An Updated Comparison Chart of Sixteen Social VR Platforms (Updated and Expanded Draft, November 2019)

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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:

Comparison Chart of 16 Social VR Platforms (Updated and Expanded Draft © Ryan Schultz, November 13th, 2019).

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!

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Cas and Chary Cover Five Social VR Platforms (Including Sansar)

Most of the people making YouTube videos about virtual reality hardware and software are men, so it is refreshing to find a new (well, new to me, anyways) channel about VR run by two women, called Cas and Chary VR.

Last week, Cas published a 10-minute YouTube video tour of five less popular social VR platforms, explaining:

So we all know VRChat, Rec Room, [and] AltspaceVR. This video isn’t about these games. It’s about 5 others that you might have missed.

The five platforms covered in this video include:

Videos like this are useful because they give viewers a look at platforms that they might not have had an opportunity to visit themselves. I was surprised to find that Sansar was a sponsor for this video. Cas says:

DISCLAIMER: This video was sponsored by Sansar. Per our guidelines, no review direction was received from them. Our opinions are our own.

I think it’s smart that Linden Lab is reaching out to YouTube influencers like Cas and Chary with sponsorship opportunities. As I have written before, social VR companies will likely have to turn to influencers more often in future to promote their products more effectively.

Traveling Between Social VR Platforms: Does VR Market Success Depend Upon a Seamless, Interconnected Metaverse?

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One of the people I follow on Twitter is Ben Lang, who is the co-founder and executive editor of the popular virtual reality news website Road to VR. Yesterday, he posted:

I’m starting to think that VR won’t have its consumer mainstream moment (smartphone levels of adoption) until a comprehensive metaverse emerges that interconnects and makes *all* VR content social to some extent. Stuff like this awesome immersive music video is really freaking cool, but would be 100 times richer if discoverable through something a simple as a ‘VR hyperlink’, as well as easily being able to bring a friend along to experience it. Telling a friend ‘hey there’s this cool new thing, come check it out with me’, and then asking them to download an app and then coordinating a time to get online together to invite each other and then *finally* seeing the thing for 10 mins isn’t tenable for smaller experiences.

The immersive music video he refers to is a new free VR experience on Steam called Sheaf – Together EP, and it’s truly a wonderful, relaxing experience, which I can recommend highly:

Ben is making the point that it shouldn’t be so difficult to share VR experiences such as this with friends. And a seamless, interconnected metaverse would probably give a huge boost to the consumer VR market.

Another Twitter user called Matrixscene responded to Ben, with a link to a two-part report on how a metaverse working group did a field test for traversing disparate virtual worlds to see how they interconnect with each other.

Part 1 of the report gives several examples of links or portals between social VR experiences, for example:

  • Portal links in JanusVR
  • Links in Cryptovoxels to other WebVR sites

Part 2 of the report details a “field trip” the author and several other people undertook to see how well they could navigate between various virtual worlds. The places visited included:

The author, Jin (Madjin) writes:

We were communicating over Discord’s voice chat the entire time. Anarchy Arcade served as the most premium base reality we ventured to on this trip for several main reasons:
– Shortcuts were easy to launch
– Universally compatible
– Optimized heavily in the background

So, as you can see, the first tentative steps in cross-linking virtual worlds have already been taken. However, the work of creating a much more comprehensive and seamless metaverse to benefit VR consumers still faces many significant hurdles—including a patent filed by IBM in 2008 that appears to cover teleporting avatars between disparate virtual worlds.

How soon do you think it will be until we get a truly seamless VR metaverse? Or do you think it will never happen? As always, you are invited to join the ongoing conversations on this and many other topics on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, the first cross-worlds discussion group!

Anyland Is In Financial Trouble

Anyland.jpg

One of the creators of the social VR platform Anyland has posted to the Vive subReddit on Reddit, in a last-ditch attempt to get financial support (here’s a link):

Hi! Due to challenging financial times for us… if you are interested in investing in Anyland, or know someone who might be, or know of any other type of financial help or partnership, please email us at we@anyland.com or chime in below! We are hoping to bridge the time until VR goes fully mainstream, and while we have the server bills covered, our most pressing need right now are the two-person development costs. This is all of your universe, so we want to be very open about this. On that note, thanks to everyone who is in Anyland, and thanks to all who support our Patreon. Thank you, and with ❤!

My first thought on reading this plea was “Wow, if they’re holding on to the hope that VR is going to go mainstream anytime soon, they’re doomed.” It’s increasingly clear that large-scale VR uptake is going to take several years and perhaps a decade, or even longer.

And, as I have suggested before, right now there are just too many companies chasing after too few willing consumers in the social VR/virtual worlds marketplace (just look at all the products on my list). Unfortunately, some of these companies are just not going to make it.

Anyland is an interesting platform, and they do offer a pretty good selection of in-world “prim building” content creation tools. But unfortunately, that’s not enough. In response to a question about whether or not Anyland was free, the creator responded:

Yeah definitely! After a month, you can then choose to go for an optional in app purchase (but even if everyone were to buy that, it wouldn’t be enough as the overall numbers are a bit too low at the moment). It was paid first, then we made it free after the sales went to near zero, which happened some time after launch.

It sounds to me as if Anyland’s days are indeed numbered. One commenter had the following advice for the Anyland development team:

You’re not going to like this advice but coming from someone who has built a number of companies – and who passed on building one and investing in several others in the VR industry – I would strongly consider what I’m about to tell you:

Pull the plug. Shut down. Add the awesome experience you’ve gained to your resume and get a real job. Rest and reflect.

Note I didn’t say that you should start something new. Not right now anyway. Based on other comments you’ve made, I don’t think you’re ready. Running a successful business is less about the actual work and more about identifying a value prop and creating a sustainable business model. That’s going to be tough because you’re starting out in a tiny market which has massive acquisition and sustainability problems of its own. Right from the bat, the chances of your success have gone down to nearly nil. Again, I know this because I researched the VR industry in depth, spoke to many investors and entrepreneurs in the space, and they all told me the same thing: VR might hit one day, but not now. Maybe 5 or 10 years. Not now.

So you have a tiny audience to start with and only a small percentage of them are going to pay for something like this. You can’t monetize through advertising and the like because the userbase is too small and the recurring visits are basically nonexistent. And as you’ve now learned, money is the blood of business. You can’t live without it.

So trust me, the easiest path forward for you right now is to just pull the band-aid off and quit. It’s not going to get better. Don’t listen to the fans who are happy to let you go on and suffer. Do the right thing for yourself.

And in any case, please don’t take this is a criticism. I applaud you for trying. Get some much needed R&R, keep learning and try again. You’ll make it. I’m sure of it.