Editorial: The Licensing of Wearables in Decentraland Could Lead to a Creative Bottleneck

Watching the various blockchain-based virtual worlds evolve, and comparing and contrasting their decisions on how they wish to operate with longer-established, non-blockchain-based virtual worlds such as Second Life, has proven to be quite interesting.

Many of the eager cryptoinvestors who have bought NFTs (non-fungible tokens) such as virtual land, avatar names, and avatar wearables in places like Cryptovoxels, Decentraland and Somnium Space like to tout that their possessions cannot be taken away from them, or censored, revoked or restricted by any central authority, even by the companies running the platform.

For example, they point out that if a user runs afoul of Second Life’s Terms of Service, they can have their account suspended and lose all their virtual possessions. In contrast, the adherents of blockchain-based virtual worlds claim that they can evade such restrictions by simply selling their items on the open market (one such example is the popular OpenSea collectibles marketplace).

Limited-edition wearables (i.e., avatar clothing) which are bought and sold on the blockchain are already proving quite popular both in Cryptovoxels and Decentraland, but the two platforms are taking distinctly different approaches in their implementation. While Cryptovoxels is using the open market approach already proven as successful in places like Second Life, Decentraland seems to be opting for a more restrictive licensing approach, which at first glance seems rather at odds with its “open, decentralized” advertising.

Forcing creators to sign licenses to be allowed to make and sell content, and having investors vote on who will and will not be allowed to create content, stifles the creativity of an free and open marketplace, and seems to go against the “decentralized” nature of Decentraland.

According to an announcement made Monday on the official Decentraland blog:

The creation of wearables for Decentraland is a complicated process requiring a lot of support. To ensure user-generated wearables look great and function properly in Decentraland we will need to make the tools to support this process.

It will take time to develop the workflow and build the equivalent of an SDK and Builder tool for wearables so during this process we will work with small teams of developers from the community that we are confident can deliver quality products and the feedback and communication we need.

Once the workflow is in place and the quality at the high level you’d expect, we’ll implement Stage 2 of the initiative.

This involves opening up the application to create wearables to the entire community. It will take the form of licenses being granted to teams and individuals by the community, through the DAO.

The DAO (short for Decentralized Autonomous Organization) is a relatively new mechanism to allow Decentraland’s investors to vote “on the policies created to determine how the world behaves: for example, what kinds of wearable items are allowed (or disallowed) after the launch of the DAO, moderation of content, LAND policy and auctions, among others.” (More information on the DAO can be found here.)

I have seen a lot of virtual worlds come and go in my time, and one thing that I can tell you is this: imposing any kind of licensing on the creative process can lead to a creative bottleneck, and potentially drive away content creators.

One reason that Second Life continues to be the most commercially successful and popular virtual world, is that Linden Lab had, very early on, decided to create a free and open market, where creators could set up stores and sell their content to whoever was willing to buy it, retaining the rights to their creations and earning income.

Linden Lab has never licensed stores or creators in Second Life, and never will. The workload associated with such an enterprise, in a market with many millions of items for sale, would be impossible to scale upwards as the economy grew. Yes, Linden Lab will step in if a DMCA copyright complaint is received from a competitor, and they will also shut down stores which sell illegally-copied content when it is pointed out to them, but otherwise, they very wisely stand aside and let the market decide what people want.

And while stores open and fold with astounding regularity in Second Life, the fact that they have approximately 900,000 regular monthly users means that they must be doing something right (even if it was all a happy accident which to date still has not been replicated by any other platform). Those virtual worlds that look on with envy at SL’s success, and wish to snatch that mantle of success for themselves, need to pay attention to what works, and what doesn’t.

It would appear that, going forward, Decentraland will be focusing on a licensing process for all avatar wearables, letting its investors vote, instead of letting anybody who wants to, simply create and sell avatar clothing and accessories for the DCL marketplace. While some see this as a necessary effort to impose and refine a high-quality workflow, others see it as a means to restrict market access, and reward those who have the deepest pockets and the best connections. (Some commentators have complained about the opaque process by which the initial five wearables creators were chosen.) Time will tell who’s right and who’s wrong here.

As I see it, Decentraland already has some daunting obstacles which stand in the way of attracting and retaining your average, non-crypto virtual world user to their platform: the many steps required to set up a crypto wallet and purchase ETH and convert it to MANA; the need to purchase even things as basic as a username; and the prohibitively expensive virtual land, its price driven up by speculators. Placing licensing restrictions on who can create items such as avatar wearables could become another such obstacle.

Decentraland should study the history of its competitors carefully, to glean a few pertinent lessons on how to run and grow a virtual world. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here, folks.

Photo by Jon Cartagena on Unsplash

NFT Estate: A New Website Examining Blockchain-Based Virtual Worlds

The NFT Estate Website Home Page

There’s a new website which examines and analyzes the various blockchain-based virtual land platforms that have been springing up, called NFT Estate. (NFT, of course, stands for Non-Fungible Tokens, the concept that blockchain-based property is a unique, distinguishable, indivisible blockchain-based asset which has some sort of monetary value, usually denoted in a cryptocurrency like ETH).

As far as I am aware, the website is not tracking those platforms which have a cryptocurrency, but do not have blockchain-based virtual land for sale (for example, NeosVR). The focus here appears to be squarely on blockchain-based property.

The mission of NFT Estate is:

Our mission here at NFT.estate is to help showcase and introduce our exciting new world, to the rest of the world. We believe that the NFT space has so much potential in the coming years and that the more people who join us on that journey ahead the better for the whole space. At NFT.estate we strive to introduce the best of  the well established as well as the new, up and coming projects, creators and innovators of the non fungible world.

So far, the website has profiled four such platforms:

The site also attempts to do a head-to-head comparison of these four platforms:

The data includes charts with seven-day trading volumes scraped from OpenSea:

Looking at this chart, I do find it interesting that Somnium Space (the green bar) has seen a surge in trading activity in the most recent week, outstripping even Decentraland (the red bar)! It will be interesting to see if this trend continues.

If you want to know more about NFT Estate, you can visit their website, join their Discord server, or follow them on social media: Telegram, Twitter, and Instagram.

The Tominoya Casino Opens May 1st, 2020 in the Vegas City District of Decentraland: Enter the Roulette Competition and Win Prizes!

Decentral Games has opened another casino in the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland! Tominoya has as its theme ancient Japan, and the casino itself is a large, graceful building decorated with Torii gates and a large cherry blossom tree providing shade in the central courtyard:

A view of the outside of the casino, with its Japanese architecture
The cherry-blossom tree in the main courtyard

The Tominoya casino features two games of chance: slot machines and roulette tables. Here is a quick video demonstration of how the latter works:

Here are a few more pictures of the action at the roulette wheel!

There will be an official launch party of the new casino on May 1st, 2020, between 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. UTC, with a roulette competition! Be sure to add the event to your calendar to be reminded as it gets closer.

According to the official rules:

Each user starts by default with 1,000 PLAY to wager on roulette. To make a submission, record a video of your Decentraland avatar dancing on one of the tables in the casino and post it to our #competitions Discord channel before 8:00pm UTC May 3rd. Make sure the video shows your PLAY balance as this will determine the winners.

If you follow us on Twitter and retweet the announcement for the competition, we will add an extra 1,000 PLAY to your submission! The five players with the highest balances will win the prizes below including wearables and MANA.lances will win the prizes below including wearables and MANA!

Here are some of the limited-edition avatar wearables you can win:

Decentraland opened its doors to the general public on Feb. 20th, 2020. If you need step-by-step instructions on how to get started in Decentraland, here they are. You will need to set up an avatar account in Decentraland, linked to a crypto wallet like MetaMask, and have some MANA in order to gamble (although there is a demo version available for you to try out).

To visit the new Tominoya casino directly, just click on this link. (There is no separate client; everything runs in the web browser.)

Also, if you wish to become an investor in the casino, there is a Casino NFT sale, with tokens available for sale on OpenSea.


FULL DISCLOSURE: This blogpost is sponsored by Decentral Games, for which I am being paid in MANA, Decentraland’s in-world cryptocurrency.

CoinFest 2020 Runs March 30th to April 5th in Decentraland

CoinFest 2020, a virtual cryptocurrency conference, is taking place from March 30th to April 5th, 2020 within the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland.

But, before we get to that, I have a bone to pick with one of the crypto news organizations that is covering this event. Let me rant.

The CoinTelegraph cryptocurrency news website actually used the following image to illustrate an article titled Crypto Conference Defies COVID-19 Lockdown by Hosting in Virtual Realm:

What the in name of sweet minty Jesus is this?!?? Somebody needs to inform the folks at CoinTelegraph that this is a pandemic, and not some goddamned mix-and-mingle cocktail party with face masks added as the latest trendy fashion accessory. The tone-deafness of this is absolutely astounding, and frankly I find it offensive.

The accompanying article states:

The COVID-19 crisis may have put a stop to millions of sports events, work conferences and meet-ups across the world, but it has not halted those in the cryptocurrency space.

The Coinfest Conference, which runs until April 4, has found a way to defy the coronavirus lockdown by setting up shop in the digital blockchain realm of Decentraland. 

The first day of the virtual conference kicked off on March 30th, beginning with a round of games that offered users the chance to win MANA tokens — one of Decentraland’s native currencies.


All right, now that I have gotten that off my chest, let’s get back to the actual conference itself.

You can get free tickets for Coinfest here, as well as see a complete schedule of events taking place.

All events take place at the Meeting Center at the Decentraland Conference Center (that last link should take you directly there, although you might have to set up an avatar first if you’ve never visited before). The owner and operator of the Conference Center, Carl Fravel, has provided a guide to getting started in Decentraland.

Carl himself will be giving a presentation at Coinfest at 6:30 p.m. UTC (11:30 a.m. Pacific Time) in Saturday, April 4th, on the topic Decentraland – A Virtual World on the Blockchain. And, if you like, you can join in the party which starts at 5:00 p.m. UTC at this location.

See you there!