Comparing Blockchain-Based Virtual World Projects

I am still monitoring the various blockchain-based virtual world projects via their discussion forums on Telegram. In particular, there’s been a lot of chatter lately about the Mark Space project, which I still regard with a high degree of wariness. They may have made some cosmetic improvements to the spaces you can build, but I still don’t think they’re terribly appealing compared to what you can do in Sansar, High Fidelity, etc. Here, see for yourself:

However, a member of the Mark Space team posted the following table to their Telegram channel, comparing their product with other blockchain-based virtual worlds, which I did find of interest:

While I am already familiar with Decentraland, I’ve never or barely heard of some of these other projects before:

  • district0x
  • Metaverse (now there’s a poorly-chosen name!)
  • Cappasity
  • Spectiv
  • Prosense
  • Matryx

You know what that means, don’t you? It’s time for me to go do some investigating and exploring again! I’ll report back on what I find, and just how accurate this chart is.

I leave you with this vague and mystifying promotional video for Mark Space, which makes me wonder what exactly the company is spending their money on—an actual virtual world, or slick advertising to bring in more investors? This sort of thing raises all kinds of red flags for me.

Or, if you really want to see something trippy that pretty much has absolutely nothing to do with the actual product, check out this promotional video for Cappasity!

The level of insanity in this market is breathtaking.

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High Fidelity Begins a Pilot Test of Trade Between Its High Fidelity Coin (HFC) and Ethereum (ETH): Will This Step Jumpstart Its Economy?

HFCtoETH.jpeg

High Fidelity is the first of what I call the “Big Five” social VR platforms (i.e., HiFi, plus Sansar, Sinespace, VRChat, and AltspaceVR)  to set up a blockchain-based in-world currency, called High Fidelity Coins (HFC). On January 8th, 2019, High Fidelity announced that it would begin testing the trade of High Fidelity Coin and Ethereum (ETH; a popular cryptocurrency):

Initially, we will allow users to purchase HFC using ETH. We will conduct trades of HFC in fixed amounts equivalent to $25 or $50 (HFC 2,500 or 5,000). Since HFC is a stablecoin pegged to the US Dollar, while Ethereum varies against the Dollar, the exchange rate between HFC and ETH will fluctuate.

We are currently allowing creators and performers that have earned in-world currency to sell their HFC for payment directly for USD. These trades are handled in-person with High Fidelity staff. As we enter the New Year (2019), we will begin offering automated tools to support selling HFC for ETH.

As we’re still learning about trades for ETH, we’ll begin by scheduling in-person (in-world) trades for users buying HFC with ETH. A High Fidelity banker will specify an Ethereum wallet to deposit your ETH to pay for the trade. You’ll receive HFC from the bank on the successful completion of your trade. You can schedule an appointment here.

If you’re new to the world of blockchain trading, you can learn more about one of the more common trading platforms (Coinbase) here. You can learn more about the steps required to set up a wallet for payment here.

Over time, we see this being our primary method for purchasing and selling HFC. It’s convenient, global, well-governed and broadly adopted. In future, we may enable trades to other cryptocurrencies or tokens, either directly or through third-party exchanges. We also hope that HFC will be used by other VR platforms or applications, making the transfer to Ethereum even more useful.

High Fidelity also published a list of Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ) about this move:

Who can trade HFC and ETH?

All High Fidelity users will be able to buy and sell their HFC for ETH. An ETH wallet will be required.

What is the HFC to ETH exchange rate?

HFC is pegged to the US Dollar. US $1 = HFC 100. Since the value of ETH floats against the Dollar, the value of High Fidelity Coin floats against Ethereum in turn.

Why is HFC a stablecoin?

Speculation in High Fidelity Coin as a cryptocurrency would be counter to our goal of creating a thriving economy in High Fidelity. If the real world value of HFC changed unexpectedly for non-economic reasons, the potential rewards for creators and those working in High Fidelity would become unpredictable, discouraging users to hold and trade with the currency. We want people to know they can cash out their HFC at any time for a fixed real-world value.

Can we still trade directly for US Dollars?

Yes, but this may be discontinued in 2019.

Will you start trading HFC for Bitcoin?

In future, we may enable HFC trading for other cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin.

Why aren’t you just using ETH in the first place?

High Fidelity has developed its own cryptocurrency, HFC, since traditional blockchain currencies are not suitable for a virtual world environment. Specifically, ETH is more of an asset class than a stable trading currency. Its value varies over time, making it difficult for traders to use the currency in fair exchange for goods. Additionally, HFC trades more quickly and without built-in transaction fees. Currencies that rely on a proof of work method to generate and confirm blocks (e.g. Bitcoin) currently require too much time to be used as a real-time transactional currency.

This is uncharted territory for High Fidelity, and a step not without some risk, despite their assertion that they want HFC to be a “stablecoin”. Many other social VR and virtual world platforms will no doubt be watching closely to see how well HiFi’s economy adapts to this change. High Fidelity is still having a bit of difficulty getting its economy off the ground, and encouraging content creators to make and sell products on its Marketplace, at least compared to the relative success of the Sinespace Shop and Linden Lab’s Sansar (where the Sansar Store now boasts well over 18,000 items on sale). Linden Lab and Sinespace currently have no plans to introduce cryptocurrency on their platforms, as far as I am aware.

Could this move backfire? Given the constraints that High Fidelity has put in place, it seems doubtful that this could fail. However, many Ethereum owners will likely hesitate before exchanging their hard-earned cryptocurrency to HFC. While HFC might prove a safe haven in the current bear market, it may also prove a trap in times when ETH is soaring in value. Frankly, blockchain-based virtual worlds are just too much of a risk for me to even contemplate investing a penny, and I would urge anybody who does to do every single scrap of their homework before investing in any cryptocurrency.

Mossland: A Brief Introduction

Mossland 2 Jan 2019.jpg

Look, I’m going to just come right out and say it. Mossland is another one of those blockchain-based virtual reality/augmented reality projects that makes you scratch your head and go, huh?

The concept behind Mossland is simple enough: users bid on virtual versions of real-world properties (this is very similar to another “augmented reality” game I had profiled earlier, called Worldopoly):

What is Mossland: The City?

  • Mossland: The City is a location based Mobile Augmented Reality (AR) game that will launch on the 4th quarter of 2019. In this game players can view the actual buildings around you and purchase the virtual real-estate online. By using the blockchain based cryptocurrency, Moss Coin, you can safely purchase and trade in game real-estate and augment the buildings with various AR accessories. Users can enjoy the game while trading and interacting with other players.

What is the Mossland: The Auction?

  • ‘Property’ are all the buildings that can traded in ‘Mossland: The City.’ ‘Mossland: The Auction’ is a service provided for players to start bidding on unique landmark properties that will be traded in the game before anyone else.
  • Starting the opening of October 12th, each Friday five landmark properties will be released in the auction. Everyone who has an account for the Mossland: The Auction can participate in the auction, and the landmark is given to the user with the highest bid.

Do not be disappointed for not winning the bid, the participants receive incentives for just participating in the auction!

  • The winning bidder receives 80% of the Moss Coin that was used for the final bid and the remaining 20% is given to the other participants in the auction.
  • The user who is the owner of the property can auction out the Landmark to other users through a new auction on the open market.

Why participate in Mossland: The Auction?

  • Mossland: The City provides an opportunity for anyone in the world to own a virtual building. Users can be an owner of a virtual real-estate after completing tasks and missions. This can be a famous building in your area, your school, your workplace, even a cafe that you often go to.
  • You can become a forerunner of the virtual property that has actual value. Applying Augmented Reality(AR) advertisements to your buildings can generate additional values.
  • It would be much more difficult for users to own unique landmarks after Mossland: The City launches and is provided to more users. Mossland: The Auction provides a one and only opportunity for the potential users of the game to monopolize in owning the exclusive landmarks.
  • There are no limits and predictions on how high your property’s price might rise. You can expect a huge increase in your pre-acquired landmark property when Mossland: The City has an explosive number of users.
  • Due to the nature of any auctioning system, there will always be a chance where a good landmark can be bought at a low price. Constantly checking the prices of the landmarks and checking out the auction pages will be an exciting experience.

I have to chuckle about the bit where they talk about “an explosive number of users”. But my serious question is (and this is a question I ask about many of these blockchain-based projects): why would anybody want to do this?!?? 

Amazingly, over the past three months, 170,000 bids were placed on 258 properties in 30 auctions:

Mossland 2 2 Jan 2019.jpg

The most expensive property to date is Seoul City Hall (which is not terribly surprising; Mossland is run by a South Korean company called Reality Reflection). The winning bid was 1,253,500 MOC (their in-game cryptocurrency), which works out to almost US$45,000, according to this online currency exchange calculator:

MOC to USD 2 Jan 2019.jpg

Why would anybody want to pay 45,000 dollars for the rights to a virtual property that you can’t even visit yet, and won’t be able to for at least another year? 

Now, to cover their asses, the company does include this legal statement:

Notice: Mossland’s Moss Coin (MOC) is an in-game currency; it has no inherent value and should not be purchased for purposes of speculation, investment or profit.

As if people were not spending all this money on properties that they intended to flip for profit later. Another example of sheer greed overriding common sense. The problem is, who is going to buy these virtual properties? What can you do with them? NOTHING, from what I can tell. Sell advertising, as the company suggests above? Advertising requires visitors. Who is going to bother visiting these properties?!?? How are they going to visit them?? On their cellphones, as suggested by this promotional video? Why would they even bother???

Argh, this blockchain bullshit is driving me crazy.

Note that, since there is no indication that you can actually be social (i.e. interact with other avatars) in Mossland, I am not including this on my list of social VR/virtual worlds. Frankly, I should take Worldopoly off that list, for the same reason.

Decentraland’s Second Land Auction Has Started

Decentraland 14 Feb 2018

Decentraland has announced that the unsold plots of land left over from their first auction are now up for grabs to the highest bidder, between now and Christmas. The virtual parcels of land are 10 metres by 10 metres square, and called, simply, LAND. In the past, prices for LAND have gone as high as US$120,000 each in frenzied bidding wars, the prices being driven up by eager cryptocurrency speculators hoping to make a profit.

In an announcement posted on Dec. 10th, the company states:

The LAND Auction will run until Sunday, December 25th, 2018.

Ever since the first LAND Auction last December, people have been eagerly anticipating the opportunity to claim some of the unsold, unowned LAND remaining in Genesis City. Even with the 34,356 parcels sold last year, there are still over 9,000 up for grabs!

We are extremely excited to kick off this next auction, and want to thank the entire Decentraland community for your continued support and enthusiasm. This is an exciting next step for the platform, and we look forwarding to building something incredible, together.

For additional details, and answers to some of the common questions we’ve received, keep reading!

Where do I access the auction?

The auction will be held right in the Decentraland Marketplace, at market.decentraland.org/auction. It’s also easy to access the auction through our partner’s mobile dApp browsers, like StatusimToken, and Trust!

How do I participate?

Simply create a wallet with MetaMask, Mist, or use a Trezor hard wallet, and ensure that you have sufficient funds in either MANA or one of our partner project’s ERC20 tokens.

You can also use a variety of mobile wallets, like Coinbase WalletTrust Wallet, and imToken!

We have two video tutorials showing how to log in, manage your tokens, select the parcels you want to buy, and complete your transaction! Check them out here:

Can I bid for multiple parcels at once?

Yes! In fact, the second auction is a wonderful opportunity to secure an estate, or expand your current holdings to include some of the adjacent unowned space.

Contiguous estates make it possible to host larger, more complicated scenes and experiences. You will be able to purchase up to 20 parcels per transaction.

When will I receive the parcels I buy in the auction?

Once the transaction for your purchase has been processed, you will receive your LAND immediately. The transaction must still be mined by the Ethereum network which may take several minutes, as with any normal LAND transfer on the Decentraland Marketplace.

Virtual land will be sold in the fashion of a Dutch auction:

How is the price for each parcel determined?

We are using a Dutch auction, in which all available parcels are started at the same price of 200,000 MANA. This price is continuously and progressively lowered, until a final price of 1,000 MANA is reached on the last day of the auction. You can read more about how the price is set, and the rate at which it’s lowered in this blogpost.

Only two days into the auction, there’s still lots of LAND available to bid on, as prices are still pretty high (currently, 48,479 MANA each, which works out to US$2,613). Bids can be placed using Decentraland’s own cryptocurrency, MANA, or any of the following ERC20-compliant tokens:

  • Maker (MKR)
  • Dai (DAI)
  • Binance Coin (BNB)
  • Kyber Network (KNC)
  • Zilliqa (ZIL)
  • Riplo Credit Network (RCN)
  • Aelf (ELF)
  • Status (SNT)

(Don’t ask me to explain any of this to you; it’s all just gobblegook acronyms to me!)

As I have warned before, do all your homework before investing a single cent in any cryptocurrency and any blockchain-based virtual world. Caveat Emptor!