by Alphaville Herald on 21/04/09 at 8:20 am
by Pixeleen Mistral, National Affairs desk
Adz is the lucky recipient of three gift balloons
Gift balloons and subscription fee discussions have appeared in Metaplace during the last week – signs of an impending move to an open beta and broader access to the web-browser based world construction kit.
Last week, the game gods of Metaplace added a new in-world spacebux sink – gift balloons for sale at 3 coins each. By clicking on another player and selecting the give gift option, a generous soul may buy a balloon which then trails the recipient of the gift for a short time, then disappears.
Placing a real world value on the ballooning transaction is difficult. There is not yet a virtual currency to real money trade in Metaplace – at least in part because currently all MP coin transactions go through the MP Marketplace in exchange for goods. It is unclear when a player-to-player payment system will evolve, but presumably this is planned as part of the recent launch of an in-world currency. Some speculate the balloon transaction is a test case for a more general class of inter player transactions, which could set the stage for a more robust economy. Certainly in-world currency sinks will be needed to avoid rampant mudflation.
In related news, Raph Koster has used the Metaplace forums to float several subscription fee options being considered to fund the Metaplace business in combination with a “first taste is free” marketing model.
While still in the discussion phase, the broad outlines of the monetize Metaplace approach appear to be to provide anyone with an e-mail address with a single starter world with a 10 concurrent visitor limit – free accounts will have access to the all the MP tools and can buy 5-packs of additional places. In addition, event passes could be purchased to raise the concurrent visitor limits for special events.
Premium subscribers would pay a monthly fee for access to 20 premium (larger) worlds with double the concurrent user capacity and an option to buy event passes to raise capacity further for premium events.
Koster's proposal also addresses the issue current participants in the closed alpha and beta test phase of Metaplace. These players would be be grandfathered in for one year of premium subscription service.
While paying a subscription fee is a foriegn concept to the majority of Second Life's residents, Linden Lab has an established real money trade in the Lindex, and a newly nationalized marketplace to help fund the Lab's business. For a small startup bootstrapping a world, these options are not likely to generate much cash until the in-word population has grown significantly, so subscription fees may be a reasonable first step.
Will gift balloons and the prospect of saving a year of subscription fees cause a stampede of signups during the last few days of the Metaplace closed beta by those wishing to game the system? We will know soon enough.
Discussing the finer points of world design – 3DSquared, Pixeleen, and Raph Koster