Money in the Newer Virtual Worlds

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Image by TheDigitalWay on Pixabay

The best things in life are free
But you can give them to the birds and bees
I want money
That’s what I want
That’s what I want
That’s what I want

Your love gives me such a thrill
But your love won’t pay my bills
I want money
That’s what I want
That’s what I want
That’s what I want

Money, the Flying Lizards


In-world currency systems are an integral part of many social VR/virtual world platforms. Second Life can be seen as the perfect example of a virtual world whose popularity exploded once people realized that they could make money on the platform, inspired by a 2006 Businessweek cover story on Second Life entrepreneur Anshe Chung:

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This blogpost is an attempt to provide a comprehensive overview of how the newer virtual world platforms have implemented in-world currencies and set up systems for commerce.

Sansar

Linden Lab has, of course, 15 years of experience working with Second Life‘s economy and in-game currency, and they have applied that expertise in the setup and operation of the economy for their new virtual world, Sansar. You can buy Sansar dollars in two ways, directly in bundles or via the Sansar Dollar Exchange (SandeX), a currency exchange. There are more details on the SandeX in this document:

 The SandeX is the official virtual exchange of Sansar, run by Linden Lab, where you can:

  • Buy Sansar dollars at the current market rate.
  • Make limit buy offers at a requested exchange rate.
  • Sell Sansar dollars at the current market rate.
  • Make limit sell offers at a requested exchange rate.

All SandeX transactions are subject to transaction fees.

Market buy and sell

Market buys and market sells are the quickest ways to purchase or sell Sansar dollars on the SandeX. The SandeX automatically matches your order with the best exchange rate. The quoted exchange rate includes transaction fees associated with buying and selling on the exchange.

Limit buy and sell

Limit buys and sells allow you to specify the amount of Sansar dollars and the exchange rate you are willing to accept. The SandeX automatically matches up buy and sell offers as they come in. If you are buying, you must have sufficient funds in your US$ wallet to pay for the buy order.

Creators can sell their creations on the Sansar Store, and can also receive statistics on how well their items are selling. There is as yet no in-world commerce like they have in Second Life.

Sinespace

Sinespace has two in-world currencies, called silver and gold. According to their wiki:

Gold

Gold credits can only be purchased for real money by spending users and can be converted back to real money by Sine Wave virtual goods partners.

Gold credits trade at 100 / 1 fixed ratio with USD$

Silver

Silver credits are free promotional credits given to users as rewards for participating in the community.

Silver credits cannot be converted to real money but can be used by creators to promote their content to new platform users who have not yet purchased gold.

Sinespace has a Marketplace built into its client software, and a few vendors like BlakOpal have also set up in-world stores.

High Fidelity

High Fidelity has attracted a lot of recent media attention due to the fact that they have decided to set up a blockchain-based in-world currency, called High Fidelity Coins (HFC):

  • Blockchain Technology: Our new currency, High Fidelity Coins (HFC), will be a public blockchain with a consensus group of multiple parties. A blockchain is essentially a digital ledger of transactions. We are using blockchain technology to track and record transactions made using HFC. All information on a blockchain exists as a shared database, which means the records are public and verifiable. It is not centralized. We are also using the blockchain to store information about digital asset ownership in High Fidelity. This enables us to protect intellectual property by embedding certification in items in the blockchain. HFC will eventually be convertible to local currencies or other cryptocurrencies at popular exchanges.
  • Cryptographically-secured Wallet: Users will be able to participate in transactions using their Wallet, which will be an app on their tablet in High Fidelity. Your Wallet is secured using a security picture and a passphrase which includes ECDSA public-private keys pairs. These key pairs are used to sign each transaction.
  • Proof of Provenance (PoP) certificate: This certificate is generated for every transaction between a user’s Wallet and the Markeplace. This certificate’s ID is stored on the blockchain. The certificate contains static properties that can help in identifying the item and the owner. These properties cannot be altered, except by transfer of the PoP Certificate. Currently, we only support objects that contain a file type .JSON. Support for avatars and other file types will be coming soon.

Currently, the only way to get some HFC (a free one-time grant) is to go to the Bank of High Fidelity domain at their open times and meet with the banker. Here’s some more information of HFC from the High Fidelity website:

We are currently giving out the currency for anyone interested in participating in the closed beta for High Fidelity Commerce. If you want to get your inital HFC grant, you first need to set up your Wallet.

These coins are to be used as currency for any commerce transactions in the Marketplace. Since we are using blockchain technology, all transactions with HFCs will be publically recorded and stored.

Your Wallet will be secured using ECDSA public-private key pairs, security picture and passphrase. Learn more about your Wallet here.

HFC is not intended for speculators to hold and should be used in transactions in High Fidelity. HFC is intended to be a stable currency and used to support a healthy and vibrant virtual economy for digital goods and assets.\

High Fidelity has an online Marketplace where vendors can sell their products (users can also access the Marketplace listings using their tablets in-world). Avatar Island is the first domain set up in HiFi where you can try on and purchase items for your avatar in-world.

VRChat

VRChat currently does not have any sort of commerce or in-game currency, although there is a thriving real-world business for people designing and rigging custom avatars for VRChat users. It will be interesting to see what happens when/if the company decides to implement an in-world economy on the most popular of the social VR platforms.

AltspaceVR

As I recently reported, AltspaceVR seems to be gearing up for commerce, but at the moment, there is no commerce or in-game currency system in place.

OpenSim

Different OpenSim grids have different solutions to the problem of an in-world currency. Every grid has in-world stores which offer merchandise for sale. Some grids issue their own currencies; others use the Gloebit system, which has the advantage of being one standard currency which is transferable and usable across a large number of participating OpenSim grids. The Kitely Marketplace is a popular shopping mall for the many OpenSim virtual worlds:

Kitely Market can deliver items to all Kitely avatars, as well as to avatars on all other OpenSim grids that support the Hypergrid. Our marketplace also delivers items to avatars on several non-Hypergrid grids that have been set up to receive deliveries from our system.

Kitely Market has been used to deliver items to thousands of OpenSim users on more than 100 different OpenSim grids.

Virtual Universe, Decentraland and the Other Blockchain-Based Virtual Worlds

Virtual Universe, Decentraland, Mark Space, Staramba Spaces, VIBEHub, Ceek, and Terra Virtua (among many other products in this increasingly crowded marketplace) are issuing their own blockchain-based cryptocurrencies or tokens for future use on their platforms. all of which are still in development. The product closest to a launch date appears to be Virtual Universe, which plans to start a closed beta sometime in the fourth quarter of 2018.

I’ve already strongly warned potential investors to do every. single. scrap. of their homework before investing a penny in any of these blockchain/cryptocurrency ventures (link). Caveat Emptor!

Other Social VR/Virtual World Platforms

I can’t think of any other metaverse products which have in-world currencies at the moment, besides the adult virtual worlds like Oasis and Utherverse/The Red Light Center (these links are safe for work). If I’ve missed one, please let me know in the comments, thank you!

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UPDATED: What Are the Most Popular Destinations in the Metaverse?

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Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

When you’re feeling like you want some company in a virtual world, where do you go? Sometimes people choose to go to popular places, where they can be fairly certain to meet other avatars who are also in-world at the same time. What are the metaverse equivalents of the Cheers bar, where you can just drop in anytime?


Second Life

For example, sometimes when I’m bored I go visit the London City sims, which are always busy. Clubs such as Muddy’s, Big Daddy’s, Fogbound Blues, and Frank’s Place are always a popular choice when you want to be around other avatars in a social setting.

Second Life does have a Popular Places listing, but the truth is, most of the places listed are actually pretty deserted. Clubs, in particular, seem to come and go with surprising frequency. Sometimes you have to go by word of mouth to hear about popular spots.

Here’s an interesting canned search that pulls up a list of Second Life sims, sorted in descending order by “traffic”. However, you should know that Second Life is notorious for having sims that may look busy, but are actually populated by armies of bots hidden away somewhere in a platform in the sky, in an effort to game SL’s traffic measurement system, and therefore appear higher in the Search function under Places. So be skeptical when looking at traffic statistics; they often don’t tell the whole story.

But what about the newer virtual worlds and social VR spaces? Where are their Cheers?

Sansar

Every so often Gindipple posts his statistics of the most popular Sansar experiences. Two that seem to be perennially popular are 114 Harvest (the starting place for the weekly Atlas Hopping event and the home of several notable Sansarians) and Alfy’s Arena Live Music Stage. Another popular place is Zen Garden. But really, you can just check the Sansar Events listing or the Sansar Atlas under the All tab, which automatically sorts Sansar experiences in reverse order by the number of avatars present (just check the green number in the upper left corner of the picture of each experience):

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High Fidelity

Finding popular places in High Fidelity (aside from scheduled meetups and events) can be a bit of a head-scratcher. The social VR platform does have an upcoming events page in pinboardagenda, or calendar month views. Unfortunately, there’s no events listing within their client (on their tablet), so you’ll have to rely on the website to get your information before you go in-world. If you search under Places in the tablet user interface, it will tell you how many other avatars are in other domains, though.

Sinespace

The most popular place in Sinespace (aside from special events such as speakers at the Delphi Talks) is invariably the Welcome Centre, where there is usually a small crowd of avatars sitting around and chatting.

VRChat

VRChat hosts many popular events such as the ENDGAME and Gunter’s Universe talk shows. The best way to find out when these are happening is to check out the handy VRChat Events calendar or join the VRChat Events Discord server. Again, sometimes the best thing to do when you’re simply looking for some company, is to open the Places menu and just pick a spot at random where there are a lot of other avatars gathered. You’re pretty much guaranteed to run into somebody to chat with.


What are your favourite places to go in the metaverse when you want to meet other avatars? Have you found a spot you like to go visit? Please leave a comment with your suggested places and strategies, thanks!

UPDATE Aug. 9th:

OpenSim

Alan Tupper of the Opensim Virtual community on Google+ has given me a great tip on finding popular destinations on OpenSim, by clicking this link to the OpenSimWorld directory, which gives a list of sims sorted in descending order by number of avatars present! This is very useful, thank you, Alan!

UPDATED: High Fidelity Reaches a New Record! Over 250 Avatars in One Domain


The place to be on Friday was The Spot in High Fidelity, where over 250 avatars gathered in one domain for the second in a series of monthly stress tests!

So it would now appear that High Fidelity has snatched the title from Sinespace as the virtual world with the highest possible avatar capacity in a single region (all avatars, and no bots).

Congratulations to Philip Rosedale and his team for their technical achievement!

UPDATE Aug. 9th: Philip Rosedale has blogged about the event on Medium. And here’s a YouTube video of highlights of this event:

Glitched: A VR Talk Show Set in Virtual Reality

Glitched is a talk show that originally started in AltspaceVR, and then moved to High Fidelity:

Glitched is a VR talk show in VR. The show was created by Eugene Capon in early 2016 as a product for AltspaceVR. Radio DJ Topher Welsh was brought on as a co-host during the first season. When Altspace shut down in August of 2017 the show became available for other opportunities. High Fidelity VR ordered a 6 episode run funding a second season and making Glitched the first VR talk show to be ordered like a TV show. The show has featured a variety of guests including VR industry professionals, VR game designers and well known Internet personalities.

All of their episodes (20 in total) are available to watch on YouTube. Here’s a highlight reel from season 2 of the show:

 

High Fidelity Launches a Mobile App for Android Devices!

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High Fidelity is really doing some innovative things with their platform! They’ve launched an Android mobile app to allow you to connect to HiFi from your Android-compatible cellphone:

We’re excited to announce that we’ve launched the alpha version of High Fidelity’s Android mobile app (called High Fidelity – Live VR Experiences 32) today! Now, you have the ability to join domains like TheSpot, Mexico, SVVR from your Daydream-ready phone to attend face-to-face events and interact with real people in the virtual world. Please note that this alpha version is not designed for Daydream View.

It’s important to us that testers are able to have an open conversation about feedback and improvements we can make so you can join real, live experiences with other people in virtual spaces right from your phone.

Are you an Android user eager to try out our new app and interested in testing it out?

If so, please fill out this form to add yourself to the list, and we will reach out to you within the next week to start gathering feedback.

Here’s a link to the app on the Google Play store. I’m an iPhone user, so I can’t test this out, but I would be very interested to hear from anyone who is using this app on their Android device. Let me know how well it works!

Participate in High Fidelity Stress Testing and You Can Earn an Amazon Gift Card!

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High Fidelity has announced that they will be holding monthly stress tests of their platform (trying to get as many avatars into one domain as possible), and to encourage people to participate, they are giving away Amazon gift card credits:

Who? You and everyone you know.

What? Every registered attendee who shows up to the event will receive at least $10 in Amazon gift card credit.*

The more people who attend, the greater the rewards.

  • Up to 100 people // $10
  • 100+ people // $15
  • 200+ people // $20
  • 1000+ people // $25

When? Join us the first Friday of every month from 1:30pm to 2:00pm Pacfic

Where? The Spot in High Fidelity

Why? Because we believe VR can grow to Internet-scale, reach 1 billion people, and provide new opportunities for education, employment and entertainment.

How? Register, tell your friends and join us the first Friday of every month.

In order to take part, you must register using EventBrite, and show up at The Spot domain in High Fidelity at 1:45 p.m. Pacific Time.

The first stress test is today (July 6th, 2018). I did try to register, but they tell me the event is “Sold Out”, so I assume that they already have enough potential users signed up. However, you can register for future stress tests now, using the EventBrite website (just click on the Select A Date button near the top of the page). The stress tests are scheduled on the first Friday of every month.

UPDATE: Jess, High Fidelity’s Community Manager, tells me:

There are two types of tickets – one called “High Fidelity’s VR Studio Ticket,” which is to attend at our VR studio in San Francisco. That’s what you’re seeing as sold out. The other type gets you on the guest list to attend from wherever you are, and it hasn’t sold out:

Here’s a picture showing you which one you select:

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SECOND UPDATE: I was able to take a few photos of today’s stress test. Here’s one of Philip Rosedale (on stage, with his arms raised):

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And we got over 200 avatars in one place, which is apparently a new record!

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Here’s an aerial shot of the crowd:

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High Fidelity Gets $35 Million in Venture Capital

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The technology news website TechCrunch is reporting today that social VR company High Fidelity is receiving 35 million dollars in venture captial funding:

High Fidelity, a social VR startup founded by one of Second Life’s original creators has bagged a $35 million Series D led by Blockchain investment firm Galaxy Digital Ventures. Also participating in the round were Breyer Capital, IDG Capital Partners, Vulcan Capital and Blockchain Capital.