After about four years, I’m going to close the doors for my rental business in Second Life.1
Because I know there’s lots of people speculating about Second Life in general, my business standards, and the business climate inworld, I want to talk briefly about some of the things I’ve noticed, the decisions I made, and why. Even if you’re not in Second Life, I hope you’ll see something of use when reflecting on your own business decisions.
I am not leaving Second Life. I’m not sure what form my participation will take – see below for that. But the business is actively losing me money, and I’m not okay with that.
The user base is becoming divided. This is part of the problem – my small “starter” rentals are actually doing fine. They were designed for people who had stuck around for a while, but weren’t yet ready to commit to a Premium account. Unfortunately, they’re small and time-intensive. The medium and large rentals have remained largely vacant for months. (And by “medium”, I mean L$125-L$150 a week.) I’m presuming they’re either buying land or leaving.
I don’t have the time to maintain them all or promote them. There’s a certain amount of per rental setup and maintenance time. Although I might be able to rent four small rentals instead of one medium one, the time investment for me is four times as large, and I can’t keep up. This has been going on for about a year, unfortunately. My attempts at limiting and fixing the problem have lessened, but not solved the problem. Part of that is my fault – I tried to expand faster than I should have – but even when I had everything up and running fine, the problem existed.
This is not a short-run trend. Occupancy has been running at 50% or less for six months (with lows of 20%-25%). I require 66% occupancy to break even.
I don’t think SL is dead, dying, or whatever. I think W. James Au made a great point about long-term committed users recently. They’re going to be around, until Linden Labs shoves them out or won’t support them. Most of the ones I know who are interested in having a virtual home or land have already bought it.
I don’t enjoy the business any more. The rental business, that is. There’s always a proportion of renters who were jerks, broke rules, or otherwise caused problems. That percentage has increased. By a lot. I enjoy building, creating, and otherwise solving problems. I don’t enjoy dealing with twits with an overwrought sense of self-entitlement. Business in general? Second Life in general? I look forward to enjoying those more soon. Ironically, this decision may mean that I spend more time inworld, not less.
So what am I going to do now? I’m not sure. I am going to keep some land for myself – I’ve got a nice house model by a Linden road that I think will make a good bookstore. Maybe I’ll invite some other writerly folks to build a mall. Maybe create a meeting/writing/sharing space deliberately for small and displaced communities. Maybe have a few small rentals to pay my own sim fees. Maybe get into OpenSim as well/again.
We’ll see. It’ll be fun.
1 Current and past tenants still a part of the group will have first dibs on land at a reduced price.