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We’re really excited to announce that in the next couple of months, we’re going to be trying something soon.
(I’ll be the first to admit that this is something SamSyn has always wanted to do, and I’m sure many others have suggested it too).
It will be Free There Weekends.
During one or more weekends that we pick, people will be allowed to sign up and play There for Free for the Whole Weekend. They’ll still be “trial” members in that they’ll
get their Welcome Walkway goodies, and there of course will be some common sense restrictions until such time as they subscribe.
We’re really excited about this, but before we kick it up, we’ve brought back an old There employee to “resurrect” our There Facebook page, get some content on it, and promote the page in Facebook. We think that this, along with your word-of-mouth, will help bring more members to FTW, and make it a big success.
Now, for the inevitable questions:
Q. What happens after FTW is over?
A. If you registered during FTW, and try to log in after FTW is over, you’ll be required to subscribe (just like today!).
Q. Will I get a credit on my subscription for the FTW weekend?
A. Umm, no.
Q. Is There still 18+?
Q. What happens if I register on FTW, and then don’t subscribe. What happens to my Avatar? Will it be deleted?
A. Not right away, that’s for sure. We will be deleting FTW avatars who don’t come back after some period of time (to keep the from bloating up the system and hogging names), but we’ll give you a chance to think it over and come back. We’ll probably even send you an email to warn you!
Q. If I’ve been banned or moderated, can I register for FTW under a new name and come back?
A. No. We moderate or ban individuals, not avatars. So, no, we’re sorry, but you can’t do that.
Q. What if I didn’t deserve to be moderated?
Q. What if I’m a Belieber now? Doesn’t that count?
A. A Thousand Times No.
Q. Will FTW’s always be only a weekend?
A. Well, the truth be told, the first FTW might just be a Free There Friday night, to try things out. We don’t want to get too ambitious and have a lot of people come in and have a bad experience because we haven’t ironed out all the kinks.
Q. Could it be a FTW 3-day weekend?
A. Maybe! After all, a weekend’s a weekend.
Q. Maybe the first FTW should be during the There Winter Games!
A. You know, I’d like nothing better! But I’m a little worried we will have overlooked something, and don’t want to impact them in any way. Besides, knowing how resourceful There folks are, I’m sure you’ll have scores of special events for newbies during FTW.
Q. Will you change the landing zones for FTW?
A. Yes, we will probably activate more zones. We will probably also take steps to make sure the landing zones don’t turn into target-practice zones for Paintball.
Q. Ok! We’re excited! When?
A. Watch this space!
I was very proud to be part of this.
But the thing which really encouraged me was the story of the actual delivery. Too often, people make donations, only to have the funds disappear into the ether. This is a refreshing and encouraging change.
Thanks to SamSyn and all of our intrepid testers, “Real Money” – the way for Developers to get Real Money for their Virtual Goods, is now live for ”everyone”.
Cribbing from SamSyn’s post on Thumdar.com, during the test:
Num Purchases: 632
Again, to quote SamSyn:
(not counting fees kept by PayPal which can generally be estimated as “5 % and a nickel” (if you are set for micropayments) or “3% and 30 cents” if you’re not.
Waving my hands, I claim the total micropayment fees were about $100, so the real Developer Income was about $850 all told.
This is important. There has set itself to “handle micro-payments”, which means that PayPal takes out less for small transactions like Makena’s ‘cut’ for the sale. That’s good for us.
However, for you (the Developer) to get the best rate, you need to do the same thing:
- Become a PayPal Merchant
- Set your Merchant Account to be eligible for Micropayments
- Use that account for your There Developer Sales
And, boom, you get the Micropayment rate.
Becoming a PayPal Merchant is not hard (some of the Beta Testers have already done it), and does not make you a Bride of Cthulhu, nor expose you to even more NSA spying. But it does let you take advantage of Micro-payments, which is pretty cool.
We’re all very excited by this. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but putting >$750 directly into the hands of developers is a pretty good deal.
As of 12/30.2013, All Developers can use “Real Money” and start earning a little coffee money (or maybe even more) for their work.
So, get on it!
There’s been some talk of how this would be “better” if we instead introduced another kind of currency for Developer Sales, which in turn could be exchanged for real money.
Thus, converting another kind of virtual money, for real money.
I know that sounds simple, but there are a couple of legal hurdles, which I’ve covered before:
- The U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN) doesn’t like it.
- There has been another Legal Opinion issued which basically would make There responsible for reports Virtual Currency -> US $ conversions as income to … you guessed it, ”our Developers”. And, well, once we report it..
So while it’s a good idea, it, unfortunately, has serious problems from a legal standpoint.
The good part starts at 3:40:
If you’ve been following along with SamSyn’s most excellent updates, we’re getting close to testing the “Real Money for Developers” project.
In short, what this project does is take the “Virtual Currency” out of Digital Goods sales in There. Note I said “digital Goods”, since that’s what developer sales are – sales of things you created which just happen to be in digital form – as opposed to “virtual goods”.
For things that you sell this way there are no more issues about T$ exchange rates, T$ buybacks, etc. You (the developer) put your things up for sale for Real Money, people pay Real Money, and you get Real Money for them.
I’m not quite sure this has ever been done before in a Social Virtual World before (if so, I’d love to hear about it).
For There, this is both very exciting, and very scary.
It’s exciting because:
- Developers can now get real money for their work. Hard cash. In your pocket (well, ok, your PayPal account).
- Developers now own even more of the transaction between them and their customer. In fact, in PayPal parlance, There is now a “Secondary Receiver” since we just get a portion of the sale.
- Developers have more incentive to bring themselves customers in There (because they’re being paid in Real Money, perhaps using other channels like their Facebook and Twitter feeds.
And, frankly, it’s exciting because it sweeps aside the whole “T$ BuyBack”/”3rd Party Resellers” issue. If you, as a developer, want to make real US $ for your goods, then you’re free to offer them that way.
(On top of all the other issues with “T$ BuyBack”/”3rd party resellers” we’ve discussed before, there’s the issue that since There was previously wildly unprofitable, every T$ was, in essence, subsidized by it’s investors, and, when you sold that T$ on the 3rd party market, a small part of that was subsidized also. Ugh).
It’s scary because:
- Depending on how many people opt to buy and sell this way, it could cause a significant drop in There’s revenue (because people aren’t purchasing Therebucks to purchase the items). Of course, we will still get a cut of the sale, but it’s not the same as us getting the whole Therebuck purchase revenue.
- This is a whole new level of responsibility for Developers, and people purchasing items from them. Since There’s not in the middle any more, Developers will have to take more responsibility for disputes, and keeping their customers happy. Fortunately, it will never be a matter of “I want to return this because it didn’t fit”, “I want to return this because I’m allergic to the fabric”, or “I just bought this to wear to the Oscars, and even though Lindsay spilled cocktail sauce all over it at an after-party, I want to return it”, but there could be issues which are new and unexpected. That being said, I’m sure they will step up to the plate, and have fun with it.
Let me go ahead and try to answer some questions ahead of time:
Q. Why are you making us (the Developer and Buyer) use PayPal?
A. That’s easy. Because PayPal is the only payment provider that provides a reduced transaction rate for digital goods (micropayments). You can read about it here (click on the “Pricing” tab).
Q. Why are you making us (the Developer) pay the PayPal Fees?
A. The biggest reason (apart from the usual litany of us being “Evil”, “Money Grubbing”, “Capitalist Pigs”, “Greedy”, and “Not caring about anyone”) is that it cost us (There) significant money to develop this feature, and the end result will we will make less off each sale than we did before. Bearing all that in mind, it doesn’t seem unfair that we’re asking the developer to foot the PayPal fees. I’m sure 99% of the people paying those fees will disagree, and maybe that will change some day if the program is wildly successful.
Q. When will you allow be to sell T$ to third party resellers?
A. For all the reasons we’ve discussed before, we’re sorry, but you can’t do that. It’s against the Terms of Service, and can result in you never having to worry about T$ again.
Q. What fees will you charge?
A. Our fees don’t change. The only difference (to There) is that we get the money when the sale is made, rather than “in advance” when the buyer purchases the Therebucks to eventually buy the item. Weird, huh?
Q. Will Developers have to pay income tax on money they earn?
A. We don’t know, and, even if we did, we wouldn’t tell you. It’s up to you to work with your financial or tax consultant to figure that out.
Q. Will you send developers a 1099?
A. No. The developer is the Primary recipient in this transaction, it’s up to them to tend their own finances. After all they’e a merchant now :-).
Q. Shouldn’t There pay my income taxes for me on any Developer sales I happen to make?
A. Ummm. No.
Those are all the questions I can think of.
I really, really, really hope people will focus on how to make this work best for Developers and Customers, and how we can drive more sales to Developers so they’ll make more stuff, and in turn make more money, so they’ll make more stuff…
In many ways, this feature is 110% for them, and although it’s been a long time coming, we’re really happy to offer it and see it go to work.
So let’s put it to work!
Sadly, this article is not an isolated incident. When we had to close There the first time (because, you know, it had been losing money for 10 years), I got threats like this, plus more run-of-the-mill threats (“If you don’t re-open There I’m going to go bomb your office”).