Value for money?

A wise accountant once told me that, no matter what the price of something desirable, even if it’s over and above its real worth, if we want it badly enough we will pay the asking price. The worth of anything is basically what we’re prepared to pay to possess it.

There are, of course many factors that will influence us in determining what we feel something is worth: Rarity or scarcity, an items’ relative importance or desirability to us, the likelihood that we may not get the opportunity again, quality or quantity, and how convincing the sales pitch may be – but, I’ve always found it useful to bear that accountants’ word of advice in mind, and try to mentally remind myself that value and worth may be very different things.

Even value can be a tricky thing to evaluate. There is always a cost involved in the creation of anything – design, creating, testing, tooling, overheads, merchandising, transport, materials, packaging and many more factors need to be accounted for in assessing a fair price, and that’s before even considering any worthwhile markup or profit for each entity or person involved in that process. Even where something is free to the end user, there is some cost necessarily expended along the way.

Such is the case for economics in the real world, but it’s little different when it comes to SL, in fact the virtual economy is a complex thing indeed.

How do we value virtual commodities? Each of us will have our own standpoint and view, and although, on the surface, it may seem that there’s little difference between SL and RL, in many ways it’s not always that simple.

Where we have a lone content creator producing items for fun, the end cost to the consumer may often be a completely arbitrary figure, conjoured up from nowhere, a stab in the dark based on what the creator feels that their time and effort merits. Most will probably build in an element of ‘production costs’, covering any outlay in terms of upload fees etc, but in practical terms the sale of just one or two finished articles will probably cover these in full. The rest is just an exercise in pitching a reasonable price for whatever is being offered. Maybe the creator will set a competitive price that matches, or betters, other similar offerings on the market, maybe they’ll just be greedy and hope that someone will find it desirable enough to merit the outlay, or maybe they’ll decide to be magnanimous and give away their creation as freebie… The bottom line is that, unless the creator is relying on their virtual income to put food on the RL table, the price is likely to be fairly arbitrary and whilst a sale will always be serendipitous, it may not necessarily be terribly important to the creator.

It’s a very different matter for the serious content creator, who may be paying a design team, devoting land and paid-for resources to the development, marketing and sales of their product or products. Here we have a proper commercial concern with books to balance and overheads that need to be covered on an ongoing basis before any profit can be made. In this case, price point will be the result of careful calculation and pitched at a competitive level. There’s every likelihood that these goods will be more expensive, to the point that purchasers will consider them a luxury item, unlikely to be impulse buys and the subject of careful research and comparison before committing to buy.

Some may consider these luxuries as overpriced, whilst for others, the desirability factor outweighs the cost… Again its a matter of values.

Recently, a friend was playing a spontaneous music set for a of us gathered together. It was only a small group, and after a short while my friend decided to put the radio on instead, since the gathering was so small. A comment was made along the lines of “its always worth playing even the audience only numbers two people”. There was a time when, from my own standpoint, I might have agreed – in fact, I’ve always said that I’d continue to write this blog, even if no one ever read it – but on this occasion I had to disagree.

You see, value works both ways – any creative work, including putting together a musical play list for the pleasure of others has an intrinsic value for the person involved in the creative act, as well as the recipient. After all, the creator, supplier, or purveyor has invested their time, energy and effort into producing that end result and that investment can be quantified and valued, and – for that reason alone – there is nothing wrong with having an expectation of reward from those who are benefiting from what has been produced. That reward need not be financial or even quantified, but there will be times when the creator can perfectly reasonably say, ‘the work I’ve put into this is worth more that I’m getting back’ – if you’re giving up your time and effort to entertain others, it’s not unreasonable to call it quits if the size of the audience is inconsistent with the effort expended. It’s no different to creating a piece of furniture or clothing and being expected to give or away at a price that fails to recognise the work you’ve put into it.

Those who make the effort to make SL a more enjoyable place for others should be valued, as should the things they do… Too often we take such things for granted and fail to acknowledge their efforts. There is a cost to these things, and we can’t grumble if the people who create them value their efforts more than we do

Perhaps if we do feel that way, then maybe we should try doing it ourselves?

s. x

“That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Get your money for nothin’ get your chicks for free”
Money for Nothing – Haris Abdagich & BalkanEros

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