It began with a small tweet from Elf Clan, one of the oldest groups in SL, that they were closing the last EC sim - ElvenMyst - and moving it to InWorldz, where they had already migrated most of their sims. The issue is outlined in this blog post.
Basically, ElvenMyst's Eldar/Admin tried handing LL money to pay tier... and tried... and tried... filed a Support Ticket like a good elf... no answer... and finally received an email (after a week) informing him that... he needed to pay tier.
"When Peter tried to log in to Second Life... his account had been closed. He could not enter a grid for which he has paid $350 a month for the last four years-- faithfully and without missing a single payment. Linden Lab has informed him that in 30 days his entire account will be wiped... including a significant investment in inventory. "
You can read the rest yourself. What is interesting and instructive is what followed on Twitter.
Many, many voices chimes in, retweeted this tweet and adding comments. Whether or not they were past or present members of EC, many people spoke out in dismay because Elf Clan is a very old, large and respected group in Second Life. At one time they owned an astonishing array of sims, all of them incredibly crafted. Many newbies came to the Elven Lands; it was one of the first terms I searched for myself in Second Life (I mean, virtual world, elves; it just seemed natural).
Elf Clan has always been known as a newb-friendly place; I always found unpaid Mentors and Guides there; EC put on some of the most wonderful group events in SL; they were very tolerant of avatar types and people in general. EC and Wayfinder have contributed an enormous amount of time and talent to Second Life, as well as trying to help LL troubleshoot various technical problems over their years of residency. As their blog notes, "in 2008 Elf Clan was paying Linden Lab almost $15,000 a year.
Not only has $15,000USD per year walked away to another grid (not counting Premium Membership fees), but let me assure you of something: elvenkind are a huge group of consumers. Elves buy enough clothing and an even more-amazing amount of weapons, magic wands, staffs, unicorns, bangles, particle effects, vehicles, horses, homes, trees... enough to stun several oxen. I cannot begin to guess how much income was lost from this group (and the tithe to LL of course via Marketplace).
Sure, you might write this off as just another glitch in Support. Unfortunately, this scenario can be retold countless times with countless players. For every person who says "I never had a problem with Support" there are at least as many who have had the kind of experience EC had. As was graphically-illustrated on Twitter today, EC's reach was far beyond "a couple sims of crazy RPing elves" and dynamically affected a lot more people than would at first be accounted for on some little income-graph, giving them yet one more sad and upsetting story to add to their opinion of Linden Lab's management of Second Life.
This is the type of problem I have been outlining in my Reply posts; the kind of problem that really should concern LL with all their talk of "retention" and "falling concurrency" and the rest. This isn't an isolated incident, as acknowledged on LL's own Grid Status and blog pages; the Euros have been having problems paying LL for at least a month. Other people have found themselves in the same position EC was in; unable to hand Linden Lab the money they were ready to pay and threatened with the loss of their sims, accounts and inventories.
It is this kind of cavalier inattention to user needs that is a very sore point with customers (residents). It is this kind of problem that is losing LL tier, Premium Memberships, and a lot of freakin' money. Despite all the babble coming out of LL, it really seems like they don't want our money; they don't want our participation/consumption; they don't want our presence in their world. After all, actions trump words every time.
If LL can't deal with this very real and very deep problem in management and public perception, nothing will help them. I do hope that Rod Humble, by his acknowledgement of this problem today on Twitter and his willingness to hear, will understand that this incident is not an isolated problem but reveals a much-deeper rift that is recognized by many Second Life residents, indicating a wide-area effect that is critical to the continued existence of Second Life's customer base. We are your customers and we bring through our experiences and words other customers to you.
Yes, we can put up with technical glitches; yes, problems happen. But when they happen over and over for several years, increasing with time, frustrating some of Second Life's biggest paying customers enough to have them scale back mightily on their land holdings, Marketplace ads and Premium Memberships... then the company has a very large and significant problem. It's certainly recognized by them; they publicly talk of future signups and retention...
The (forced) migration of the last Elven sim in Second Life is the small leaf that in its falling makes visible widening ripples in the deep pool that is SL. I sure hope someone at LL is paying attention; that's a whole lotta real money leaving Second Life (or already has) and adds another large weight to the opinion and calculations of other customers on whether their investment of time and money into Second Life is worthwhile, and whether they'd bring someone else into such an unstable world.
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.