UPDATED! The BBC Covers Decentraland: Virtually Making a Fortune?

I will hand it to the folks at Decentraland: for a virtual world that you can’t even visit yet, they are certainly attracting an awful lot of press attention (mostly for their expensive land prices). Today BBC decided to cover the platform on their Trending program.

Titled Virtually Making a Fortune?, the 23-minute BBC World Service radio program offers a good overall introduction to the Decentraland project, especially if you’re new to it.

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I am amused to note that the BBC used a still from the rather misleading “artistic concept” promotional video for Decentraland to illustrate their radio program. (You currently can’t do anything like what is pictured in the YouTube video on the platform.)

The program also failed to mention that you can already use platforms such as Sansar and High Fidelity to build VR-capable, fully-functional, visitable experiences at a much lower cost than Decentraland. As I have said before, spending a small fortune on 10 m-by-10 m plots of virtual land makes absolutely no sense when you can now build up to twenty 4 km-by-4 km experiences for free in Sansar, to cite just one example!

The program also goes into the whole idea that the company plans to build its virtual world and then withdraw, leaving Decentraland’s governance up to the resident landowners themselves. This is a somewhat fascinating but still-untested idea, which may not work out as intended.

UPDATE Aug. 27th: If you want to see some video with your audio, the story has now been placed on the BBC News website: The virtual land selling for millions.

Here’s a direct link to the six-and-a-half-minute news video (press F11 to see it full-screen on your monitor): https://www.bbc.com/news/av/embed/p06j77zq/45275461

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Are Bounty Programs the Future of Virtual World Promotion?

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You can be a Bounty Hunter like Dog!

As many of you already know, I am a participant in the Virtual Universe (VU) Initial Coin Offering Partner Program. In exchange for writing regular blogposts about VU and cross-posting them to different social media, I get paid in VU tokens. (It’s currently the only way I can earn tokens before VU launches later this year.) This is a good example of a bounty program, in which volunteers get paid in in-world currency for undertaking various tasks.

I just recently learned that Decentraland also has a bounty program in place through Gitcoin, in which they pay users in MANA for such tasks as creating video tutorials, writing blogposts, and talking about the Decentraland project at game developer events.

And Linden Lab is now participating in Twitch’s new Bounty Board program in order to further promote the Sansar platform:

Bounty Board is a way for creators to browse and accept paid sponsorship opportunities (AKA bounties) directly from their Twitch dashboard. With Bounty Board, Twitch handles the relationship with the brand and finds sponsorship opportunities for you. Twitch will also handle your payments, so you can concentrate on streaming and growing your community.

We’re kicking things off with a closed beta with Partners in the U.S., where we’ll be experimenting with bounties from Twitch and select game developers. Every few weeks, we’ll be onboarding groups of randomly-selected Partners from the waitlist as well as some targeted Partners based on the specific bounties available.

And of course, High Fidelity has been paying participants in their monthly stress testing of the platform. In two months, I have already earned two $20 VISA cards I am planning to use on Amazon to buy some books for myself!

Bounty programs seem to be popping up all over! We might be seeing the start of a trend here. If you’re interested in promoting your favourite virtual world, check to see if your preferred platform has a bounty program in place. You may as well earn some in-world (or even real-world) currency while you’re at it!

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:

Anshe Chung.jpg

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!

Decentraland Sets Up $5 Million Fund for Blockchain Gaming Initiatives

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A report from CCN (a cryptocurrency news website) says that Decentraland is setting up a five-million-dollar fund to support blockchain-based gaming projects:

Decentraland, a decentralized user-owned virtual world on the Ethereum blockchain, plans to invest $5 million to fund blockchain gaming projects built on the Decentraland platform. To this end, it created the Genesis Content Program, through which gaming developers can submit proposals for “blockchain games” and “interactive experiences” that can be built on Decentraland.

More information is available from this Medium post by Decentraland:

We’ve been thinking hard about blockchain games in Decentraland, and have identified several key characteristics that we think will have a big impact on how these games are built:

  • Small parcel footprints — Given the fact that LAND is scarce and that developers can only host their games on the LAND they control, the “play space” that each game may take up is limited. This means that as a developer, you will have to design your game to fit within the parcel boundaries of your LAND. Decentraland does provide the opportunity to build decentralized item or collectible based games, like trading card games, that can be accessed “remotely” from anywhere in Genesis City. However, even these games still require at least one LAND parcel to host and run the game.
  • Distributed ownership — Unlike traditional MMO games or VR platforms that are created and controlled by a single company, Decentraland is a shared, open source hub for user generated content. Because we want to encourage diversity in the games that are built for Decentraland, LAND developers (as in real life) must respect the property boundaries of others. However, Decentraland makes it possible to build distributed games that are hosted across multiple parcels.
  • Limited graphics — We are building Decentraland with a “web-first” approach, following Google’s lead in incentivizing a low-poly aesthetic. This will optimize the quality of the experience for as many users as possible without favoring any single device or binding Decentraland to any particular app store.

All funded projects must be built on Decentraland’s parcels of virtual land (called LAND), which can be purchased using the platform’s cryptocurrency MANA. This could, in theory, get quite expensive, as the minimum price for each 10m-by-10m parcel of LAND is currently 6,000 MANA each (which works out to US$443.48). I still think that Decentraland’s LAND is outrageously expensive, and that cost is going to severely constrain any game-building that takes place on that platform.

However, I am glad to see Decentraland putting its money where its mouth is, and finding ways to attract developers to its platform. I wish them every success.

Decentraland: A First Look at Their Alpha

Decentraland has given us the first glimpse of their alpha platform at a presentation given today by company co-founder Esteban Ordano at the NIFTY conference in Hong Kong.

More information on the event comes from the DCLPlazas blog:

After many months of blood, sweat and tears from Decentraland developers, and with an ever growing community patiently waiting for their first real glimpse of the VR world, today Decentraland showed the alpha version of Decentraland which was presented by Tech Lead Esteban Ordano at the NIFTY conference in Hong Kong.

Judging by the reaction in the room it was very clear that after a long in time coming, nobody in the room was disappointed and it was well worth the wait.

As if the demo wasn’t enough, Decentraland have also opened up applications to get an alpha NFT allowing YOU to enter the world and have a look around.

If you want to get access to the Decentraland alpha, you can send an email request to Genesis@Decentraland.org.

Decentraland and the Greater Fool Theory

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Image by Couleur on Pixabay

As I have written about several times before on this blog, I am extremely skeptical about the overheated land market in Decentraland. I believe it’s a financial bubble that is going to hurt a lot of investors when it pops.

Last week I read a CNBC article about Jordan Belfort, the famous “Wolf of Wall Street”, who is warning investors to get out of Bitcoin if they don’t want to lose all their money:

“[Bitcoin] is all based on the Greater Fool Theory,” Belfort says in a recent YouTube video. “I know this better than anyone in the world. I’m not proud of that, but I do.”

Belfort says bitcoin’s price surges are thanks only to a belief by buyers that there will continue to be ‘greater fools’ who they can sell the asset to at a higher price.

“There’s no fundamental value [with Bitcoin], it’s all based on the next guy and the next guy,” he says. “Get out if you don’t want to lose all of your money because … there’s a very good chance it’s going to crack. And when it really cracks, you’re not going to be able to sell on the way down, there will be no liquidity.”

I remembered what Belfort said when I came across a blog this evening called Decentraland Blogger, by a guy called Matty786 who describes himself as follows:

I got interested in the project back in January when I had no idea virtual land ownership was even a thing. I was just searching different blockchain projects and stumbled open Decentraland. A crypto blockchain project inspired by novels such as Ready Player One and Snow Crash.

After a bit of researching I was hooked and decided to jump right in buying my first couple of properties for around $500 USD each.

Now, 6 months later, I’ve bought and sold 100’s of properties and made close to $100,000 USD doing it!

And now Matty wants to share his knowledge with the world! For the low, low price of only 1 Ethereum coin (US$485/CDN$686), this guy will teach you everything he knows about flipping virtual land for profit in Decentraland:

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Witness the Greater Fool Theory in action!

The Land Price Insanity Continues at Decentraland

Someone recently posted the following offer to sell an 80m-by-60m parcel in the initial Genesis City region in Decentraland (each red square on the map below is one 10m-by-10m piece of virtual real estate, called LAND):

Land Bubble Insanity on Decentraland 4 Apr 2018.png

MANA is the cryptocurrency in use in Decentraland. According to this MANA to US dollar converter website, that asking price works out to:

MANA to USD 4 Apr 2018

That’s right, a million dollars for 4,800 square meters of land. Compare that with Second Life, where a 65,536 m² plot sets you back US$600.00 with a monthly fee of US$295.

The seller justifies his asking price by saying, “but there’s nothing else on the market of this size with this much land next to a road”. Keep in mind that proximity to a road is a moot point when you can usually teleport from place to place in any virtual world (but, of course, you can’t even visit Decentraland yet, let alone teleport anywhere).

The only active, functioning part of Decentraland at the moment is the land market, where people are frantically buying and selling virtual land in anticipation of making a huge profit when Decentraland actually goes live (and nobody can say when that will be, yet). Given how extremely competitive the virtual world market is, and how much further ahead most of the other platforms like Sansar, High Fidelity, and Sinespace are in terms of functionality, this is extremely risky speculation.

I notice that since my last blogpost about the Land Marketplace in Decentraland, the developers have turned off the website’s ability to sort and view the marketplace listings by most expensive first. So you can no longer easily find out what the most expensive land is selling for. Well, actually, it’s still pretty easy to see, you just select the sort by Cheapest option and scroll to the very end of the listings:

Decentraland Most Expensive Land Prices 4 Apr 2018.png

I just keep shaking my head, and I keep watching from the sidelines.