Why are some prices so high in the SL shape market?

The market for shapes in Second Life has gone crazy (or maybe it has always been crazy and I hadn’t noticed): prices vary from around L$ 100 up to L$ 1,500 – and I’m not counting either freebies and dollarbies or some that may cost even more than L$ 1,500, but seem to be exceptions on the SL Marketplace’s website. The range is particularly difficult to understand, because of the characteristics of the product, and I’m going to elaborate on it. Still, I’ve read somewhere (I can’t remember where, so I can’t quote it, sorry) that the shape market got a new impulse from the advent of bento mesh heads. At the same time, I was in the process of changing my own avatar, for I bought a new mesh head, hence the subject called my attention.

Ricco and his new shape: body shape in SL is a way to express or represent oneself
Ricco and his new shape: body shape in SL is a way to express or represent oneself
Ricco’s custom shape for…
... his new mesh head
… his new mesh head

Shapes are a very particular product. They are not (virtually) tangible items, such as buildings, vehicles, clothes or even mesh bodies – items that you can rez. Their intangibility, though, is different from that of a script, for instance. Scripts give us different results: they open doors, activate poses, move stuff… In a way, shapes are a bit like animations, for they reveal themselves by means of avatars. We could describe them as a series of “instructions” to be applied to avatars – and that’s how they materialize, that’s how one can finally see them, for they cannot be rezzed on their own and they won’t affect other objects.

Randy Firebrand shows off his shape too...
Randy Firebrand shows off his shape too…

Differently from animations, though, shapes are a very basic characteristic of avatars within the SL viewers’ structure. I mean: the viewers for Second Life give you the ability to customize your avatar by means of changing your shape, and that’s a feature that is easily accessible to every resident. It’s not the same for poses and animations: the viewer itself doesn’t give you the ability to build entire animation overrides to change the native duck walking anim, for example – but it does allow you to modify your avatar’s shape, even if you are new to the game.

... and how it molds his head: a different shape from Ricco's
… and how it molds his head: a different shape from Ricco’s

Of course, one may not be good with having to deal with all the sliders for editing shape. In a handful of cases, they are not obvious. I can have lots of fun with that, but some people may get frustrated, that’s perfectly understandable. Second Life is not easy, we have heard it many times, and shape editing may be part of the difficulties that one finds in their virtual life there. Then, it may make sense to buy a ready-made shape that one particularly likes.

Randy and Ricco: same head model, not the same shape
Randy and Ricco: same head model, not the same shape

For those who are willing to buy them, shape makers spend their time producing new shapes. It may require dedication and experience in order to create a number of different shapes that will look good – and now, some investment too, for one has to deal with making shapes that look good with this or that particular bento mesh head and body, which means that they will need to test their creations on those items.

Randy flies and shows his full body shape
Randy flies and shows his full body shape

Nonetheless, it’s difficult to find every item that one may want in a single ready-made avatar shape: one may like that particular butt volume, but not how their nose looks like, or enjoy their legs, but not so much their hands size, and so on. Also, some shapes may work better than others with certain skins. Furthermore, shapes are in the domain of individuality and self-representation: the way one molds their avatar is how they see themselves, or how they like to think of themselves, maybe how they’d like to represent themselves to others – in any case, it’s the way they express themselves on their virtual body. That’s why, even if it seems confusing sometimes, having so many sliders on the shape editing floater actually refines the process of creating an online self-representation.

Ricco and Randy: one walking, one standing still
Ricco and Randy: one walking, one standing still

Those problems could be solved by creating shapes that one can modify – and actually, that’s how the majority of shapes in the market are: modifiable. So, if one finds a shape that satisfies most but not all of their expectations, they can still buy it. Editing shape will not be so difficult, then, because one is not creating something from scratch, but making minor changes on a shape that’s already very close to what they’d like. Besides, it’s generally easier to deal with the body editing process than it is with the head one. It means that a consumer can concentrate on finding a good match for their mesh head and then work on their body shape in order to express their individuality.

Randy and Ricco jump into the river
Randy and Ricco jump into the river: shapes in motion

It all sounds perfectly normal, like many other products that are modifiable in SL, but that’s what makes it hard for me to understand how some shapes can be costly. As a product, a shape is a preset for the editing shape floater. If it’s modifiable, then one will be able to view all the parameters that form that preset on the correspondent floater. In other words, one will be able to reproduce it. So, if I like a particular shape that I see on a friend of mine, and if it’s modifiable, I can convince him to pass me his settings and I will have the same shape as he does – and, if I don’t want to look exactly like him, I can then change some numbers on some sliders. Because of that, we arrive to the following situation: modifiable shapes are, in thesis, more saleable, because they are more adaptable to one’s taste; but they can they can be easily reproduced, which makes buying them some sort of waste of money even if the creator is a master in the process of making shapes. If they cost just a few lindens, it sounds ok to buy them. Now, if they cost a lot, why caring to spend on them?

Spying on Ricco to see his shape from another angle
Spying on Ricco to see his shape from another angle

The range of prices in the shape business in Second Life seems to indicate a possible market distortion – maybe caused by consumers not acting in a perfectly rational way (in economic terms). Of course, in order to confirm that, one would have to check if costly shapes are actually being sold in significant amounts. I do not have those data sets. Still, for the number of sellers announcing their modifiable ready-made shapes for a higher price, I would say that the shape market constitutes an interesting case to be examined in the context of the SL economy.

6 thoughts on “Why are some prices so high in the SL shape market?

  1. First and most importantly, you guys are looking hot! Have you been working out a lot lately?

    As always I find your post interesting, because I feel an imaginary (self perceived of course) finger pointing at me. Let me tell you about my relationship to SL-shapes (both for mesh heads and bodies).

    I’m a lazy bastard and . although everyone (always and repeatedly) tell me I am the most patient man in the world – I seek shortcuts and immediate results or I get extremely frustrated, angry and sulky. Even if I also lack any artistic talents whatsoever,

    I agree with you, there really shouldn’t be a market for the higher priced shapes. It’s an artificially bloated market where the seller is probably hoping that some seller comes along and pays what he wants because “the more expensive it is, the better it must be and fewer will have the same”.

    Well, it’s a chimera, because it is rather better to buy a cheaper shape that sort of gets the best part of where you want to go and then start slowly fiddling with your sliders until you get what you want. That or marry an artist who can help you, like I did 😉

    1. Thank you very much for the compliment, it’s particularly flattering, because it comes from one of the hottest men in SL – but no, Randy and I haven’t been working out. Actually, we both got a bit “smaller”, LOL.

      I know you don’t mean it this way, but let me make it clear: it’s not my intention to point fingers at anyone. I also can understand that people may prefer to buy a ready-made shape and adjust it just a bit instead of creating their own shape from scratch (or from Ruth, as it is in SL). It’s not that everyone has to enjoy playing with shapes just because I do. What I don’t get is: how can someone sell a costly shape, since the very characteristics of the product don’t favor high prices there. Perhaps, the reason is the one that you presented: the idea that expensive shapes are better and more unique.

  2. As Bock said, pre-made shapes are time savers because coming up with a shape you really like may require a lot of time and practice (if you’re too picky) to get to the point of “perfection”. If there are people buying shapes (and there may be many judging by the number of shape vendors lately), they must be aware of that: they pay because they need the time to do something else, and yes, they probably think more expensive ones are of higher quality (it’s a common perception –and commonly a false one too–), or include some valuable extras… whatever they might be. As far as I know, they only (and not always) include a styling card of sorts, so you end up looking as the model in the picture almost right out of the box. For what I’ve seen (at least in events I visit), most of the shapes in the market cost around 600L, almost half the price of what male shapes used to sell for circa 2007-2008, when they were usually at 1000L by default (custom shapes were way, way more expensive too), on stores like Kmart –that’s not the name of course, but it was something like that (shrugs). At that price they always were modifiable; cheaper ones (at around 200-300L) were usually no mod and didn’t include a styling card. If I recall correctly, the guys at the store I’m trying to remember offered customer support as part of the 1000L package (I might be wrong on that, but they were friendly). I remember buying a shape ten years ago and then regretting it after seeing I could have done it myself. It’s probably a waste of lindens right now as well, but… (shrugs again).

    1. Interesting, I didn’t know that shapes in 2007-2008 used to cost around L$1000 – probably because I’m not a shape consumer. And maybe the average price is lower now than it used to be back then, I didn’t really check many shopping events, but I’ve found a big range of prices for shapes on SL Marketplace last time I looked.

  3. As a female Fashion Blogger who does a lot of work with a Skin Store as their Blogger Manager as well as a Blogger, I do get a lot of shapes to blog. I do not always blog them mainly because they were made to go ‘with’ or ‘for’ a certain head etc. I do not always want or have that head to blog so I use my own shape. A shape I started with over 11 years ago that has come with me fully along the way and has been changed more times than I care to even think about and which has now turned into the Mesh and Bento incarnations of me, I have seen and I have blogged expensive shapes, from the old 1k plus ones back in the day to the (what I think of as expensive now) 750l or 500l ones. I think shapes are much easier to change now for the average person as they get a shape with their mesh body and with their mesh head and its available for Mod. This is from a female point of view though of course, I have read through quite a few of your blogs Ricco and found them very interesting. Thank you and also for being an awesome SLB15 Helper of the first order!

    1. Thank you very much, Shari! I’m sorry, RL got in the way and I could only answer now. It really seems that shape prices have dropped, from what everyone is saying. It’s interesting – I had no clue about that, even being an oldie in SL. About SL15B, it was a pleasure to work with so many good people like you and to be able to help and take part in the party.

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