I have been observing the goings-on of what I consider to be the top three blockchain-based virtual worlds (Cryptovoxels, Decentraland, and Somnium Space) for quite some time now. I find it endlessly fascinating.
You might not be aware that all three worlds have assets for sale via OpenSea, which is the world’s largest marketplace for digital goods, including collectibles, gaming items, digital art, and other digital assets that are backed by a blockchain like Ethereum (ETH for short). According to their FAQ, there are over four million items on the OpenSea market, but according to one of my sources, it’s closer to 10 million now.
When discussing these worlds, you will hear the term Non-Fungible Token (NFT) thrown around a lot. An NFT is a unique, distinguishable, indivisible blockchain-based asset which has some sort of monetary value, usually denoted in a cryptocurrency like ETH.
The classic example of an NFT is Cryptokitties, a passionate phenomenon which utterly baffles me. (Then again, I have never understood why breedables became a thing in Second Life, which is the closest non-crypto analogy I can give for NFTs.) The information contained within a non-fungible token is unique to that token, like the colour and design of the stripes on a Cryptokitty, or the location coordinates for a parcel of LAND in Decentraland. This means that one non-fungible token can never be simply swapped, or exchanged, for any other token. Each is unique.
All three of Cryptovoxels, Decentraland, and Somnium Space have both virtual land and virtual items as non-fungible tokens. And you might be as surprised as I was today when, out of idle curiosity, I investigated and discovered just how much money is trading hands per week in these virtual worlds!
Here is a screen capture of the trading volume of the past seven days for both Cryptovoxels and Decentraland, two virtual worlds which have consistently appeared in the OpenSea top 5 list by trading volume:
US$54,000 trading hands in a week is nothing to sniff at (although I suspect significantly more money is still being exchanged in Second Life on a weekly basis). I can now begin to understand how Cryptovoxels’ lead developer, Ben Nolan, can work full-time and be supported financially by his platform! There’s some money to be had here.
In fact, the distributed nature of blockchain ledger-keeping allows anyone to see at a glance how well (or poorly) sales are doing on any blockchain-based platform. Unlike Second Life sales volumes, which are considered confidential, proprietary corporate information by Linden Lab (aside from the occasional statistic tossed out on anniversaries), you can’t hide the information; it is available to anybody who wants to look at it!
(You might be interested to know that the 7-day trading volume in the third blockchain-based platform I mentioned up top, Somnium Space, is about 7.9 ETH, which works out to US$1,134. I am willing to predict that investment in Somnium Space will increase during 2020 to a level comparable with Cryptovoxels and Decentraland. They simply have too much potential to be overlooked, given their planned feature set.)
So do not be tempted to dismiss the blockchain-based social VR platforms and virtual worlds so lightly. People are already avidly buying and selling virtual land, and virtual items such as avatar wearables!
Am I tempted to participate in these markets? Absolutely not. Blockchain/crypto still seems like voodoo medicine to me. My major achievement last month was to successfully transfer a minuscule amount of ETH from one crypto wallet to another, to cover the transaction fee (or “gas”) in order to set up a custom username on Cryptovoxels! (Yes, like Decentraland, you gotta pay. But not as much.)
But it is fascinating to watch all this from the sidelines, nonetheless.
There is also a bar chart in this section of the report that shows you the top non-fungible tokens by trading volume over the past six months:
The market for non-fungible tokens is still quite small, and somewhat harder to measure than the cryptocurrency market given the lack of spot prices for assets. For the purpose of this analysis, we focus on secondary trading volume (i.e., peer to peer sales of non-fungible tokens) as an indicator of market size. Using this metric, we estimate the current secondary market to be roughly $2 – $3 million USD in volume per month. In the last six months, the following projects led the charge:
In this “top ten”, the red arrows point out the trading volume for:
Decentraland (roughly US$1.5 million in trading volume)
Now that I am (finally!) finished my annual holiday tradition of utterly ransacking all the Advent calendars and December shopping events I can find in Second Life—the better to clothe my small army of alts with fashionable freebies!—it is time to turn my attention to predictions for the coming year.
That Second Life would “continue to coast along, baffling the mainstream news media and the general public with its vitality and longevity”, and that “the ability to change your first and last names in SL will prove very popular—and also very lucrative for Linden Lab”. Well, I am going to stick to that prediction. Implementing avatar name changes in SL turned out to be a thornier problem than Linden Lab anticipated, hence the delay, but they now have eight years of pent-up demand for this feature, and I anticipate that it will still prove popular—and profitable—for Linden Lab. I myself upgraded one of my alts to Premium to be able to change her legacy name of Bumbly Rumpler. (I know. I know. I don’t know what I was thinking at the time!) I also snagged her a lovely new riverside Victorian Linden Home in the process.
That OpenSim would move on implementing virtual reality support, but (as far as I can tell), that work has stalled or been abandoned. To be honest, I have barely set foot at all in OpenSim this past year, so I regret that I am not in any position to make predictions for 2020!
However, three blockchain-based virtual world projects appear to be doing well—Cryptovoxels, Decentraland, and Somnium Space—and I expect that they will all continue to do well in 2020. I note that both Decentraland and Cryptovoxels have tended to rank in the Top 5 in sales volume on the OpenSea marketplace (this screencap is from a tweet made Dec. 27th):
I’m already working on a predictions blogpost for the various social VR platforms and virtual worlds in 2020. Among my predictions is the following: if Linden Lab cannot find a way to increase the overall number of users in Sansar within the next 12 months, even with a pivot to (and an exclusive focus on) live events, then the company will do one of three things:
– convert the existing Sansar code to open source and let the community take it over (which I think is the least likely option);
– sell Sansar to another company and keep Second Life running (or perhaps sell off Linden Lab and all its assets entirely to another company); or
– shut down the Sansar project completely (which I think is the most likely option).
In case you haven’t been paying attention, the honeymoon period for Sansar is OVER.
I am increasingly worried (even heartsick) over the future of Sansar.
That “the Oculus Quest VR headset will ignite the long-awaited boom in virtual reality”. I think that we can agree that the Oculus Quest has been a runaway success. Facebook is apparently selling the units as fast as they can make them, and they are now backordered until late February 2020. (The Valve Index is also selling well, and also similarly backordered.) I do predict that this will bring many more people into those social VR platforms which can natively run on the standalone Quest headset, such as VRChat, Rec Room, and AltspaceVR.
O.K., now that we’ve looked at how well my predictions for 2019 have fared, now it’s time to peer in my crystal ball and make some new predictions for 2020.
First, all current social VR platforms and virtual worlds will struggle with a key problem: effective promotion. Getting the word out to the public about the various platforms is proving to be more and more difficult in an age of social media overload and short attention spans.
Second, every single eye will be on Facebook as they launch their new social VR platform, Facebook Horizon, early in the new year. It’s disgusting to me how even the smallest Facebook announcement gets oceans of fawning mainstream press coverage, and you can certainly expect Horizon to suck up all the oxygen in the press room when it gets closer to launch date. If Facebook Horizon, backed by the almost limitless resources and reach of its ambitious parent company, fails to take hold in 2020, then that will be the clearest indication yet that the nascent social VR industry is in trouble (and that I might be out of a job!).
Third, as I have said above, I am extremely worried about Sansar. The Sansar website has recently had a complete redesign to focus almost exclusively on live events:
It would appear that Linden Lab is going all-in on Sansar as a platform for live events, to the detriment of other features such as avatar customization (I don’t expect anything new this coming year). However, competition in the live events market in 2020 is likely to be intense, with the following products also planning to focus on hosting such events:
Upstarts such as Ceek and Redpill VR (which are in various stages of pre-development and may or may not launch in 2020);
Not to mention that Facebook will also want to muscle in on this extremely lucrative territory (with Oculus Venues, and probably Facebook Horizon, too)—and Facebook will not hesitate to ruthlessly use every tool and tactic at their disposal to achieve market dominance (including “hiding” posts about competing platforms in their Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp social network users’ newsfeeds). Facebook also has deep pockets to ink deals with major talent, locking them into exclusive deals to appear on their platforms.
Expect many skirmishes on the live events battlefield in 2020, and also expect some causalities to occur.
Fourth, Second Life will continue to coast along as it always does, still boasting approximately 600,000 regular monthly users in recently released statistics by Firestorm, and still making millions of dollars in profits, both for its content creators and for Linden Lab. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and I see no sign of it stopping anytime soon. I predict that SL will still be around five years, perhaps even ten years, from now, and that people will still be logging in, and still merrily ransacking Advent calendars 😉 …and I will continue to blog about steals, deals, and freebies in Second Life!
Fifth, we can expect to see the upcoming Educators in VR International Summit as an example of an increasingly important use of social VR platforms in 2020: conferences. This is a natural fit, and one that saves precious resources (such as airline fuel) in an increasingly environmentally-conscious world. We can expect to see more conferences and meetings hosted in VR as an alternative to real-world meetings (although, as High Fidelity found out, the remote workteams support marketplace isn’t quite there yet, since the vast majority of companies still expect their employees to show up to their offices rather than work remotely from home). I think it’s going to take another generation for that shift to take effect in any widespread fashion.
Sixth: those social VR platforms which currently lack an in-world economy, currency, and a marketplace for user-created content, will be moving towards implementing those features. VRChat already has a booming off-world economy in the creation and sale of custom avatars. We already know that both VRChat and Rec Room are making plans in this area, based on job postings on their websites, but we can also expect other platforms to take this step, taking their cues from the continuing success of the mature, fully-evolved in-world economy of Second Life.
Platforms where people can make money tend to attract droves of new users, appealing to their greed and the universal desire to strike it rich (Decentraland as a more recent example; although its continued success is not 100% guaranteed, investors have sunk a lot of money into it, and it will be interesting to see how this ultimate expression of virtual, cut-throat capitalism will evolve and grow over the next year).
Finally, at some point Apple (and other companies, including Facebook) will launch the first consumer-oriented augmented reality headsets. The over-hyped Magic Leap One has turned out to be rather underwhelming (and underselling) so far, but who knows? Perhaps future AR products may ignite consumer interest, and have an as-yet-unknown impact on the current crop of social VR platforms.
Perhaps the big bet we all placed on virtual reality has been misplaced? We won’t know the answer to that hypothetical question until at least another decade has passed. Of course, some social VR platforms may decide to extend support to whatever AR/MR/XR hardware becomes available in the future, too. Anything can happen.
So these are my social VR/virtual world predictions for 2020. Please check back in a year, and we’ll see just how accurate I was!
This is a list of the various Christmas events which are taking place this holiday season on the various social VR platforms and virtual worlds I cover on this blog. If you have an event that I have missed, please let me know and I will update this listing, thanks!
As usual, there is so much happening in Second Life around Christmastime that it is impossible to compile a full list!
Your best bet is to check the Events listing under Search; you can do a keyword search, or select events using the drop-down category menu in the upper right-hand corner of the Events window in Firestorm (for example, “Live Music” to catch a live performer’s show).
The official Second Life Destination Guide lists eight pages worth of winter attractions to visit.
Among many other club events happening throughout Second Life over the holidays, Bryce Sun is DJing on Christmas Day at the FMD Club, which bills itself “the premiere destination for Second Life’s sexiest and most fashionable residents”.
Please check the Sansar Events page for more details on these and other events during this holiday season.
Check the AltspaceVR Events Listing for all the news on what’s going on, including four separate VR Church Christmas services on Dec. 22nd: one at a time zone for Australians, a second at a time zone for Europeans, and two back-to-back services for North Americans.
The best place to find out what Christmas events are happening in the busy world of VRChat is the VRChat Events website, with an online calendar of events, and a link to join the VRChat Events Discord server.
Also, there is a brand new Winter category in the Worlds menu in VRChat, with places for you to explore!
VRChat is also home to the annual New Years Times Square, where you could run into just about anybody! It is described as a developer-made world with hundreds of posters from the VRChat community.
My source, Fionna, also tells me:
I will be hosting an event for the world builder community on New Year’s Eve as well, featuring a world made by Sentinel, which is a gorgeous Art Deco lounge.
Medra, an organizer of the NeosVR Creator Jam series of events in NeosVR, posted:
The holidays are almost upon us and the 30th Creator Jam…so it’s time for:
Creator Jam 30: 3rd Megajam & Winter Holiday Party
Sunday December 22nd Starts at 2 p.m. EST(11 a.m. PST/19:00 UTC).
As an anniversary and Holiday celebration come hang out exchanging gifts, dressing up, and voting on Christmas trees. This will be a party and Swap Meet. NeosVR is wonderful for people unloading their inventories. What a better way to be in the spirit of giving than for people to share what they have or made. If you have a cool avatar, share it! If you have a cool gadget, please share. Pack neat Logix snippets in adult beverages or prezzies. We will be be exploring all the previous nine Creator Jam worlds in a livestream with Nexulan.
Secret Santa gift exchange will be held during this party at 2:30 p.m. EST (11:30 a.m. PST/19:30 UTC) Even if you aren’t a part of the Secret Santa gift exchange feel free to give gifts to specific people or everyone.
Everyone is welcome. I look forward to seeing all!
Somnium Space is simultaneously saying goodbye both to 2019 and to the first version of their Steam client, with a Farewell Party on Dec. 30th with special guests Vivian Chazen (the host of The Hive VR) and musical artist Luke Reynolds:
Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? You’re invited to be a part of the first ever cross-worlds discussion group, with over 300 people participating from every social VR platform and virtual world! More details here.
I haven’t published an update to my popular November 2018 comparison chart of twelve social VR platforms for quite some time. There never seems to be a perfect time to update. At first, I wanted to wait until the Oculus Quest was released. And then, I was wondering whether or not I should wait until Facebook releases the Oculus Link update to the Oculus Quest (which means, theoretically, that Oculus Quest users can use a custom cable connected to their VR-ready Windows computer to view content originally intended for the Oculus Rift).
In the end, I decided to go ahead and publish a first draft of the updated comparison chart now, get feedback from my readers, and update the chart as necessary. So here is that first draft.
I removed two of the 12 platforms in last year’s comparison chart: both Facebook Spaces and Oculus Rooms were shut down by Facebook on October 25th, 2019, in preparation for the launch of Facebook Horizon sometime in 2020. I have not added Facebook Horizon to this chart (yet) because we still know so little about this new social VR platform. And I decided to add six more social VR platforms to the chart: Anyland, Cryptovoxels, Engage, JanusVR, Mozilla Hubs, and NeosVR.
Rather than publish the chart as an image to Flickr, as I did last year, I decided to create a spreadsheet using Google Drive, and publish it to the web here:
Please leave me a comment with any suggestions, corrections or edits, and I will update this new comparison chart accordingly. You can also reach me on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, or any other virtual world Discord that I might belong to (my handle is always the same, RyanSchultz). You can also use the contact form on my blog.
UPDATE 3:48 p.m.: I’ve had a request to add userbase figures to this chart, but I am not going to do that for a very good reason: there’s absolutely no way I can get accurate figures from the various companies, many of whom want to keep that information private. And even ranking them using a scale like low, medium, and high would just be guesses on my part, misleading to a lot of people, and liable to lead to a lot of arguments. Sorry! I will leave it up to you to check Steam statistics for those platforms which are on Steam (which, again, may or may not be an accurate measure of the actual level of usage of any platform).
UPDATE Nov. 13th: I’d like to thank Frooxius (of NeosVR), Artur Sychov (of Somnium Space) and Jin for their corrections and suggestions. Any updates to this table are shown in real-time, which is a unexpected bonus to publishing a spreadsheet directly to the web from Google Drive! I should have thought of doing it this way last year.
And it would appear that there is a great deal of disagreement of what constitutes “in-world building tools”. I am referring to the ability to create complex objects entirely within the platform itself, and not using external tools such as Blender or Unity and then importing the externally-created objects into the platform. For example, High Fidelity has very rudimentary “prim-building” tools in-world, which are not often used by creators, who prefer to import mesh objects created in tools like Blender, Maya, or 3ds Max instead. To give another example, Somnium Space now offers a completely in-world tool for constructing buildings on your purchased virtual land. Sansar has no such tools for in-world building, although you can assemble premade, externally-created objects into a world by using their Scene Editor (which is something completely different from what I am talking about here).
One reader had suggested adding in a few more columns to this chart to include various technical aspects of these social VR platforms: game engine used, open/closed source, support for scripting, etc. Using the table provided to me by Enrico Speranza (a.k.a. Vytek), I have now added three more columns to the original comparison table: architecture/game engine, open/closed source, and scripting. Thank you for the suggestion, Vytek!
Please keep your suggestions, corrections and edits coming, thanks!