Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab, has gone on record that he wants to have a consumer launch of Sansar sometime in the first half of this year, 2018. By “consumer launch”, he means a serious advertising push, a media-savvy, well-funded promotion of the platform to end users, shoppers as opposed to creators. People with cold, hard cash, the people who pay the bills of Linden Lab and its employees and keep their lights on. People who visit experiences, socialize, play games, shop for their virtual homesteads, and dress up their avatars. People who don’t know one end of Blender from the other.
My fear is that, if Sansar has a consumer launch too early, people are going to come, kick the tires, declare themselves unsatisfied, and leave, never to return. (We’ve already had this to some extent when the “open creator beta” launched last July 31st, 2017. I’m quite sure that a troop of eager Second Life folks signed up, visited once, shrugged, and never came back. Of course, only Linden Lab has the actual statistics on those one-time visits.)
I have some things that I really, really want to see in Sansar before a major push to consumers is attempted.
What would I like to see BEFORE a consumer launch of Sansar? Twelve things.
- Better avatar customization features. Having lots of clothing options is nice, but it’s not really enough. How about some body sliders so we can adjust our height, weight, etc.? How about allowing people to design and sell their own avatar skins?
- More and better avatar animations: everything from being able to sit down, to having more options for dancing than just one measly dance for men and one for women. There’s just too few animations in Sansar right now, and we need to fix that. And none of the /command animations works in a VR headset.
- Particle effects: Fire. Water. Fog. Smoke. You already have WindLight for Second Life; how hard would it be to port it over to Sansar?
- More interactive content: HoverDerby, the Accuracy Training Module, and Gindipple’s Bowling Alley are wonderful starts, but we need more than that to attract and retain people. A lot more. Adding more scripting abilities is a good start.
- One or more community hubs: A few gathering places where you can pretty much expect to run into other avatars are important to establish a community feel. Create a hub or two. All the other virtual worlds have them, and frankly they’re a good idea, especially for a virtual world that is just starting out of the gate.
- Greeters: Other virtual worlds like Sinespace and High Fidelity have paid greeters whose job it is to welcome guests, answer their questions, and make them feel comfortable. It’s a business cost. You can’t just rely on volunteers. Hire people. Put them in your community hubs. Pay them (in Sansar dollars, if you prefer).
- The ability to pay an avatar directly: For tipping of performers, awarding of prizes in games like HoverDerby, etc. High Fidelity launched this feature and it’s fantastic.
- Paypal support: Many people still do not have, or refuse to use, credit cards. Second Life already supports Paypal; what’s the holdup with Sansar?
- More functional and attractive user forums and blogs: Seriously, ditch Zendesk. It makes you look bad. The Sansar blog is especially unattractive and boring as hell. Again, you already have a great solution in place for Second Life, why not use that for Sansar too?
- Better communication and collaboration with livestreamers and other potential promoters like bloggers and vloggers: These are the people who can make or break your product; you need to attract more of them and make it easy for them to cover your product.
- More contests: the contests that Linden Lab has already had in Sansar have been great, and have resulted in innovative products for sale in the Store and fun places to visit. But there’s been nothing since Hallowe’en. Why not have more contests, including some for consumers as opposed to creators?
- More regular events: We’ve got some events, but we need more! Fashion shows, game shows, theatre, etc. The Events calendar still looks pretty bare sometimes. AltspaceVR and VRChat are just killing it with regular and one-off events.
There are other things I want to see, like a complete, coherent, fully functional permissions system for items sold on the Sansar Store (which is why several potential creators have said that they are holding back from releasing content for sale). But I am focusing on the consumer-oriented things in this particular list.
I reserve the right to update or change this list as other ideas come to me or are suggested to me by others. Ebbe has often said that he wants to focus on building those features in Sansar that increase user attraction, engagement, and retention. Do you have any ideas of what you’d like to see in Sansar before a big consumer rollout? If you have thoughts about what Sansar features would improve consumer attraction, engagement, and retention, then please feel free to leave a comment on this blogpost, thanks!