No more metered regions for free Kitely users

As of today, the only Kitely users who can create new metered regions are those with premium accounts. As part of this change, the metered regions will also be renamed to “Premium” regions.

In addition, all existing metered regions owned by free users will no longer be accessible by their owners or any other free users starting on July 1.

Ilan Tochner

Ilan Tochner

This only really impacts Regular Account users who used to pay for their own or other people’s visits to their Metered Worlds,” Kitely CEO Ilan Tochner told Hypergrid Business.

According to today’s announcement, Kitely had to make the change because too many free users had opted for metered pricing instead of using either flat-rate pricing or upgrading to premium accounts.

Under the old plan, every user got one free metered 100,000-prim region, and could add more metered regions for just $1 a month each, and pay 20 cents per hour to use those regions.

“It turns out that the deal was a little too insane on our part,” Tochner said. “The clear preference of Regular Account users to use Metered Worlds instead of Fixed-Price Worlds deprived us of the revenue that we need to grow the company.”

Kitely Prices June 2014

Kitely’s new pricing structure.

There will be a meeting today at 1 p.m. Pacific at the Kitely Welcome Center if anyone wants to stop by and discuss the issue. The hypergrid teleport address is grid.kitely.com:8002:Kitely Welcome Center.

Biggest impact is on free users with ‘free’ regions

Last month, I wrote a how-to article on how to create and use Kitely’s free regions. That word “free” is qualified, by the way — the regions are fully free only to Kitely’s paid, premium account holders. When non-premium account holders create those regions they only get six free hours of use. After that, they used to have to pay for their time on these regions — as well as the time other non-premium users spend on these regions — at a cost of about 20 cents per user per hour.

So, for example, if you have a free region set up on Kitely that use you for a store, or a museum, or warehouse, or a historically important build you used to be able to  visit it after your first six hours were up by just depositing a little cash in your Kitely account — or using store revenues or museum donations to cover your in-world costs.

Similarly, if you just needed a world for an hour a month for your group to meet on, you used to be able to just make sure that you have enough money in your Kitely Credits account to cover everyone’s time. Now you will need to convert the metered region to a regular region, which start at around $15 a month, or upgrade your membership to premium.

Regular and premium users, regular and premium regions

Many grids, including Second Life, offer a premium membership tier.

On Kitely, that premium membership — which costs about $20 a month — comes with five free “premium” regions, each capable of holding up to 100,000 prims and up to 100 simultaneous avatars. Plus, premium members can visit any of the other regions on the grid at no charge to themselves or to other region owners.

Regular Kitely users, as well as hypergrid visitors from other grids, can only access those premium regions on which their premium-account owners have decided to pick up the cost for their time, at about 20 cents per user per hour.

Regular regions — also called “Fixed-Price Worlds” — start at $15 a month for a 15,000-prim “Starter World” and go up to $100 a month for a 100,000-prim “Advanced World” that can be configured as a megaregion the size of 16 standard regions. More info about Kitely prices here. They work the same way that regions work on all other grids — one flat price, for unlimited visitors, accessible to regular and premium account holders as well as to hypergrid visitors.

The ‘free’ region option is still there

Regular, non-premium Kitely users still get their one free region. After their first free six hours are up, however, they won’t be able to visit that region unless they convert it to a fixed-price plan, or upgrade to a premium membership. And other non-premium Kitely users can’t access it at all.

Is there still a point to having the ‘free’ region?

I can see three use cases for the free regions.

  1. To try out Kitely. Six hours is plenty of time to decide whether Kitely meets your needs or not.
  2. For museums, stores, historic builds. Say you want to put up a region. You don’t care about whether you can access it or not — you just want it up somewhere, so people who really want to see it can see it by getting a premium membership on Kitely. This could be a museum, a shopping mall, a historic build, an art installation.
  3. For use at the end of the month. Kitely’s billing is month-by-month and pro-rated through to the end of the month. So if you sign up for a $15 region in the middle of a month, it will cost you $7.50 for the remainder of that month, then $15 a month for every month after that. Which means that if you upgrade a free region to a $15 region at the end of the month, you get 15,000 prims and up to 10 visitors for just 50 cents a day. Or a 100,000-prim, 100-visitor region for just $3.33 a day. As long as you downgrade it again quickly so you don’t get billed for an entire month the following month. Similarly, you can upgrade to a premium membership at the end of the month, which comes out to about 67 cents a day.

 

maria@hypergridbusiness.com'

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China.

  • Gabe

    This is a big disappointment for me as I was planning on using the metered regions, and I also knew several people that were going to start using them just sorting things out to move over to Kitely. Visited the meeting today it seemed like a lot of people were still confused by it all.

    Maybe someone else will come up with a metered type plan to help those misplaced?

    • It does sound like a market opportunity… I know that Kitely has done a lot of work to get the regions up and running super quickly, but maybe a system where I’m billed by the minute, where you get a little standalone on an Amazon server, and you go the website to activate it, use it for as long as you need it, then deactivate it again.

      I’ve seen some estimates that running a region on Amazon for a full month comes out to about $72 a month (this was a couple of years ago, so I’m sure it’s changed since!) but that comes out to about 10 cents an hour. Even increasing that to, say, $1 an hour might still be worth it for people who only want a place that’s only up for a short time, when they need it.

      Then when you’re done with it, you hit the “shutdown” button, and it saves everything and shuts down the region. An inactivity check or some kind of automatic shut-off after a certain amount of time would be good, to help people avoid wasting money if, say, they’re called away from the computer and forget to come back and shut it off.

      This would be similar to the way that some people run at-home minigrids. They come home from work, turn on them, build on them, or play on them with friends — connect them to other grids via hypergates for cross-grid RP campaigns, say — then shut them down again when they’re done.

      • Hi Maria, AWS prices have indeed gone down over the years but please remember that (A) the cheaper Amazon instance types are not very good for running OpenSim and (B) Kitely runs in grid mode with many of the services you use coming from servers that don’t also host your sim. If you use the cheaper instance types or run the entire setup as a standalone you’ll get significantly inferior performance, especially when your user concurrency increases.

  • lmpierce

    So if I’m reading the price page correctly, the lowest cost for having a world on Kitely is free and the lowest cost for visiting Kitely worlds is free:

    Regular (free) account holders can have one free premium world, but only for premium account visitors to enter and visit. Regular account holders can visit any premium world for free, other than their own, provided the world owner has set the world to cover the cost for regular account visitors.

    All other combinations of Kitely service have minimum costs:

    The least one can spend to have a world they can also access themselves via Kitely (on an ongoing basis after the free 6-hour trial) is $14.95 a month, and this world at that price would be one region in size. The least one can spend to have worlds that can add up to five regions total, and have access to all public worlds, is $19.95 a month.

    • Yes, that’s an accurate description but please note that people always visit other people’s worlds for free, the only difference between the account types is which worlds are open for those people to visit. Regualr Account users can only visit Premium Worlds owned by Premium Account users (who elected to cover Regular Account visitors costs), and fixed-price worlds (which don’t require the world manager to pay for time in the first place).

  • Well first off as a grid owner, I don’t want to knock another grid – I have a great deal of respect and admiration for what Kitely has achieved. I even signed up and purchased an item from the Kitely Market Place – fantastic system btw, and big thumbs up for the HyperGrid – but I have to say reading this announcement about memberships, just left me totally confused.

    I am not in the market for a Kitely region – for obvious reasons (I run my own grid) – but to me personally, it all seems a bit complex. I think the acronym to remember is KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid (not calling anyone stupid btw ) Even Secondlife only has two tiers :- Free user, and Premium Member. Free users can rent land privately from other users that hold land. And Premium Members get a free Linden home and the option to upgrade their land holdings, or rent privately from another user who holds land.

    As a business owner outside the virtual world, I can attest that customers hate complexity. I know it sounds as though I am belittling people and calling everyone stupid – I am not – but if things are too complex, or too many choices, it puts off the average person from making a purchase.

    Also, I am not sure what all the big fuss is about with Amazon servers – at least for those who do not live in the US like myself. There are many great server hosts around the world that also offer dynamic cloud servers – I am starting to wonder if there has been a marketing agreement signed with Amazon to keep promoting them lol.

    • “KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid (not calling anyone stupid btw )” a few years ago I switched from that to “Keep it short and sweet” because, as everyone knows very well, I am the most politically correct Avatar in the entire Metaversum…………………………………………………………………………

      I understand this is tmi, but, what the heck, right??????

    • I’m actually still confused by the whole Second Life “tier” system. Why can’t I just go and rent whatever I want? Also, what’s with the crazy $1000 setup fee? Who charges that?

      But yes, Justin, I’m with you. The Kitely pricing structure is complicated. I write about it, and it took me a long time to figure it out, and each time there’s a change, it takes me a long time to figure it out again.

      I don’t know why I keep saying “Amazon” instead of “cloud hosting.” Shorter? Or maybe it’s like the way people say “Xerox” instead of “copying machine” even though they might actually have a totally different brand of copier? I *wish* I had a marketing agreement with Amazon. Their ads pop up once in a while from our ad provider, but they don’t actually result in any noticeable revenues. 🙁

      But yes, other companies might offer better deals.

      • Agreed Maria – when I first looked into buying land in SecondLife all those years ago I thought that the USD$1000 was a typo – “surely it must just be USD$10 setup fee, or 100 at the most”, but USD$1000???? Holy macaroni batman, what LSD induced moron thought that one up? lol

        • not picking on u, but u give me such good material-))

          “what LSD induced moron thought that one up?” I would imagine the same ones who have been raking in that money, all these years-)))))))))))))))))))))

          Frankly, I would love to know what brand they use…purple microdot? orange barrel?

          • Chuckles – well actually, there is a rumour going round that I am quite partial to a bit of knocking about by a Woman..shh, say no more this is a respectable website.

            Well they may have been racking it in, but that was because they were the first and only virtual world game in town, so people had no choice and were prepared to pay it. However, it isn’t working so well now is it…the figures show a downward trend in sim uptake in SL… and I guess they needed all that money to keep funding the good stuff they been smoking over there in Linden Land.

            Disclaimer :- Nothing in this post is to be construed as true, or libellous in any way – it’s a joke, nothing more – lawyers get back in your cages. 🙂 The opinions here are those of a fictitious entity known as Justin Ireman, and do not represent the views or opinions of HyperGrid Business, or its owners. :p

          • oooooooooooooooooooo disclaimers!! i love disclaimers!!

            But yes, the costs are going down all the time, and even the sl wannabees [formerly known as clones but that was not really accurate as they are many times smaller…wannabee implies trying to be like the big guys, but failing miserably].

            People like Kitely and Zetamex, among others, are showing this to a larger and larger audience.

            Which is, tbh, how tech moves on….take televisions as a good example…ok now for the disclaimers..

            “Disclaimer :- Nothing in this post is to be construed as true, or libellous in any way – it’s a joke, nothing more – lawyers get back in your cages. 🙂 The opinions here are those of a fictitious entity known as Minethere, and do not represent the views or opinions of HyperGrid Business, or its owners. :p”

          • The setup fee makes sense in the days of manually provisioned physical servers. You have to buy the servers, install them, configure them, connect them to the grid, all that stuff. Having a setup fee means that Linden Lab can afford to buy all those new servers and hire the staff to do all the configurations.

            Today, however, servers are virtualized. They can be setup automatically anywhere at all — all you need is one properly set up and configured server (an “image”) and you can clone it automatically in the cloud, in a virtual data center. At your favorite Amazon alternative. So you don’t need to buy equipment, and you don’t need to hire staff. All the startup costs do is discourage the purchase of new regions.

            So if you have sudden spike in customers, you create instant regions for them in the cloud. Then, if it looks like all those new customers stick around — and you have the inclination — you can start expanding your self-hosted data center, to keep ongoing costs low.

            The other explanation for keeping the startup fee — and I suspect that this is the real one — is that they think it discourages people from giving up their regions. Customers might think, “If I shut this region down, and I need it again, it will cost me $1000 to get it back.”

            However, as long as there’s any churn at all, there’s always departing customers you can buy an existing region off of, to avoid those setup costs.

          • I would also think/imagine that once the servers are purchased, and then you lose the region amounts that they were purchased for and supported then you end up with hardware that can simply sit and gather dust, or run a few fake/way -over -thar regions to keep the numbers up as best as possible while the slide down continues but less noticeably.

            tbh, I think several of the sl wannabees likely do this [see above disclaimer]………………..

      • lmpierce

        People may love simplicity, but they seem to accept complexity if there are compensating rewards. This is why Verizon is the top U.S. cellular company, even though other companies have offered “simple” one-price package deals. The reward with Verizon is better cellular network coverage. And after all, what good is a cell phone that can’t connect to the cell network?

        I think Kitely has a couple of compensations for their less than intuitive pricing system. In their case, super competitive pricing is a big factor. But beyond that, they have proven to be a stable, reliable, responsive and mature host for virtual worlds. And look at their numbers: they are number two in regions just below OSGrid, even with their pricing plan(s).

        On the other hand, Kitely is much lower on the list of active users by grid. Maybe Hypergrid access will change this, but I would guess that their separate worlds create implicit boundaries that are missing in the typical grid that puts all regions in one more or less contiguous space (although, yes, private islands are available as well with some services).

        There is nothing more complex than human wants and relationships. So, get creative with pricing and worlds services and websites that read like Egyptian hieroglyphics, because in the end, no one ever knows absolutely for sure what people want, even though people seem to know it when they find it! In other words, we’re all always making educated guesses at to what will work best.

  • lmpierce

    People may love simplicity, but they seem to accept complexity if there are compensating rewards. This is why Verizon is the top U.S. cellular company, even though other companies have offered “simple” one-price package deals. The reward with Verizon is better cellular network coverage. And after all, what good is a cell phone that can’t connect to the cell network?

    I think Kitely has a couple of compensations for their less than intuitive pricing system. In their case, super competitive pricing is a big factor. But beyond that, they have proven to be a stable, reliable, responsive and mature host for virtual worlds. And look at their numbers: they are number two in regions just below OSGrid, even with their pricing plan(s).

    On the other hand, Kitely is much lower on the list of active users by grid. Maybe Hypergrid access will change this, but I would guess that their separate worlds create implicit boundaries that are missing in the typical grid that puts all regions in one more or less contiguous space (although, yes, private islands are available as well with some services).

    There is nothing more complex than human wants and relationships. So, get creative with pricing and worlds services and websites that read like Egyptian hieroglyphics, because in the end, no one ever knows absolutely for sure what people want, even though people seem to know it when they find it! In other words, we’re all always making educated guesses at to what will work best.

  • Samantha Atkins

    $100 / month for a region that is not always up? Why? That is not competitive with many other grids for always running regions. Since Kitely regions are not always running and since they are on EC2 where I know the pricing this is ridiculously steep pricing imo. I can run that size of world 24/7 for that amount of money myself on a reserved large instance. This gives the kitely region owner no real break at all over metered charges to themselves. Until my region logs 5000 non-premium visitor hours I would be losing money.

    Or am I missing something?

    • Kitely Worlds are not run as standalones on Large EC2 Instances, they are run in grid mode and leverage multiple servers and proprietary
      cloud-based systems we developed that free up a lot of system resources on the server running the simulator, thus providing it with better
      performance than you can get by running regular OpenSim in standalone mode on the same type of EC2 instance. We also provide a lot of online tools and customer support services that are not available to you when you host OpenSim yourself. If you think other providers give you a better deal then you are welcome to benchmark our respective systems and see for yourself.

      Our $99.95 Advanced World is for a 16-region Advanced Megaregion with up to 100,000 prims and up to 100 avatars. I’ve yet to see someone charging less for the same thing that can actually deliver on what they advertise.

      We provide Advanced Worlds more server resources than we provide Premium Worlds, so you’ll be able to get better performance with them when they are under load. Keeping a Premium World open to non-Premium Account users creates a variable expense. Advanced Worlds, on the other hand, provide you with certainty about how much you will need to pay. That certainty is more important to some people than potential cost savings.

      Kitely enables people to visit other people’s worlds for free while charging world managers for having world(s) hosted on Kitely. It’s up to the world manager to decide whether he or she prefers paying a fixed monthly price or a variable one. If the world manager chooses the metered pricing option then he/she needs to accept that he will be charged for the time non-Premium Account users spend inside his or her worlds.