Fighting the L$ downward spiral – a solution

US$ as the strong currency in SL?

Now imagine that Sol’s vendor system (and possible future, competing ones) start slowly to become the norm. All content creators will finally break free from the tyranny of the consumers always wanting a devaluated L$, and, as a result, everybody will now do all their transactions in US$. The L$ will be just a “micropayment” solution, not a virtual currency. This is not unlike what happens on developing countries with a weak currency ? they do all their payments in Euros or US dollars, although they’re vaguely aware that they have a national currency as well, but nobody uses it except for small change. Or like the “credits” system used on many dating sites, they’re not “real money”, just a way for people to track transactions, but all of those ultimately are made in dollars.

I’m not exactly sure what this means in terms of Second Life. On one hand, I’m glad that people start to appreciate that you can’t have an ever-devaluating virtual currency that only benefits consumers but ruins producers. If the producers do not get a fair compensation for their talented work, they’ll pack and go ? I have met some people that get mad at them and yell: “L$ 4,000 for a pair of skins! That’s highway robbery!” They forget that some skins have taken two-people teams over six months to create! And they sell it for just US$10?! That’s not a bargain, that’s, as Terry Pratchett’s character would say, “cuttin’-me-own-throat”. 🙂 It was not even long ago that for a slight surcharge, you could even get a personalised skin, which, in turn, would set you back an extra US$5 or so. Who is the graphcial designer these days that charges in real life US$5 for several hours of work? Nobody!

(Yes, I used to ask for unique items of clothing long time ago; it was a fashion for a while; these days, almost only Torley asks for that. I did that mostly because it was tremendously cheap. Now content creators can’t bother to spend hours doing unique items, concentrating their efforts in much more profitable mass-marketed products with a higher degree of customisation)

A very close friend of mine does logo design in SL for 6 or 7 US$, with full copyright permissions, and several open formats, so that the customer is able to tweak it to one’s taste. In real life, she would charge at least US$250 for that, depending on the use of the logo.

We cannot forget that talented creators in Second Life are terribly underpaid, too hard-working, and subject to many pressures: competition, innovation, style, fashion. When a new trend settles in (for instance, the tines, during the summer of 2005), they have to be very quick on the market to change all their products ? or disappear in the attempt. To keep up the constant production of high quality products takes much more than time, skill, technique, and patience ? it’s an act of love ? but it also means that these professionals are not doing anything else which might provide them a better income in RL. Even the many that view SL as “just entertainment” will have to think twice ? how much time are they spending in creating new things, how much can they afford to have their shops open, how much tier are they willing to pay for all those shops, and is it worth all the trouble?

My guess is that if you can factor out the devaluation of the L$, the creative artists will have one less thing to worry about. And this is a good thing.

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