It’s very easy to get certain statistics about Sansar. For example, we know from the Sansar Atlas page that there are currently 790 published experiences (which does not include those whose creators have chosen to keep their URLs private). We also know that there are 6,180 listings of products in the Sansar Store.
There are other statistics which Linden Lab knows, but isn’t sharing (yet, or maybe ever). One of them is the number of user accounts which have been created in Sansar. How many people have come and visited, at least once? Even more importantly, how many of them have stayed?
Sansar is beautiful, but it can also be a lonely place. Yes, there’s now an Upcoming Events listing on the main Atlas page, and there are some regularly scheduled events like Atlas Hopping, where you can meet up with other Sansarians. But it’s still very quiet.
Should we be worried? Is Sansar a flop, a failure, as some people in Second Life attest?
Hardly. Remember, the doors have only been open to the public in Sansar for four months—not even a full four months yet. I’m sure there were a flood of curious SL sightseers who came, kicked the tires, declared themselves dissatisfied, and then left (which obviously doesn’t help the positive word-of-mouth that Sansar needs).
(Photo by Ryan Schultz, taken on Sansar’s Opening Day, July 31st, 2017)
Let’s take a look at some other virtual worlds which opened their doors to the public well before Sansar did. VRChat launched on Steam Early Access in February 2017 and AltspaceVR launched its initial product in May 2015. Both have had a good head start over Sansar, and (arguably) both have a higher number of regular users. In fact, the main fireplace meeting areas in both VR-capable virtual worlds can become quite busy! (By the way, it is interesting that not one, but two, virtual worlds have main meeting points centred on that most primitive of gathering spaces, the campfire.)
High Fidelity, which could be seen as Sansar’s closest competitor, has been in open beta since April 2016, another big head start over Sansar. Again, it’s very hard to tell how many people HiFi has attracted, but events that I have attended there have been popular. Whether they are attracting (or keeping) more people than Sansar is open to debate.
One feature that High Fidelity does have, and which Linden Lab needs to add to Sansar as soon as possible, is the ability to tell from the Sansar Atlas listing how many avatars are present in each experience. A very simple, elegant, and useful solution to the problem of avatars finding other avatars in-world. This should be bumped to the top of Linden Lab’s to-do list, if it isn’t there already.
The key here, and the area in which Linden Lab needs to step up their game, is PROMOTION. I’m still not convinced that Linden Lab is doing everything that they could be to promote Sansar, especially compared to all the press that competitors like High Fidelity, VRChat, and especially AltspaceVR get. Obviously, Linden Lab is hoping that its users will be its best ambassadors, but they can’t (and shouldn’t) rely just on that good-will.
High Fidelity has launched a few self-promotional livestream broadcast shows, like the JimJamz Show and LIVE in High Fidelity with Michelle Osorio. Yes, I know, they’re cheesy, but the fact is, High Fidelity is not waiting for users to do them, they are going out and doing it themselves! Linden Lab needs to think about launching a program or two of their own, as well as encouraging users to launch their own programs, by creating tools such as High Fidelity’s Spectator Camera. HiFi had a well-attended film festival where people submitted entries made with the Spectator Camera. Why can’t we have a video camera tool in Sansar? Another high-priority item for the to-do list.
We need more contests, like the recently-completed Best Props and Sansar’s Scariest Contests. And instead of having just one grand prize winner, split the pot into a number of smaller prizes (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc.), which will encourage rather than discourage people to enter. (There are many smaller creators who probably felt they never had a chance to win the awesome grand prize for Sansar’s Scariest, and never bothered to enter in the first place.)
And, controversially, Linden Lab needs to encourage more creators to come on-board. Yes, that includes the “big guys” like TurboSquid. The more items in the Sansar Store, the easier it will be for relative novices to come in and build the kind of environments that will, in turn, bring in other users. We need more Jo Yardleys building more 1920s Berlin-type sims in Sansar!
Another area where Linden Lab could possibly do some more work is working with the creators of such easy-to-use content 3-D creation tools as Microsoft Paint 3D and Google Blocks to make it as easy as possible for people to create their own content for Sansar. The process for “prim building” in Sansar, using these sorts of external tools, is still too complicated for many novice users. In my opinion, Linden Lab should seek to actively work with other companies like Google and Microsoft to streamline and simplify the necessary workflow as much as possible.
Linden Lab has done a fabulous job so far to bring Sansar to the point where it is right now, and Ebbe and his team should be thanked. But they can’t rest on their laurels. The battle for the metaverse of the future is just getting started! It’s going to be a competitive market, with losers as well as winners. And there is more, a lot more, that Linden Lab could be doing to promote their Sansar brand in the meantime.
UPDATE Nov. 27th: I just wanted to add a few more thoughts.