There’s an extremely interesting article on the Road to VR website, that’s worth a read. Apparently, an author writing a book about the history of VR has obtained a copy of a lengthy 2015 email that Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook sent to his senior executives. (The email has been confirmed by Road to VR, a major news reporting website on VR, as authentic.)
What I predict will happen, over the next two years, is that one of the Big Five computer companies: – Alphabet/Google – Amazon – Apple – Facebook/Oculus – Microsoft
Is either going to launch their own social VR/virtual world/metaverse product, OR is going to buy one of the Big Four metaverse-building companies: – High Fidelity – Linden Lab (Second Life and Sansar) – Sine Wave Entertainment (Sinespace) – VRChat
Well, keep that in mind, and read this direct quote from Mark’s email:
The key [VR] apps are what you’d expect: social communication and media consumption, especially immersive video. Gaming is critical but is more hits-driven and ephemeral, so owning the key games seems less important than simply making sure they exist on our platform. I expect everyone will use social communication and media consumption tools, and that we’ll build a large business if we are successful in these spaces. We will need a large investment and dedicated strategy to build the best services in these spaces. For now, though, I’ll just assert that building social services is our core competence, so I’ll save elaborating further on that for another day.
The platform vision is around key services that many apps use: identity, content and avatar makerplace, app distribution store, ads, payments and other social functionality. These services share the common properties of network effects, scarcity and therefore monetization potential. The more developers who use our content marketplace or app store or payments system, the better they become and the more effectively we can make money.
It seems pretty clear to me, from this email, that Facebook is planning to step into social VR in a major way. Mark sees “social communication and media consumption” as the killer app for VR, and they want to be a part of it. Facebook, for better or for worse, wants to dominate social virtual reality the way they already dominate social media.
Decentraland is still getting the kind of mainstream press coverage that most other virtual worlds would kill for. The latest news organization to cover the blockchain-based virtual world, which is expected to launch later this year, is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, better known as the CBC.
I’ve been doing some thinking lately. Now hear me out on this.
Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab, has gone on record that there will never be adult content in Sansar. Not because he’s opposed to it (after all, Second Life makes a not insignificant portion of its profit from the dozens of adult-rated sims on the grid, catering to just about every sexual kink imaginable). In fact, Second Life is so successful at this aspect of the business that it makes it almost impossible for any other adult virtual world to get a financial foothold (link is safe for work).
Ebbe is opposed to adult content from the point of view that he wants Sansar to be a success, a roaring success like Second Life was in its time, and that often means partnerships with other companies. Companies who are understandably very squeamish about associating their brand names with sex and adult content. The United States of America, for all the glorification of violence portrayed in its cultural exports like videogames and movies, is still remarkably puritanical (and frankly, somewhat hypocritical) when it comes to sex.
None of what I call the “Big Five” social VR platforms (or even the top 12, for that matter) allow adult content. Note that here I am talking specifically about general-purpose/multipurpose platforms, not the purely sex-oriented ones like 3DX Chat (all links in this paragraph are safe for work).
But what would happen if one of them decides to break from the pack and allow sexual content? Assuming, of course, that there would be some kind of permissions system in place to lock it down and restrict access to only those adults who want to see and participate in it (like what Second Life already has, but perhaps even more restrictive).
That social VR platform would probably get a huge boost in business, along with a burst of media attention (not all of it positive). And it might just get enough attention to actually become a major player, becoming in effect the next Second Life, with user concurrency figures to match.
It’s a risky gamble, and if it is not handled correctly, it will tarnish the name of whatever social VR platform makes the attempt (much the same as Second Life now has a certain disreputable reputation in some quarters, even though it is certainly possible to use and enjoy SL without ever stepping foot in an adult sim).
But for some company, sick and tired of being the underdog virtual world after pouring untold time and money into building a platform, only to have it ignored, it might be a truly tempting prospect. And it would probably up-end the marketplace.
Then again, perhaps somebody will just go and create a purely adult-oriented social VR platform. We’ve already seen a first attempt to support VR with the adult virtual world Oasis (link is safe for work), but when I tried it, it didn’t work very well at all. Furthermore, it looks like the company is having trouble attracting users (they recently switched from their initial US$20-per-month subscription plan to US$20 for a “lifetime membership”, which indicates a certain level of desperation setting in). After writing my profile on the platform (see link above), I uninstalled Oasis from my computer and I have no plans to return.
The adult virtual world 3DX Chat also says they support the Oculus Rift VR headset on their website, and I did try it out once, but it’s also pretty buggy. After writing my profile (link is safe for work), I uninstalled the client software, and I have absolutely zero inclination to want to revisit 3DX Chat. As I have said before on this blog:
…I want to make it clear that I am notgoing to get into the habit of covering adult/sex-based virtual worlds. There are literally dozens of them out there, and frankly, I find them boring as hell.
Will I cover sex/adult-oriented social VR platforms in future on this blog? If it doesn’t cost me anything to test it out, once, then I might do it again. I mean, I’m a 55-year-old out-of-the-closet gay man; it’s not like I need a note from my Mommy to see nekkid people 😉
So, what do you think? Which social VR company do you think will take the plunge into adult content? Or do you think a new, adults-only company will capture the market instead? Please feel free to leave a comment on this blogpost, or join the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, where nearly 200 members are ready and willing to discuss and debate these and many other issues around social VR and virtual worlds!
UPDATE Feb. 19th: SURPRISE! As it turns out, one of the top social VR platforms already allows adult content, and I wasn’t even aware of it!
These Terms of Service for High Fidelity Domains are applicable only when you access or use High Fidelity Domains (content hosted by High Fidelity). HIGH FIDELITY IS NOT RESPONSIBLE OR LIABLE FOR ANY ASPECT OF THE HIGH FIDELITY PLATFORM THAT IS NOT HOSTED, DISTRIBUTED, PROVIDED OR MAINTAINED BY HIGH FIDELITY.
So it would appear that you can have adult content on your own domain, as long as you don’t bring any adult content into HiFi’s own hosted domains. Furthermore, you can set an adults-only (age 18+) rating in the description section of the domain when you are setting it up:
There are users who have adult content in their domains, but these are usually made private (unlisted) so that unaware users do not wander in… which is probably why most people haven’t seen them 🙂
I am pretty sure that most people are not aware that you can already have adult content in High Fidelity. I know that I’ve never heard of it before this! And High Fidelity probably doesn’t want to advertise that fact too loudly or too broadly, lest they get overrun with people setting up adult domains. Or maybe they do actually want that market! How interesting…
[High Fidelity] is an open source system where you run the servers. You can do whatever you want on your server. You are responsible for any local laws you might break, etc. We are just like an Apache web server.
Because we provide search services for placenames or domains on the web and in places like the go-to button on the tablet, we will use self-described ratings and other data we can collect to provide filters for those searches. Obviously you can opt out of using or being included in those search services. So these ratings will be used there.
Menithal suggests reading through the full discussion thread I linked to above, not just the part where Philip weighs in, in order to get the full context of the discussion.