by Pixeleen Mistral on 26/04/10 at 2:57 am
Loki Clifton’s Second Life consulting business is in trouble. Until Wednesday, Loki was a gold level solutions provider for Linden Lab, the makers of Second Life. But according to Mr. Clifton, despite months of negotiations and an agreement to expand Woodbury University’s Second Life presence, everything suddenly changed Tuesday when the Lindens abruptly terminated accounts for players associated with the Woodbury University group and deleted their virtual land holdings.
What went wrong? According to Loki, “the fact is the Lab was not respecting the deal we made”. He went on to say “companies I have had long contracts with and where I was making most of my money have terminated my contract”.
Linden Lab has long partnered with 3rd party consultants who help customers create Second Life experiences, but after stripping Mr. Clifton of his solutions provider status, his customers have begun heading for the exists, concerned that he was acting as an intermediary between Woodbury University and Linden Lab after the Lindens had begun systematically deleting all Woodbury artifacts from the virtual world.
I spoke with Loki by phone as he travelled to Burbank, CA to meet with his remaining client – Woodbury – and he provided a chronology of the relationship.
In November, Linden Lab was considering terminating the Woodbury group in Second Life, but after Loki met with the Woodbury group in early December and described to Glenn Linden their plans to expand their virtual land holdings to create an educational environment that engaged the Second Life community at large, the Lab’s attitude changed. Glenn – the lead of the Lab’s solutions provider group was enthusiastic, particularly because Loki was involved in the project and he was encouraged to proceed.
During the January to March timeframe, a series of meetings were held with Jack, Cyn, and Glenn Linden to work out what the Linden’s legal team needed. Apparently there were concerns that “Woodbury” could not be used as the brand name of the effort because some in Linden Lab felt the name was synonymous with “griefing” or annoying other players in the game. According to Mr. Clifton this issue had been worked through and there was a plan in place to rebrand the venture.
The venture was to be ambitious – a dozen linked regions were to be created, some with access limited to members of the Woodbury group, others to be public where stores and musical events would be held. Mr. Clifton was to continue to act as a conduit between the Woodbury group and Linden Lab to help smooth out a troubled relationship that had developed around the deletion of the original Woodbury University Second Life island in July 2007.
But trouble began to develop as staffing changes inside Linden Lab resulted in first Jack Linden, then Jeska Linden becoming Loki’s contact for Woodbury issues. Loki had already placed orders for new sims about 10 days earlier when George Linden scheduled a meeting for 2:00 PM Tuesday. Loki said he had jokingly asked George if there was anything to be concerned about, but he was reassured that there was no problem.
Tuesday morning however, there were serious problems.
Loki had “about 50 messages” in his inbox stating that all of the current Woodbury sims were offline, and his attempts to place trouble tickets with Linden Lab to bring the sims back online were fruitless. Loki was no longer listed as an alternate for Jordan Bellino and Edward Clift of Woodbury because their accounts had been banned from Second Life. Loki had previously negotiated an expedite immediately status for tickets for the Woodbury sims along with the ability for both Bellino and Clift to file expedited tickets. This was now all out the window. Linden Lab had decided to delete Woodbury from their virtual world for the second time in three years – despite the potential cost in bad publicity and a looming class action lawsuit filed against Linden Lab the previous week for uncompensated deletion of virtual land.
As news of the deletion spread, Loki attempted to find out why the accounts and virtual assets of his customer had been removed. According to Mr. Clifton, Linden Lab staff would not comment citing “privacy policies”.
Loki told me that the suddenness of the move to remove Woodbury surprised him — when he took on Woodbury as a customer, he had no idea the heavy price in political capital and reputation he would pay. And so as Loki boarded a train to Burbank to meet with his customer the question of why Linden Lab has again deleted Woodbury remains unanswered.