UPDATED! Editorial: So, What Is It Going to Take to Get People to Visit Sansar—And Keep Them Coming Back?

Star Trek Mission Log 22 May 2018

At this week’s Star Trek Mission Log Live event, something was nagging me in the back of my mind while I was mingling and chatting with the other people present, and watching the broadcast.

It was the thought that this event, as fun as it was, was probably not getting the attention—or the audience—that Linden Lab was hoping for. The number of people present was less than 30, if I remember correctly. (I must confess that I got bored, and I left the event early, before the podcast hosts showed up in Sansar’s recreation of the bridge from the original Star Trek.)

And the deal to set up game-watching experiences within Sansar for the Overwatch League appears to have fallen through. Wagner James Au of the blog New World Notes was the first to report the bad news:

Thanks to a sharp reader, I just noted a belated (and curious) update to the original VentureBeat post announcing the Overwatch team partnership:

Update: Sansar does not have a formal partnership with the teams or the Overwatch League. Sansar conducted preliminary discussions with the San Francisco Shock and Houston Outlaws to create VR watch spaces, but the previously announced activities are not moving forward at this time as there was a misunderstanding.

Hat tip: Wurfi. Apparently something fell apart after the press release was published…

In the same blogpost, Wagner notes that user concurrency figures for Sansar have only gone up very slightly from before, citing the statistics that Gindipple keeps:

At best we can probably say there’s been a very small growth in usage since these gamer outreaches. I’m personally surprised by this, because I expected growth of at least a few hundred. That may still happen if the gamer personalities do more to ramp their fans into Sansar, but so far, sadly, that’s not happening.

I’ve also had some misgivings about Linden Lab’s deal with UmiNoKaiju, which I doubt has had much impact so far on user concurrency figures, either. And the Ready Player One movie tie-in did little to nothing to attract new users, from what I can tell.

So, what is it going to take to get people to come visit Sansar? I honestly don’t know. I wish I knew. Frankly, I am starting to get worried. I’ve already been prodding Linden Lab to think outside the box in terms of promoting Sansar. But I don’t have any new ideas myself as to how they should go about doing what appears to be an increasingly difficult task: attracting new users to Sansar and keeping them coming back for more.

And I worry: what happens, if another year goes by and the user concurrency figures for Sansar have not budged? Will Linden Lab decide to pull the plug, and refocus on Second Life, which is the cash cow that is currently funding Sansar’s development? How long will Linden Lab continue to plough money into a project with (so far) limited success? Is there some future date in Ebbe Altberg’s mind when, if usage figures do not improve, he’s going to cease development on Sansar, some point where he decides that he’s simply throwing good money after bad? The thought terrifies me.

There’s a small, but highly active and engaged user community already in Sansar, which is a joy and a delight to me. But it doesn’t seem to me that we are attracting a lot of new people to Sansar events and experiences. Yes, there’s usually one or two new faces every Saturday at Atlas Hopping. But so far, there hasn’t been a flood of new users, despite efforts to create engaging new in-world games like the Combat Zone and HoverDerby.

We might—just maybe—have to steel ourselves to the possibility that Sansar will not be a success on the same level as Second Life. And that’s a highly unpleasant thought to me.

What do you think? Please sound off in the comments…let me know what you think.

UPDATE May 25th: I cross-posted this blogpost to various VR-themed groups on Facebook, and I got quite a few comments back. Summarized, they fall into three broad categories:

  • Make Sansar available via Steam or Oculus Home: “How about starting by putting it in a store people actually shop at, like Steam or Oculus for one. Many probably don’t know it exists or what it is.”
  • Make Sansar run faster/better: “It takes forever to download a world, and half the time it either crashes or just says it can’t join while loading. They need to fix those bugs.”
  • Allow adult content: “Adult content. That’s the only way it’ll have a shot. SL would’ve been 6 feet under years ago without the adult stuff.”

2nd UPDATE, May 25th 3:37 p.m.: Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab, left this comment on the official Sansar Discord channel:

And, we are still in beta. We are trying things with various partners and learn and iterate. We are not yet piling on for growth. But each revolution things get better. But we also discover issues and iterate again.

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10 thoughts on “UPDATED! Editorial: So, What Is It Going to Take to Get People to Visit Sansar—And Keep Them Coming Back?”

  1. It’s a shame, Sansar is dead in the water, worse than I might have thought. It is alarming. Absolutely no one I asked liked it or cares anymore. I just wish they pull the plug immediately, say oops, an us entirely on Second Life starting with their promising birthday bash this summer. It is clearly a waste of time and money to continue with it or wait and see. Almost a year for Sansar now and no growth.
    This is just my opinion of coarse but seems all hope is lost. The majority of the time it is a ghost town, frighteningly alone and empty.

  2. As pretty as it looks, it’s now obvious that this isn’t enough to attract and retain users. What is missing is major functionality and usability. Most people will have come from SL, and like me will have seen it as one step forward, to steps back; immensely slow ‘teleports’, limited interactions with objects, and snail-like movement making exploration frankly boring. In my opinion Sansar was simply not ready to be released to the public, even in Beta, and by doing so LL have alienated the very user base they needed: users of SL.
    Small improvements dribbled out over a number of months isn’t going to bring back the crowds, it is going to take something much bigger. My advice is to call a halt to the Beta, announce it as a success with regards to an information gathering exercise, then work on fixing usability and interactability behind closed doors for as long as it takes. There can then be a major relaunch that will get most coming back for a second look, and if these elements are on a par with SL, instead of Mike behind like now, some may well stay.

  3. I personally think it just needs more time to develop further from early beta….. I also think that Sansar is being promoted more as a VR experience than a desktop experience and that is also putting a lot of people off in the sense that many people just can’t be doing with the hassle of the current headsets(it’s a pain!) and they are not the things you can wear for hours without consequences; plus the fact that current VR headsets are not independent units and require heavy resources from the users PC hardware to function well… That it not good for VR sales or in attracting users to want to delve into the VR experience if they feel they’ll have to upgrade their system for VR to function well.

    In time VR technology will evolve to the stage wear they are just a light unobtrusive pair of glasses type device or something similar which will be a lot more attractive to the majority of potential VR users; either that or the VR craze will just die a slow death, especially in virtual worlds with only the hardened VR users wanting to continue with VR in virtual worlds?
    In fact I would say a lot of people would be very satisfied at this stage with having a virtual controller(similar to what comes with VR headsets) just so that they can use their hands and arms virtually and forget the headset all together right now? At least then users could wave and gesture with the arms and hands while using the desktop to view Sansar virtual world…. Save the headset type viewing for when the technology has progressed to a level in which it isn’t cumbersome, obtrusive to use and causes headaches and sickness for a lot of people who have currently field-tested VR Headset Systems and although great fun have decided against purchasing one because of said reasons.

    There is also the fact that Sansar is still largely an unknown platform for creators, in that I think we still have to see what creators can create to inspire users to want to enter the Sansar virtual world.
    Creating glorious looking but non-interactive environments, though a necessary criteria but something that is in reality only a background feature that should be used just to set the stage of the environments and not the only feature on offer……. Hoverderby and Combat Zone are a start towards better things but we need much more variety in entertainment and ideas if Sansar is to succeed…. This is down to the creators but also to the Sansar team to make sure that their wishes are listened too and acted upon in which I think they are doing a great job achieving that goal.
    All this takes time to develop and deploy well, and I think given time and the continued support from the Sansar team in listening to what people want within Sansar then Sansar will succeed…. We have to continually remind ourselves that Sansar is still in early beta and this question really should be revisited again in 1-2 years time when Sansar is a more mature platform…..

    But overall, I would honestly be cautious of thinking that VR is the main-way to promote this platform right now; keep VR featured and continue developing for VR too, but make sure that in marketing Sansar the desktop functionality is also pushed a lot more in encouraging users to sign up.

    So to summarise Sansar with an analogy, I would describe the current beta development state of Sansar as visiting: “A glorious looking theatre, but with now show to entertain”. Apart from Drax and Berry of course! They make a great team, very entertaining, and both are doing a great PR job in Sansar and should be highly commended for the work they do for the Sansar community.
    But I believe the greater variety of entertainment will come as Sansar matures and especially when the creators have got to grips with what can be achieved with Sansar as a whole.

  4. I visited Sansar last night (European time), and visited the “featured places”. There is no way of seeing in advance how many people are at which places, and it turned out that I just met one single person. You say there are games now in Sansar, but those places are not promoted in any special way (anyway, I was not triggered to visit them and I was even unaware of their existence). The place reminded me of Blue Mars: made for builders by builders, but forgetting about the majority of potential users who want to actually do something (apart from building) like gaming, socializing or roleplaying.

  5. Like most problems in life there isn’t ONE thing to explain the low number of users in Sansar. One is the emphasis on VR. VR equipment is still too primitive, uncomfortable, and costly. Two there is little to do. Three Sansar runs too slow. Four the lack of simple in “world” building tools. Five improvements come out in dips and drabs. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

    One reason I haven’t seen mentioned is Ebbe’s and Linden Labs’ insistence that Sansar remain so proprietary. A major reason for Second Life’s success was users were not limited and restricted to tools approved by Linden Lab. The users were free to do things their way.

    There are lots of parallels between the Oasis of novel “Ready Player One” and Sansar. But Linden Labs insistence that they are they are the only ones capable of determining what is “good” in Sansar is very troubling. Is this stifling of creativity what would have happened if ONI (The bad guys in “Ready Player One”. Otherwise known as the Suxors.) had found Halliday’s egg?

  6. I can only speak for myself but currently my internet is just too slow, which makes Sansar take too long.
    I don’t want to wait 15 minutes to visit a place.
    On top of that I’m more of a builder than a tourist, I want to create my own place and it looks like I have to master 3d software for that and unfortunately I lack the time and perhaps patience for that right now.
    But even if I could built 1920s Berlin there tomorrow, there wouldn’t be much I could do with it as Sansar lacks roleplay tools and even a basic rental system.
    Which means its just not suitable yet for active (roleplaying) communities where people can rent apartments, decorate them, have doors only they can open, etc.
    I know its asking a lot from a virtual world that is so young, but unless I can do in Sansar what I can already do in Secone Life, I don’t see a reason to move there or bring my very active and loyal community with me.
    I’ve been to Sansar a few times, enjoyed looking around a few places but that is pretty much all you can do and just like in SL, just walking around bores me real soon.
    And they may not want to make it a SL copy but fact is that SL works and most Sansar users, at least in its early stage, will be SL users and we’ve been spoiled when it comes to freedom and posibilities.

    Having said that, Sansar has huge potential, its looks great.
    I will give it another go when my internet improves in about half a year and maybe by then I’ve been able to find time to master some 3d software.

  7. In my opinion, Sansar has a lot of potential. But it’s still in Beta. Also, the cost of the hardware (aka: system requirements) and speed from Internet providers needed (as Jo said above) needs to be a smooth, non-lagging/crashing experience. Although Internet companies like Spectrum are rolling out higher Mbps at lower costs, older computers are still limited and cannot produce the speeds Spectrum and other ISP’s provide. (Spectrum provides up to 200 Mbps of speed for what I pay for now, but my computer maxes out at less than half that, at 94 Mbps.) The cost to upgrade to a faster computer, sadly, is still out of reach of many. And of course the cost of the 3D VR experience is still WAY out of reach for many. You won’t get many SLers to come over to Sansar — at least not at this time anyway — because as long as they can run SL on their “slower” computers, they will not give up their investment into that platform. In essence, Sansar is a bit ahead of its time and SLers are, in many cases, too “poor” and too entrenched in SL to upgrade.

    I think Sansar will eventually find a larger audience, either when SLers’ older computers become dinosaurs or when current computers and VR become more affordable. Only then will you see an influx of people willing to try it. But, like SL in its beginnings, it’s going to take a few years for that to happen.

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