Lately, there have been going on many, many controversial discussions (and arguements) about templates/prefabs and how they (supposedly?) flood the market and leave creators of 100% original content with the options to either close their stores due to the unwanted competition or to lower their prices.
I have been thinking about this for a while now. I always wondered why some people can rant and rant and rant about it, why they get all their feathers ruffled once a template shows somewhere. Isn’t it none of their business really what others buy? I still think exactly that. While I don’t have to support and like it, it is none of my business what people buy. If they like it, they like it.
I hardly buy items made from templates or prefabs unless I think they are exceptionally wellmade and have been altered significantly. For example, the boots by Severed Garden that I frequently blogged can be found in the stores of several other creators, too. Same with the corset (layer) by DCNS. However, I like these items and I think that should be reason enough to buy something.
Advantages of templates and prefabs
I think the advantages of templates and prefabs are fairly obvious:
First of all, many designers who start out as new creators don’t have the experience yet. Maybe they lack the skill to make their own sculpts, or maybe they simply aren’t that advanced when it comes to using PS. Saying “Well, then they shouldn’t design.” is, imho, a damn dumb argument. Everyone started out as a ‘newb’ at one point, even Anouk Spot and other, relatively famous, designers. Templates/prefabs help those new designers to get started, to learn.
Secondly, templates etc. allow designers to reduce the prices of their items, in effect making them more affordable for a wider range of users. Obviously, if you ‘only’ apply the texture, an item will be cheaper than an item which has custom sculpts, custom sculptmaps and custom textures etc. pp. So, more people can buy your stuff without spending a significant amount of money in SL. Because yes, 1000 Lindens currently have the value of 3,29 Euros, which means in rl I could get significantly MORE for that money than is SL, especially given the fact that nothing you buy in SL actually belongs to you. The TOS enable Linden Labs to take down SL whenever they want without having to pay any compensation for the items (aka real money) lost.
Thirdly, they enable designers to come up quickly with new designs and help to fill out timespans when their creativity might stagnate for some time. Everyone has that. I don’t know a single person who has never been in a situationw here they simply lacked ideas. Now, given how many stores there are in SL by now, if you don’t put out new stuff for some time, people will quickly move on and forget you, unless of course you are a brand that’s been established since ages.
Also: Sales. There has been an increasing amount of sales events, weekly sales, discount events during the past year. I blog for Seraphim, believe me, I know it. The customers expect their favourite stores to spit out at least one item per week that is reduced to a price of about 10% of its worth. If you don’t participate in any sales event, you are quickly being pointed at and called greedy. If you want to keep up with that AND at the same time release new stuff for your actual store, you gotta be quick, unless you have way too much time on your hands. (Wether or not these sales events are good or bad is a wholly different topic which will be discussed another time. )
Fifthly (does that word even exist??), the sale of templates and prefabs offers a wide range of options for actual freebies. I did that myself for a sim: I bought a backpack-prefab, weapon-prefabs, textured them and set them up as freebies. That way, I made some people happy even though I cannot make my own sculpts to save my life.
I am sure there are other arguments, but these five are the first ones that came to my mind and should suffice for now.
The disadvantages of templates
Just as there are many advantages, there are many disadvantages:
First of all, I think the massive use of templates has lead to a certain saturation of the market that often causes customers to disregard works of truly original creators: Cheap stuff can be had everywhere, you can get the same bikini in ~ 27 versions in a pricerange between 50L and 150L two weeks after the template has been released. These items get thrown at you, you can barely dodge them anymore. Everything gets cheaper and cheaper.
Secondly, this leads to fewer and fewer stores that sell truly unique items. Don’t get me wrong, a template doesn’t mean it cannot be made unique. However, in the vast majority of the cases, people seem to slap a texture onto it and that’s about as far as it goes (some prominent exceptions given). It is hard to stick out or create a unique look when you figure the top you just bought is being sold at 5 other stores too, with only slightly different textures on it.
Thirdly, creators who create their own stuff from scratch on (everything custom) or use only a few templated to enhance their own creatons, will have a hard time to keep up. Obviously, that whole process takes longer than only doing half of it. The fact that everything gets cheaper and cheaper (since everyone releases the same stuff, they gotta compete somehow) doesn’t help them either: Their creations are worth far more, yet the customers are so very spoiled that they are reluctant to pay 600L for a pair of boots when they can have prefab-boots for 150L.
Then, it is sometimes truly hard to tell wether or not an item is actual original content or a prefab or a template. Nothing is more disappointing to pay a LOT for something only to find out the next store has the same thing for 300 L less. An example: Riding Boots 1, Riding Boots 2 and Riding Boots 3. Exactly the same template/prefab, three completely different prices. This is the actual template: Riding Boots by Perfect Wirefly. And here we have them as cheapies: Riding Boots 4. Interesting, huh? Of course no one mentions the source of their sculpties either and I doubt that any customer who doesn’t read fashionblogs knows what they are buying in such cases.
Now, which price would you support? Personally, I rather buy boots for 500L for which the creator uses their own creations. It really gives me a bad feeling when I see stuff that I feel is simply overpriced for the lack of effort/talent they put into it.
Earlier I mentioned that many designers have to leanr and therefore can use prefabs for that process. However, many, many stores out there have been around for years, and apparently the learning process has stagnated after they understood how to apply a texture to a template. In such cases, my support fades quickly.
I could likely find more counter-arguments just as I could find more pro-arguments. It is time for…
Now, to which conclusion have I come? I can only speak for myself here and I ask you to consider that when reading this. tastes are different. People are entitled to buy whatever they like. The market dictates the sales and the market consist of demand vs. offer (not sure if these are the financially correct terms, but you get the drift). As long as there are people who love to buy templates and prefabs, those will be around, no matter how many ‘fashionistas’ point fingers and want to put them into the pit below the Nine Hells. It is none of our business to dictate other people’s taste. You cannot argue about taste. Everyone can make a choice with their feet.
And I do.
I only buy these kind of items when I find them to be suitably altered, wellmade and overall used to enhance an outfit…and when the pricing is appropriate. This doesn’t happen all too often, but sometimes, it does, and I’ll proudly wear my template corset in that case. In most cases though, I love supporting wellknown and not so wellknown creators who make their own stuff from scratch on. Especially when it comes to skins. No matter how cute Al Vulo’s skins might be, I simply do not want to pay almost as much for a skin, that comes with a body (or lips…) that looks exactly the same as the bodies on skins done by completely different creators, as I have to pay for a skin by a creator who actually did their own work and who’s bodies you will not find on xy other skins. More effort + more creativity= more work = bigger value. At least for me.
WHAT DO YOU THINK??? VOTE!!!
PS: As usually, forgive my mistakes. I was in a hurry!
Oh, and a tiny wee bit ‘fashion’: I got a new skin! Yay, and I am in love with it.