UPDATED! Decentraland and Somnium Space: A Tale of Two Auctions

Today is officially the last day of the week-long land auctions for the blockchain-based virtual world Somnium Space. You can check out the status of the auctions using their up-to-date land auction map (which might take a minute or two to load on slower computers).

Red parcels were those which were claimed before the auction as an incentive for investors in their previous crowdfunding initiatives (approximately 500 parcels in total). There are 4,500 parcels up for grabs this week to the highest bidder. Yellow parcels are those which have bids in the auction. Green parcels are those which have not been bid on.

Here’s what the map looks like (in two sections, top half and bottom half), as of today around 2:00 p.m. Central Standard Time:

As you can see, there’s a veritable sea of green parcels on the Somnium Space map, and not a lot of yellow ones. Compare this to the bidding frenzy that occurred in both of Decentraland’s previous land auctions, in which almost every single parcel of land was sold.

The team over at Somnium Space must be feeling a little surprised by the (relative) lack of response from bidders, and I must admit that I am feeling somewhat surprised myself.

The cost of the Somnium Space land parcels currently up for auction varies from 0.3 ETH to 3 ETH (US$54 to US$540), compared to the cheapest parcel of LAND available on the Decentraland LAND Marketplace at 12,900 MANA (US$412). If course, some LAND is much, much more expensive than that!

And let’s compare feature sets between the two products: what you can do in Somnium Space compared to Decentraland. You can actually build using the in-world building tools in Somnium Space, which offer you much more functionality than the somewhat limited Decentraland Builder, which is not really an in-world building tool at all, but rather an external website. (Someone has already built an experimental in-world building tool in DCL, but it is rather primitive.)

You also have better, more realistic graphics in Somnium Space than in Decentraland. Let’s compare two scenes, one of Somnium Space, and one of Decentraland:

Somnium Space
Decentraland

You can see more pictures of the new Somnium Space 2.0 here. Decentraland is hobbled by the significant content constraints placed on its builders, and cannot currently hope to match SS’s scenes.

So, why aren’t people (yet) flocking to Somnium Space as they did to Decentraland? Why aren’t people choosing to spend their money on cheaper virtual land that offers much greater creative possibilities?

One of the issues may be timing. Decentraland started off with an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) at the height of the cryptocurrency mania, which generated a lot of money (millions of dollars) and a lot of interest because it raised so much money. Somnium Space started off with less of a bang, as a non-blockchain project which had blockchain added afterwards. At the time of Somnium Space’s land auction, the bloom has definitely come off the rose for blockchain and cryptocurrencies, which might explain the relatively sedate pace of bidding compared to the frenzy over Decentraland in their two previous LAND auctions.

Another reason might be that Somnium Space is still a relatively new and untested platform (particularly the new, contiguous version 2.0 landscape), and potential investors might be cautious, wanting to wait and see what the early pioneers are going to do with the land they bought. As someone said on the RyanSchultz.com Discord channel in talking about thos week’s Somnium Space auction:

Unless the worlds become bustling with life and events and creators and MONEY, nobody will ever want to buy more land (only if they are still sick with blockchain hype). Buying an abstract piece of “land” in some obscure world that might or might not become popular is a gamble, and the only winning party here is the House, aka the creator.

Decentraland may not compare that favourably to Somnium Space in terms of technical features, but it does hum with money—the millions of dollars that MANA and LAND speculators invested ensure that DCL gets the white-hot spotlight of more attention, including mainstream news media coverage from places such as CBC Radio and the BBC. Once a project gets that level of coverage, it almost takes on a life of its own. And Somnium Space will likely need to get that kind of attention, that kind of coverage, in order to succeed. (I mean, I’m covering it, but I’m just a niche blog with 600-6,000 viewers a day! That’s peanuts.)

And, as we have seen with failed blockchain-based virtual world projects such as Virtual Universe, simply having better features alone does not guarantee success. Virtual Universe supported VR, had simply stunning realism in their world, and some truly innovative in-world creation tools, but the company was simply unable to entice the public to invest in their project’s cryptocurrency, and they folded.

It will be interesting to watch as both Somnium Space and Decentraland evolve and adapt to circumstances in future. I wish both companies every success in their endeavours, and good luck! They will both need it. (Remember, Facebook is planning to launch a social VR platform and a cryptocurrency next year. Don’t think for a moment that they haven’t considered combining the two in some fashion.)

UPDATE 7:34 p.m.: I wanted to add a time-lapse video of Somnium Space’s in-world building tools in action, since not a lot of people have had an opportunity to try them out yet:

I find this to be pretty impressive!

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A Sneak Peek at the Contest Entries in the Decentraland Game Jam

Decentraland has not yet announced the winners of their recently concluded two-week Game Jam, but they have dropped a teaser video showing us the variety of contest entries.

Apparently, they received over one hundred entries to the contest, and it looks like the judges are going to have a hard time selecting winners. I see lots of interactive games! And did I catch a glimpse of a three-dimensional virtual recreation of the Van Gogh painting Bedroom in Arles? (They have one similar to that in NeosVR, too.)

The Decentraland Game Jam Is On!

This morning, Decentraland posted an entry to their official blog:

After much anticipation, video tutorial series, guest blog posts and a global SDK bootcamp, the 2019 Decentraland Game Jam has finally kicked off. Over 2000 digital creators are currently flooding into the Metaverse for two weeks (Sept 16–30) of intense creative development and collaboration, competing for over $250k USD in prizes. Their efforts will form a lasting contribution to the evolution of Decentraland.

Register to join the Game Jam here (this is an affiliate sign-up link; full details here). There are some seriously sweet prizes up for grabs, including:

  • First Place: 350,000 MANA (worth approximately US$21,000 at current exchange rates), plus LAND (Decentraland’s virtual land parcels)
  • Second Place: 200,000 MANA (worth US$12,000), plus LAND
  • Third Place: 100,000 MANA (worth US$6,000), plus LAND
  • 4th through 10th Place: 50,000 MANA each (worth US$3,000), plus LAND
  • 11th through 20th Place: 25,000 MANA each (worth US$1,500), plus LAND
  • Every qualifying scene wins 1,000 MANA each (approx. US$60), plus LAND

Please note that prizes above 50,000 MANA are subject to an irrevocable six-month vesting schedule (in other words, you have to wait 6 months before withdrawing the money).

So, what are you waiting for? Register today and get cracking!

UPDATED! Comparing and Contrasting Cryptovoxels and Decentraland: A Look at the First Two Blockchain-Based Virtual Worlds

Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? More details here


It’s only natural to want to look at the similarities and differences between the first two blockchain-based virtual worlds to launch, Cryptovoxels (CV) and Decentraland (DCL). While Decentraland is still in closed beta testing, I was among the first group of people who was invited to visit and explore this new platform. Therefore, I have decided that now would probably be a good time to compare and contrast the two virtual worlds, in an effort to provide the best information to current and potential investors in both platforms.

Most of the information I am reporting here comes from two sources:

Where information differs between these two reports, I have chosen the more recently updated version, the Crypto Cities report.


Decentraland and Cryptovoxels are two virtual worlds that currently exist on the Ethereum blockchain. Both of these virtual worlds are divided into square pieces often referred to as parcels, aligned on a grid to form a city. In both virtual worlds, land parcels are a non-fungible asset maintained in Ethereum ERC-721 smart contracts.

Project Background

Unlike many other social VR projects such as Sansar and High Fidelity, where the company has built the virtual world over time in anticipation of earning future income from users, Decentraland started with a well-timed, highly successful Initial Coin Offering (ICO) of their cryptocurrency token, MANA, in August 2017, raising US$24 million in less than a minute! This was followed by two successive auctions of virtual land parcels (called LAND), which were also very successful. Today, MANA has a market capitalization of approximately US$50 million. Decentraland is based in Argentina, and currently employs an estimated 45 people full time.

Contrast this with Cryptovoxels, which started in 2018 as a part-time project by a single New Zealand software developer, Ben Nolan. Cryptovoxels has been funded to a total of approximately US$140,000 worth of Ethereum (ETH) over the course of one year of virtual land parcel sales. This profit has recently enabled Ben to be able to work on the project full-time.

Project Size and Maps

In terms of overall size of the projects, Decentraland is approximately 23 times bigger than Cryptovoxels:

Note the size of Cryptovoxels (the white square in the lower left-hand corner) superimposed on the much bigger Decentraland project map.

Decentraland itself is about half the size of Manhattan in New York City:

Cryptovoxels (white) and Decentraland (blue) superimposed on
the island of Manhattan in New York City

Jin reports on the differences between maps:

Decentraland’s atlas hasn’t changed much since the auction. The content that’s currently deployed into the world is not displayed on the marketplace map. Some wonder if this may have been a factor leading to several anomalies of parcels having sold for enormous sums of money.

We’ve analyzed the blockchain a few times since September 2018 to see how much content was deployed to Genesis City.
– In September 2018 there was ~63 parcels with content deployed
– In January 2019 there was ~100 parcels with content deployed
– In July 2019 there were 24,000 parcels deployed*

(*see UPDATE at the end of this blogpost)

The Cryptovoxels map shows content that’s currently deployed to the city as well as analytics and other useful features. Anyone can jump into the world right now and try before they buy.

Content Creation Pipelines

In Decentraland, the content creation pipeline is asynchronous and somewhat difficult to master: publishing custom content requires users to know command-line and editing JSON files. For any custom models you will have to rely on using the SDK and setting positions of objects manually through code. Earlier this year, a simple drag-and-drop editor for novice users was created, called the Builder.

The editor for Cryptovoxels appears in-world when you press the Tab key. You can edit and publish to the content server seamlessly and in real-time, similar to games like Minecraft. You can add or remove different types of blocks to build any shape you want. You can even further decorate it with images, audio, art, texts, hyperlinks, ERC-721s, GIFs, etc. Changes to the parcel are saved automatically so that if you log out and log back in you see the changes persist. 

Land Sales

Decentraland has had two massive auctions of land parcels. Parcels in Decentraland were auctioned in December 2017 at prices averaging around 1,000-2,000 MANA, where a record breaking US$28 million was spent on virtual property. All the MANA spent on LAND and staked into Districts (themed areas) was burned after the auction, lowering the overall supply of MANA. Individual parcels have been sold on the secondary markets for very high prices, with some premium lands going for as high as US$32,000 in MANA just this year. In one extreme case, I reported in February 2018 that someone had actually spent over US$120,000 on single parcel of Decentraland’s virtual land!

There was no massive auction for Cryptovoxels land parcels; the project started off as a very small community that has grown bigger over time in an organic fashion, as parcels are minted slowly outwards from The Center. CV has grown by leaps and bounds within the past few months, as can be seen from this comparative illustration:

Jin reports:

Average land sales from Cryptovoxels are beginning to catch up to the Decentraland market. However, it is worth noting that the entire market for DCL post-auction is now second hand. Cryptovoxels did not have a massive auction and instead mints new lands with procedural generation scripts for the size of each parcel and road.

Number of land parcels sold per month
(purple: Decentraland; orange: Decentraland)

Average Cost of Land Parcels

Land in Decentraland is significantly more expensive than Cryptovoxels. Currently, the lowest price for parcels in Cryptovoxels is about 20-25% that of the lowest price of parcels in Decentraland.

Average cost per land parcel per month
(purple: Decentraland; orange: Decentraland)

Client Software

Decentraland started with a client based on A-Minus in 2017, then a Babylon JavaScript client in 2018, but has since switched to a web-browser-based Unity client, which is currently in closed beta. There is also a JanusWeb client, which is unreleased. The majority of deployed content features a low-poly cartoon aesthetic but the SDK supports any glTF models that fit within the scene limitations.

Cryptovoxels has a variety of clients in development: the default Bagbylon JavaScript client (https://www.cryptovoxels.com/play), which requires a standard web browser or the Oculus Quest default browser. There is also a JanusVR client (unreleased), an Exokit client (https://github.com/exokitxr/exokit), a Substrata client (http://substrata.info), and an open source Unity client and plugin. Over this past summer, there have been experiments with importing Cryptovoxels into VRChat, the largest social VR platform in terms of user count and the best platform for a custom avatar experience.

One significant difference between Cryptovoxels and Decentraland is that Cryptovoxels supports users in VR headsets, while Decentraland does not, and it is unlikely that the platform will do so anytime in the near future.

Some Final Figures

CryptovoxelsDecentraland
Market CapUS$142,000US$35,800,000
Current/Accessible
Supply of Land
1,246 (Current)45,000 (Accessible)
Total Supply of Land3,026 parcels90,601 parcels

This blogpost would have been impossible without the tireless work of CL and Jin, from whose reports I drew most of this information. Thank you!

*UPDATE 4:16 p.m.: Apparently, Decentraland (the company) is very unhappy with this blogpost, and I have been approached by a representative of the company who tells me that “your latest article contains lots of discrepancies and out of date data”.

The company feels in particular that Jin’s portrayal of Decentraland is unfairly negatively biased, but when I asked the representative for a list of concrete examples of errors made in this report, all he could give me was one figure, “In July 2019 there were 24,000 parcels deployed“, to replace one of Jin’s statements, which I have now inserted above.

I appear to have gotten myself caught in between two sides of a dispute, with Decentraland (with whom I felt I had a very good working relationship) on one side of the argument, and Jin (with whom I have worked before without incident) on the other side. I fucking hate being caught in the middle like this, and I don’t appreciate being caught in the cross-fire.

From my perspective, the blogpost I wrote today seems to be very even, not painting either company in a bad light in any way whatsoever. I pride myself on being as accurate as possible in my reporting, especially where facts are concerned, and if a company has a serious problem with something I have written, then I will certainly address the issue, BUT I NEED A LIST OF WHAT THE FACTUAL ERRORS ARE AND WHAT THE CORRECT FACTS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE. And so far, I have only had one factual error pointed out to me, and not “lots of discrepancies and out of date data”, which is what I was originally told by the Decentraland representative. The company seems to be very upset about how this blogpost makes them look, when I think it makes them look pretty good. I’m very confused. What did I do wrong here? This episode has just left a bad taste in my mouth.

SECOND UPDATE Sept. 13th: I have since received an apology from the DCL representative, which I have accepted. He had been at the end of a very, very long workday, and was not at his most diplomatic in asking for corrections, and I took what he said the wrong way. We are both moving on from this unfortunate episode. This is just a bump on the road forward.

There is still much left to write about Decentraland, and (as my regular blog readers already well know) I will not shy away from reporting both the good things and the bad things as they happen, at all the companies working on the various social VR platforms and virtual worlds I cover on this blog.

Sometimes we just need to take a step back and appreciate just how far we’ve come in the development of all these projects. Both Cryptovoxels and Decentraland have come a long way in a very short time, and both are truly pioneers. I look forward to seeing how both develop and evolve over time and I wish both teams the best in their future endeavours.