UPDATED! A Look at the 2019 VR Industry Landscape: Are All These Companies Actually Generating Revenue?

Peter Graham, a senior staff writer for the popular VR news website VRFocus, reports on an infographic published annually by the San Francisco-based venture capital firm The Venture Reality Fund, in an article titled The Venture Reality Fund’s 2019 VR Landscape Highlights 550+ Companies Generating Revenue:

Image from VRFocus (full-size version available here)

He writes:

Every year San Francisco-based venture capital firm The Venture Reality Fund (The VR Fund) releases a report on the industry as a whole, detailing the major or most influential players across a range of categories. The new 2019 VR Landscape has just been released, this time based on those who have revenue only, with over 550 companies making the cut.

So, of course, I used my handy image editor to zoom in to take a closer look at the companies listed in the Social box on this graphic (see image on the right). I do see that all of the usual suspects are represented 😉 (for example, Against Gravity is the maker of Rec Room). But I must agree with a commenter on Peter Graham’s article, who said:

Glad to see the updated version of this graphic, but many of the companies in this list are no longer active or totally defunct.

For example, underneath Orbus is the steampunk-themed logo for Surreal, a social VR platform I blogged about before. A company that has revenue? I doubt Surreal has earned a dime in profit for this busted product. Surreal (still) completely fails to work with my Oculus Touch hand controllers, despite reporting on their Steam page that version 3.0 of the software has Oculus Touch support. The fact that Surreal is even listed here on this infographic makes me seriously doubt how thoroughly all these listed companies were vetted.

By the way, according to their Wikipedia page, Against Gravity is now known as Rec Room Inc., and is now using the orange Rec Room logo instead of that stylized A. Also, that VRChat logo looks very dated to me. All of this information could have been easily checked before publishing this infographic by doing a few Google searches.

Another thing that sticks out like a sore thumb to me is the Decentraland logo (to the right of the Salin logo near the bottom of the box). That’s also an outdated logo, and even worse, Decentraland does not even support VR, and it is unlikely to do so anytime in the near future! Another mistake that makes me question the validity of the rest of the information presented in this graphic. Somebody did a really sloppy job in checking this infographic for accuracy.

I see High Fidelity listed in this box, too. They are relying on the US$72.9 million they raised in venture capital, and I’m quite sure they are feeling some pressure from their financial backers to turn a profit, but I rather doubt that they have generated any actual revenue from customers. As someone once memorably said on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server (and I am sorry, but can’t find the exact quote, so this is a paraphrase), “You can’t make it difficult to give the company money.” And High Fidelity’s over-complicated Marketplace submission process, with their originally ambitious plan to screen every single submission for quality, and to ensure it was not someone else’s intellectual property, was a classic textbook example of making it very hard to give them money.

UPDATE Aug. 29th: I now remember who first voiced the idea that High Fidelity was making it difficult to give them money—it was Dale Glass! If you’re interested, Dale has written a guest editorial on what he thinks is wrong with High Fidelity.

There are also a few companies listed here I have never heard of before: Cluster, Salin, Teemew, and Normal. Which of course means I get to do more exploring! Yay! 🙂 I’ll keep you posted as to what I find.

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DCLBlocks: A New In-World Building Tool in Decentraland

Decentraland is inviting participants from its June Hackathon to post to their official blog about their achievements. This week’s guest blogger is Interweaver (a.k.a. Noah), who shared his experiment with in-world building blocks in Decentraland:

In this blog post I’ll be talking about how I designed and implemented my Decentrablocks project. The idea for this scene was simple: I wanted to be able to intuitively build things while actually standing in the scene, not in a separate Builder or with an external text editor and modeling software (as one does with the SDK). Also, I’m not a 3D artist, so it had to be made entirely of primitive shapes.

As you can see, this is a tool very similar to the prim-building tools offered by Second Life, as well as High Fidelity’s in-world building tools.

You can read Interweaver’s blogpost in full to get all the details on how he did this. He’s placed all his code for this project up on GitHub.

Don’t forget to register for the upcoming Decentraland SDK Hackathon. There’s still time to enter the contest, which runs from Sept. 16th-30th, and you could win your share of over US$275,000 worth of prizes, in either MANA (DCL’s cryptocurrency) or LAND (DCL’s 16 m by 16 m square plots of virtual land). Enter today!

Decentraland: An Update

Decentraland has published an update on their blockchain-based virtual world project on their official blog. Apparently, I was lucky enough to be one of the first 200 people invited to visit and explore the platform!

The first of Decentraland’s World Explorers – 200 pioneers including district leaders, moderators and content creators – have been sharing their first impressions. In short, they’re loving their time in Decentraland.

While we continue working to fix performance, iron out bugs and stability issues, we’re letting in 50 more people a week, with a goal to increase this to 2000 weekly active users by the end of September. By this time, we hope to have the user-facing features in place that will make World Explorer the complete experience – like being able to create and edit your Avatars inside the client, wear NFT items from your inventory and crucially – so you know where you are in the world – access a navigation map.

Unfortunately, it would appear that the open public beta has been pushed back until October 2019 at the earliest:

As we round into Q4, we’ll be ready to open World Explorer to the entire community. Once we’re satisfied with the stability, scalability and performance, we’ll then turn our attention to the fun and social sides of the experience. Users will:
– Get proper on-boarding
– Experience better content
– Express themselves with Avatar animations
– Travel to popular and trending places thanks to an advanced World Map; and
– Enjoy a set of social features

While the delays are disappointing, I can understand why they are necessary. Decentraland is up and running, but in my opinion it still needs a lot of work and polish before they can open the doors to everybody! If you missed the photos and videos from my first in-world tour, you can see them here. It looks as though thousands of eager DCL investors are going to have to rely on second-hand reports for at least the next couple of months.

In addition to my blogging about Decentraland, the platform is also capably covered by the dedicated blogs DCL Blogger and DCL Plazas. Matty from the DCL Blogger (another one of the first 200 allowed in) has even posted a couple of videos of his visits to Decentraland:

As you can see from Matty’s videos, there is still a lot of empty space in Decentraland. Hopefully, that will start to fill up as more people deploy their creations! There should be some interesting contributions as a result of the upcoming Decentraland SDK Hackathon. There’s still time to enter the contest, and you could win MANA (DCL’s cryptocurrency) and LAND (DCL’s 16 m by 16 m square plots of virtual land) as prizes.

And I will continue to report on developments as the project moves forward. Stay tuned!

Spending the Day in Decentraland: A First Look and My First Impressions

Early Friday evening (after some helpful technical troubleshooting from Sam Hamilton, a.k.a. toonpunk) I was among the first wave of visitors to finally—finally—set foot in the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland! I spent a good couple of hours exploring, and I wanted to share my first impressions, as well as some pictures and videos, since I know so many of you have been eagerly awaiting your own invitations!

Near the Central Spawn Point

Decentraland (DCL for short) is slowly letting in successive waves of beta testers in a closed beta test period that will last for several weeks, until most of the initial bugs are identified and fixed. After that, there will be an open beta (probably around the time of, or shortly after, the Decentraland SDK Hackathon running September 16th to the 30th).

One bug which I encountered right away was that my initial spawn point was in a river, and no matter what I did, I could not climb the riverbanks onto dry land! However, my official welcome email from toonpunk contained a helpful list of suggested starting places for exploration. (In addition to walking from place to place, DCL has thankfully implemented a teleport feature to take you anywhere within Genesis City, which is the name of their grid.) So I just teleported out of where I was stuck.

The first spot I visited, the Archery Casino, is an in-world game where you you are automatically equipped with a bow (which you can see in the lower part of the image below), and you can purchase arrows for MANA (DCL’s in-world cryptocurrency). Ten arrows cost 10 MANA (approx. US$0.40).

Immediately adjacent to the vending machine where you buy your arrows is a fenced-off area with rabbits and boars leaping around, presumably for you to hunt! Here’s a short video to give you an idea:

One of the boars seems to be just sliding along the ground rather than leaping like the other animals, but that’s a pretty minor animation bug.

When you teleport from place to place, there is a 10-to-20 second loading screen while you wait for the scene to load. You move your avatar around using the WASD or arrow keys, and you can move your camera around using the mouse. For now, you are stuck in a first-person viewpoint, so you cannot see your own avatar (although you can see other avatars in the same space as you). Here’s an example of what a group of avatars looks like in-world (this shot was taken by toonpunk):

Another suggested starting point, called Dapperland, appears to be a collection of monolithic articles of clothing. I’m not sure if these are meant to be display models for gear you can purchase, or perhaps some sort of art installation?

As you can see from the following video, there are already animated characters in some parcels, like this creature patrolling a dark castle interior (when you get too close, he stops and raises his sword):

Even with the low-poly restrictions placed upon content, people have already created some engaging scenes, like this shark swimming along the seafloor:

But there’s also some higher-poly mesh items here and there, too:

And there are rudimentary particle effects, like the rain from this cloud and the smoke from this fire:

As is to be expected for a brand-new virtual world, there is still a lot of empty space that needs to be filled in between the parcels with content:

There’s a definite sense of charm and whimsy about many of the parcels. For example, it’s obvious that someone put a lot of design and coding effort into this game, called Chipassic Park (another suggested starting point):

There’s already some wonderfully landscaped and decorated plazas, such as this one, which blew me away with its oriental aesthetic:

Some clever people are choosing to create gigantic works of art, using various pieces from the drag-and-drop Decentraland Builder app:

So, what do I think overall? Well, I will say this: Decentraland does have potential. There’s a certain charming, Minecraftesque visual appeal to the low-poly construction I see happening all over Genesis City. I suspect that DCL will prove somewhat popular with tourists who want to wander around and look at the sights.

But I do wonder if some of the early crypto investors who piled on during the MANA ICO (Initial Coin Offering) and the two LAND auctions are going to feel bitterly disappointed. What we’ve got at launch is not quite what was presented as possible during this two-year-old promotional video, which inflated expectations among investors:

Many people had such high expectations going into this project that it was inevitable that some would now feel that they’re not getting what was originally promised. For example, some investors had expected Decentraland to support users in virtual reality headsets, as depicted at the start of this video. That’s clearly not going to happen anytime soon. Others had expected much higher-resolution and more realistic-looking environments. I could go on and on.

But I would caution that it’s still early days—extremely early days. People need to understand that Decentraland has had to create some sort of foundation, off of which they can build new features in the future. They have to start somewhere, and they chose to start here.

Decentraland might not be not the first blockchain-based virtual world to launch (Cryptovoxels beat them to it), but they are certainly the biggest and the most ambitious blockchain virtual world project so far. Personally, I feel DCL is actually off to a somewhat promising start. They’re doing much better than I, originally the skeptic, predicted they would do back in February of 2018. And I will certainly be paying very close attention to how this virtual world develops from here on in.

I leave you with some more pictures taken in-world: