP (Which means you can become a merchant without having a paid for premium account and no requirement to rent land) and we can grab as many high quality freebies as we wish, there seems to be no limits.
IMVU Marketplace  Listings Low to High (No Freebies) 

In contrast to Second Life, and (Both online virtual worlds with economies and a market place) do not have freebies. None.
There is no such thing because the owners have not provided a place for people to list and "sell" content for free.

This means consumer spending habits are totally different to that of SL. 
Consumers when logged into these alternative worlds,  fully expect and indeed accept that if they want to own something they see on the Marketplace,  they have to pay for it, just like real life.

The real world economy is under a similar threat as businesses are going bust due to low spending and poor consumer confidence which has a knock on effect for other stores who are constantly running sales and "Buy One Get One Free" campaigns to generate sales.

Consumers in the real world "expect" things to be cheap now. We resent paying full price for anything in the current economy.

But no one is giving stuff away and that's the difference.
Real life stores have real life bills to pay for so they can't afford to give stuff away and that's the point really.

By all means run a time restricted sale or a BOGOF week but please reconsider giving high quality content away because all you are doing is pushing the cost onto someone else and causing long term damage to the SL economy and by default SL itself. 


  1. Thank you so much for shedding a light to another side of things in SL. I remember way back when creator's started charging L$ for "freebies" and hunt items. I admit that I was a little shocked by it at first, but over time, it's become pretty common. This post has definitely given me some food for thought.
    (I hope you don't mind, I linked to it on my FB page, hoping for some feedback from those who read it there.)

  2. I am glad that someone else has similar feeling as me. I am a designer who is thinking to quit. I feel bad about the culture in SL now. I used to give out freebies very often. Now, I don't want to do that. What I see is 80% of my customers or so-called VIP come to get freebies, instead of paying to support my works.

    Technology has empowered us in SL. Everyone can work as 'a designer', both talented and non-skilful ones. If you are not good at using Photoshop, no worries, there are templates done by photoshop experts. It's okay if one uses the templates to make something to sell. However, some people use these quality templates to make freebies / cheapies to attract traffic. This creates an idea for residents that 'good things do not have to cost a lot'.

    I understand the point of 'drawing traffic'. If your quality goodies, freebies are availalbe for a period of time just to get your name out, it is perfectly fine. However, why should someone pay you if you continue providing good free stuff? Get it real. They will introduce your store to their friends JUST because there are quality FREE things at your store. That results in having lots of people come for free things but very very few people will really pay to support your store. Even worse, I have some cheapies in the store like 1-10L. A lady COMLAINED to me that other big stores are giving things out for free. She felt disappointed that she had to pay 1L or 10L for my things. This is my real experience.

    You can be harsh and say that if you are good enough, you would not be eliminated. Agreed. I think good designers should get more money. However, if the idea 'no need to pay for someone else time and effort' has become a habit, that will really turn off people who do not want to use expert templates to design. Why should I spend days to make a dress when someone else can spend an hour making changes to a ready-to-sell items?

  3. thank you for the link to this blog. you do raise a valid point miss lillybeth :) so far, i've only given away my creations much in the same manner i gave you the lamp...a personal gift for an act of kindness. i think that i understand the point you are making. lol...challenging as it can be for a faerie to understand humans.....count me as a supporter of your viewpoint :)