VRChat Is Seven Years Old!

VRChat sent out official word via their Twitter account: the social VR platform is now 7 years old!

The company also shared the following picture of an early in-world weekly meetup. The limited selection of starter avatars reminds me strongly of the early days of Sansar back in 2017, where everybody looked alike!

I was not around when VRChat launched in January of 2014, but I first wrote about the platform on this blog on December 26th, 2017, mentioning how PewDiePie and other YouTube influencers helped promote VRChat, leading to a surge in new users which the company was somewhat unprepared for at that time (I remember that they had to pull a few all-nighters at Christmastime to handle the unexpected server loads!).

VRChat was among the very first social VR platforms I explored using my then-new Oculus Rift VR headset. In fact, my first visits to VRChat took place in February 2017, well before I launched this blog!

The central campfire of VRChat (photo taken in February 2017)

I do remember visiting and reporting on one of GM3’s first art exhibits in VRChat during the summer of 2017 on the now-disbanded Google+ social network (which means I unfortunately cannot link to it here, although I still have a set of photographs I took of the opening using VRChat’s 360-degree camera).

GM3 (a.k.a. artist Godfrey Meyer III) at the opening of his first art gallery in VRChat (2017)

Happy 7th birthday to VRChat! Here’s hoping that the next seven years will be as fun and eventful as the first seven!

Editorial: Shifting Gears

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Yesterday’s blogpost (and its response) has got me thinking, in the wee hours of this morning, about other people’s expectations, and trying (or failing) to live up to them. Not to mention the expectations which I, knowingly or unknowingly, place upon myself as a blogger. Every blogger has his or her own biases and quirks; God knows I have many. And even a cursory inspection of my output shows how often I have gone off on tangents in my three-and-a-half-year blogging journey.

My writing about social VR, virtual worlds and the metaverse on this blog has been an unusual combination of broad-brush strokes about as many different platforms as possible, combined with a geeky deep-dive into specific worlds (Sansar the first couple of years, and now Second Life). One example of such a deep dive would be my recent month-long coverage of Advent calendar freebies in Second Life, something which my many faithful SL readers no doubt appreciated, but which probably left some of my regular, non-SL audience out in the cold, scratching their heads.

As I have written before, I consider Second Life to be the perfect model of a fully-evolved, mature metaverse platform, where we can see hints of what will happen to newer platforms over time (such as the implementation of an in-world economy where players can buy and sell user-generated content).

But I also expect that 2021 will be the first year where other metaverse platforms (notably VRChat and Rec Room, but also other products) will begin to consistently outpace Second Life, both in terms of monthly active users (MAU) and in terms of user concurrency figures. Over New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, VRChat shattered its previous user concurrency figures, reporting over 40,000 users online at the same time. Last weekend, Rec Room hosted 45,000 concurrent players. In other words, depending on the day and time, you can find more people in Rec Room and VRChat than in Second Life.

Both VRChat and Rec Room are now very well positioned to finally snatch the mantle of Second Life for the title of “most popular metaverse platform” (as hard as it is to define what that means). This might not have happened as quickly as some observers had originally predicted, least of all the PR pitch-boys at the corporations building these platforms, but it will happen nonetheless. It’s inevitable. Yesterday’s boasts become tomorrow’s reality, in some cases.

And it is not that Second Life is bleeding users, or that it is in any imminent danger of being shut down; I estimate that SL still attracts anywhere between 600,000 and 900,000 active monthly users (that is, people who sign onto SL at least once a month). It is still a highly profitable platform with a highly committed userbase, and under its new management, the Waterfield investment group, it is likely to remain a profitable cash cow for many years to come. Second Life is not going anywhere.

But, now that Linden Lab has finally shut down its physical server farms and moved Second Life entirely to the cloud, I don’t really foresee a lot of changes or improvements being made to what is already a winning formula—and I don’t see many of SL’s users clamouring for any major changes, either. Over time, competing platforms will no doubt offer advantages which the aging SL codebase cannot be tweaked to provide (the most obvious one being support for users in virtual reality).

And, over time, some of Second Life’s user base will migrate to other platforms, little by little, bit by bit. This SL diaspora will continue to enrich multiple metaverse platforms, much as it already has over the past decade. The seeds first planted by Philip Rosedale and his peers will continue to root and grow in various places, some probably quite unexpected!

All of this preamble is my very roundabout way of saying that I will be significantly reducing my coverage of Second Life in 2021. I will be putting that time and energy into writing about other metaverse products instead. Yes, I know I keep saying that, only to get pulled back by the latest fabulous freebie! Second Life is great fun, and I have enjoyed being your Freebie Queen. But frankly, SL is not where most of the interesting new stuff is happening. It’s happening in places outside of Second Life, and it’s high time I turned my attention to them.

It’s time for me to re-shift my focus to the newer platforms which are seeking to become the next Second Life. It might be an iteration of something that already exists, or it might be something brand new that seems to come out of nowhere and take everybody by storm. Whatever happens, I want to report on it!

I’m sure many of my Second Life readers will be sorry to hear this news. I will still be around, and I will still be visiting various places in-world, but I will largely leave the writing and reporting about SL to the hundreds of bloggers who do a much better job with their focused, deep-dive coverage! And I will continue to take as wide a view as possible—a big-picture perspective—of the constantly-evolving metaverse of which Second Life is a part.

Whichever camp you find yourself in, thank you for sticking along for the ride! No matter what happens, it promises to be an exciting adventure.

2021 promises to be a wild ride!

This change in focus will take effect immediately. Buckle up and keep your arms and hands inside the vehicle at all times! 😉

The Virtual Market 5 Shopping Event in VRChat Runs from December 19th, 2020 to January 10th, 2021

I invite you to join the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, the world’s first cross-worlds discussion forum! Almost 500 people from around the world, representing many different virtual worlds and social VR platforms (such as VRChat), meet daily to chat, discuss, debate, and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse, and the companies building it.


Virtual Market 5 starts today, and runs until January 10th, 2021, and the phenomenally popular avatar and avatar accessories shopping event is bigger and better than ever, leaping from strength to strength with each iteration! (I blogged about my previous excursions to Virtual Market 2, 3, and 4 here.)

I am seriously impressed by all the companies exhibiting at Virtual Market 5, including some big real-world name brands! Other social VR platforms would absolutely kill for this kind of corporate attention!

While VRChat is still working towards an in-world economy and currency, with a marketplace for user-generated content, the sales transactions at Virtual Market still take place outside of VRChat (usually via external websites).

Here’s a sneak peek at the worlds created for Virtual Market 5:

VRChat vlogger Shanie MyrsTear has created the following ten-minute overview video introduction to Virtual Market 5:

I am excitedly looking forward to joining Jin and his friends as he conducts several guided group tours of Virtual Market 5! Kent Bye of the Voice of VR podcast has already tweeted a thread of his personal highlights and recommendations of what to see and do, and episode #968 of his long-running podcast features an interview with the team behind the Virtual Market events.

Here’s the official Virtual Market 5 website. See you there!

VRChat Launches VRChat Plus, a New Subscription-Based Service

In a Medium post last month, VRChat announced:

VRChat is grateful to have an extremely supportive community, ready and willing to join us as we develop the leading social VR platform in the world.

Often, we’ve been asked: “Hey, how can I help you? How can I support VRChat?”, where the answer has been “Enjoy VRChat with your friends, and tell others about it!”

Today, we want to introduce a new way for you to support us—VRChat Plus.

As always, the core experience of playing VRChat remains free. The VRChat+ subscription is a way for you to show your support to VRChat, and get some cool bonuses as our way of saying thanks.

VRChat Plus is our first step towards our long-term goals for monetization. We want to allow people who create content — be it worlds, avatars, performances, games, hangouts, experiences, whatever — to be able to support themselves. VRChat is a place where creativity is unbounded. If people who like your work want to support you, we want to help them help you. We’re still working on all this, but we’ll keep you in the know as we move forward.

Well, on December 3rd, 2020, VRChat Plus was launched. Here’s a one-minute YouTube video, providing a summary of the benefits of VRChat Plus:

This move reminds me of nothing so much as Sansar’s similar attempt to get people to subscribe to their social VR platform (I just double-checked, and yes, even since Linden Lab sold Sansar to Wookey, the subscription page is still up).

I, of coursse, would be highly interested to know from Wookey just many people have actually ponied up for a subscription, but of course, they aren’t going to tell me that. I doubt it is a very high figure, although the expedited customer support options and Marvelous Designer* subscription discounts might tempt some users to open their wallets.

If you sign up for VRChat Plus now, during their Early Supporter phase, you will get a bonus:

To sign up for VRChat Plus, you can log into VRChat on Steam, open your main menu, and click the “VRC+” button at the top, and select either the monthly (US$9.99 per month) or annual (US$99.99 per year) purchase options. VRChat states:

For the moment, VRChat Plus is only available on Steam. We’re working towards supporting more platforms soon.

I wonder how much of a cut Facebook is expecting from VRChat when and if they launch VRChat Plus on the Oculus Store. (Steam usually extracts a 30% cut, as I learned when Sansar launched on Steam. So, if you purchase Sansar dollars in the version of the Sansar client you download from Steam, Steam takes a cut, but if you choose to download Sansar from their website instead, Steam does not take a percentage.)

Now for me, stuck up here in the frozen Canadian prairie hinterlands, US$99.99 works out to 127.79 Canadian dollars, which is quite a lot to ask for the limited benefits you currently receive. I’ll be interested to see what future benefits VRChat decides to offer to sweeten the deal somewhat.

However, I happily pay Linden Lab US$99.99 a year for each of three separate Premium accounts on Second Life, which gives me, among other benefits, more group slots, priority teleport access to overcrowded events, and a lovely Linden Home. In fact, a year ago, I actually upgraded one avatar from Basic to Premium just to snag one of the new Victorian Linden Homes! So, as you can see, if you offer the right mix of perks, you can sway people into a paid subscription model for your social VR platform or virtual world.


*Marvelous Designer is the software package used to create avatar clothing in Sansar. I have written about my adventures in Sansar avatar clothing design here.