Thursday, 3 July 2008

Rezzable Introduces a Pay-to-Use Service

Gosh, this is the longest I've gone without posting to this blog - and on this occasion, you don't even get any pictures. Instead you get a long rambling prose piece - so good luck getting through it. Here we go....

Thanks to my chum Xantherus Halberd for letting me know via Twitter of this interesting blog post, concerning those inscrutable souls at Rezzable. Who? Oh come on... where have you been for the last year? Rezzable is a UK-based virtual world design and build company, who have brought us - or perhaps "have curated" would be more accurate - some of the most interesting sims on the Second Life grid. Their best-known sim remains Greenies, with its brilliant concept of a truly immense room infested by aliens. In fact, the company owns a large number of imaginative sims, many of which I have featured in this blog.

Anyway, it seems that they have grown tired of providing us ramblers, tourists and other freeloaders with free access to another of their great sims: Black Swan. Henceforth, visitors will need to stump up nearly 200L$ (about 40p or 80 cents) to acquire a HUD that will grant them entry. Anyone refusing to buy and wear the HUD will be ejected forthwith.

So why are they doing this? Their blog offers the following explanation:

"We are still exploring the right revenue model for virtual world content. We have merchandise that contributes some revenues. However,we have seen the interest in corporate sponsors (like L'Oreal Paris) evaporate. We think the best way to go forward is to charge for an object that can then be used many times for admissions. We realize that this may limit the number of visitors to the sim, but hope that high-quality areas are considered worth paying a little to see, explore and hang-out with friends."
(Thinks: But doesn't Kzero usually reference L'Oreal Paris as a success?)

When Rezzable first appeared there was a lot of conjecture about their business plan. There were making a significant investment in virtual real estate - and undertaking a lot of high quality (read: expensive) construction. Yet they didn't seem to be promoting or selling anything. My thought at the time - and I still think it valid now - is that they were looking to make A Big Splash and establish themselves, almost overnight, as a viable alternative to the established Big Boys of Second Life like, say, Electric Sheep and Millions of Us. But the L'Oreal Paris campaign aside (and that was never intended as a long term commitment, or so I understood), they have not exactly grabbed the corporate world by the lapels, spun it upside-down, and shaken the change from its collective pockets.

I am curious to know why not. At one time, say around 6 to 9 months ago, it looked like they might be getting into some commercial building work. But latterly Rezzable has resembled more of a "vanity project" than anything else. A harsh view perhaps, given that there are people whose livelihoods depend on it. But it seems Rezzable has not capitalised on that first eruption into Second Life, and has instead continued to spawn many interesting and arty sims that do nothing apart from (hopefully) putting the word "Rezzable" in people's minds.

So what about this new "money-maker"? If the sole reason for doing this was to try and get some money back to cover the outlay then I'd be inclined to question the sanity of the decision. But then, I'm a rambler and general freeloader, so I am bound to think that. There are so many amazing sims in SL that I'd sooner not pay for Rezzable ones, thanks, when I can enter the others Free Of Charge. I can get the gist of their exclusive, deluxe sims from Flickr and other bloggers, so I am struggling to see why I might then want to part with hard currency just to walk around them. This is not like RL, where I might spend half a day or more, wandering around a museum, gallery or historic site. In SL I am looking to be there for perhaps 15 minutes... and probably less.

But I don't think this is the sole reason why the HUD has been rolled out. I wonder if it is also a way of introducing a new pay-to-use solution that other SL entrepreneurs can buy off the virtual shelf. It's not a marketplace I've looked at, so I don't know if there is already a welter of such tools out there. But while the Rezzable HUD is currently set to be pay-to-use, based on a one-off payment, it would not take much further development to convert it to a one-off pay-per-use device instead. And there are many opportunities for such pay-per-use services.

Forgive my grubby mind, but for example a concept like this could work admirably for the... ahem... "Adult" market - a sizeable market in Second Life, let's face it. You can figure out how that might work, I'm sure. Similarly, you could use it as the basis for any ticketed event in Second Life - where the HUD = the ticket. Then you might have something...

But no doubt I've got it all wrong, and it's something totally different again. Let's see, eh?


nic mitham said...

Hey Al,

To clarify: K Zero contracted in Rezzables as part of the L'Oreal Paris campaign. L'Oreal is not a direct client of Rezzables, they're a client of K Zero. We (K Zero) devised the overall campaign and paid Rezzables to place the handbag into their Kitchen.

Peter Stindberg said...

Good post with some new angles. There are some new cmments to my initial post, one from RightAsRain Rimbaud as well. I too think they did not manage what ESC or Millions managed. But Rezzable is still here where ESC is struggling on many issues. Let's see where this all leads to - if they get away with this, we can be sure admission charges will mushroom all over SL.

Aleister Kronos said...

Thanks for the clarification, Nic. That was pretty much how I understood things, and therefore I was a little surprised to see reference to L'Oreal Paris as "corporate sponsors" in the Rezzable blog.

Peter, the more I think about it, the more I'd be happy to consider paying for events - music, multimedia etc. I still view builds as "landscape" I suppose, and not something I am personally prepared to pay for. But put on a decent music gig, and I might consider it. That might need a quantum leap in sim capacity before it becomes practical tho.

Anonymous said...

maybe I wasn't clear enough--L'Oreal was a great promotion from a corporate type ( and also great job from Nic/K-Zero to package it)--just that there have not been other companies eager to do the same kinda thing or even L'Oreal to repeat it...and why is that you might ask?

It is back end of the hype for SL and in general SL is not viewed well by the corporates. It is sad really, but LL does nothing to market the good news on the grid, just the alternative stuff that will keep scaring the mainstream people away.

It is the absence of a good marketing plan that creates the main issue on SL--not enough newbies. Question is who is buying the new land? Is it only void flipping and cheap rate education sales?

We never intended to be like ESC or MOU 'cause we felt/feel it wasn't the right play in SL. We create and operate the sims for our own account. I have done enterprise development in the past and this market is lower price/higher effort than stuff like J2EE work.

We are not happy and how little real growth there has been since Aug 2007 when Greenies first opened. 10mm registrations, global media coverage later, we only see sorta 50,000 more users.

So actually this whole debate, while interesting, about our pay-to-play strategy, is the wrong discussion to burn cycles on now. We should be asking both what is going to happen at LL and where are the next generation of virtual worlds to explore...

Aleister Kronos said...

Thanks RaR.

As regards "what's going to happen at LL", I suppose we might find out on Monday - though I'm not really expecting much.

Personally, I've not "burnt many cycles" on this and as I am running for my lunch, and not for my life, I have the luxury to do so, in my own dilettante-eque fashion. But sure, there is a huge issue about the failure of SL - and I assume, other similar VWs - to return to growth.

For corporates, SL is a great learning ground - it seems, before they either withdraw to await the "real virtual worlds" or retreat behind the corporate firewalls to build internal 3D intranets. FOr example, the UI just is too damn'd fiddly for most people - I've had that response soooo many times now.

And LL's efforts at Business Relations have been largely laughable. I am mulling a post about the role of Chris Collins, who has moved from "technical assistant to the CEO" to become "Director of Enterprise Business Systems". This shift - and the especially the job title - frankly intrigues me and I am waiting to see what this actually means.

Anonymous said...

Second Life is now split into two main markets: consumer and enterprise activity.

During a recent SRI event, Joe Miller was quoted as saying that Linden Lab's revenue is now 50% in the business and enterprise area. This number is growing, while the consumer market has flattened.

Lets see what happens on Monday...