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

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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

Market CapUS$142,000US$35,800,000
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.


Decentraland Gets Its First Casino and Slot Machines: Soon You Will Be Able to Gamble Using MANA and Ethereum at Chateau Satoshi

Don’t forget to register for the upcoming Decentraland Game Jam, where you have an opportunity to win a share of 2,500,000 MANA cryptocurrency tokens and 200 LAND virtual land parcels, prizes worth an estimated US$275,000 in total value. You don’t need to own any land to take part in the contest, and they’re even offering training sessions all next week (online via Twitch and at various real-world locations) on how to use the Decentraland SDK to create contest entries.

Although the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland (DCL for short) is still in closed beta test, with countless users impatiently waiting for their chance to be admitted, the first casino has already opened! So this evening I decided to pay a visit, take some photos, and even play the slots!

Chateau Satoshi
A closer look at the rotating Decentral Games logo

Decentral Games, a company that is building gambling games, has opened its first casino, called Chateau Satoshi:

The demo is now accessible to core community members and is hosted on our site and viewable in a Chrome browser. We felt this was the best means to gain valuable feedback on gameplay, scene design, on-screen UI, and overall experience. After testing and optimization, we will deploy this casino scene to 19 parcels of LAND at the entrance of Vegas City, Decentraland.

In this closed beta demo, the default gameplay is in fake PLAY currency with no blockchain interaction. It may take a few seconds for the scene to render and the games to be playable. The Free-to-Play version serves as a taste of the Decentral Games experience, without the need to register an account with us. However, in the on-screen UI gameplay box found in the lower right hand corner there’s a toggle that allows the user to switch to the MANA Payout and ETH Payout gameplay. 

(For those not familiar with the terminology being used here, LAND is the name of the 16m-by-16m virtual parcels of land in Decentraland, MANA is the cryptocurrency used in DCL, and ETH is, of course, the Ethereum cryptocurrency. Gambling using MANA and ETH are not yet available, but the company says they will be available soon.)

Here’s a few more shots of the casino interior, which is decorated in a luxurious gold-and-white Art Deco style with many grand staircases throughout:

The box in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen pops up automatically when you enter the casino grounds, and it helpfully informs you how many credits you have left, what your current bet is, and how much you have won:

Here’s a look at the slot machines, located at the main entrance of the casino, next to a soaring spiral staircase:

As you can see from this short video clip I recorded, they are actual working slot machines (I won 25 credits on the pull just before this one!):

However, there are many jurisdictions around the world that prohibit online gambling in virtual worlds (most notably, the FBI investigated gambling in Second Life in 2007, which led to Linden Lab shutting down all forms of online gambling). Decentraland Games states in their blogpost:

To comply with online gaming legislation, the MANA and ETH Payout versions will require age and location verification. We will also request authorization to transfer MANA on behalf of the player. Although an early implementation of this process is currently offered on our site, we are still optimizing its ease of use. Please just test our Free-to-Play gameplay for now. 

Using the link provided above, I did a quick check and Decentral Games is clearly screening out Americans, although it’s not clear what other countries will be banned from gambling. The company adds:

We’d like to give a big thanks to the Matic Network and Decentraland teams who have been very supportive throughout development. If you don’t yet have access to the closed beta and you’d like to join the community dialogue, join our Discord channel, direct message us on Twitter, or reach out to hello@decentral.games to request access. We’d like to welcome any feedback the community may have regarding improvements to the slots game or suggestions for new games to build in the future. 

For more information on Decentral Games, here is their website. It would appear that the company is planning to produce more types of gambling games than just slot machines, including roulette wheels:

Decentral Games website

I was actually very surprised to see this already up and running in Decentraland! And this is not some cheap-looking low-poly building; it is a very attractively-designed virtual casino, one of the nicest builds I have yet visited in-world. One thing I will say: there are a lot of people who have a lot of incentive to make DCL work, because they invested millions of dollars of their hard earned money into it. And obviously, gambling is going to be one way to monetize the outrageously expensive LAND which some people have bought.

It will be interesting to see what impact gambling will have on Decentraland, how successful it will be, and how DCL and Decentral Games will deal with the jumble of regulations around online gambling around the world. It is estimated that the size of the online casino market is roughly $40 billion or $50 billion a year, and obviously many DCL investors hope to put their LAND to good use to capture some of that money. And no doubt, there will be customers.

But I do wonder if Decentraland is going to land up looking more like a gaudy, low-poly, crypto-crazed Las Vegas strip, with nothing but gambling sites everywhere you look. Not to mention the impact on people who are susceptible to gambling addictions, who might find it hard to stay away when the casino is as close as their keyboard. I guess we’ll see how this all plays out.

One thing is certain: you can bet on interesting times ahead 😉

Is this the future of Deccentraland?
Photo by Benoit Dare on Unsplash

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!

Thoughts on the Land Market in Second Life and the Newer Virtual Worlds

Photo by Jesse Roberts on Unsplash

Through the Second Life Friends group on Facebook, I found out about my new favourite thing/activity in Second Life. It’s a backpack by ScriptWorks that you wear, and when you click it, it teleports you to a random spot anywhere within Second Life! (You can set it to avoid Adult-rated areas if you wish.)

You can buy a set of 5 random teleporter backpacks on the SL Marketplace, which means that you can give them to your friends and go exploring together! A group of backpack wearers can be simultaneously teleported to any random location on the grid, estates as well as mainland sims. It is great fun and a great way to see Second Life!

In spending my time exploring the SL grid with this backpack, I have learned a few things while hopping around from sim to sim:

  1. There is a lot of empty/abandoned land on the SL mainland. According to the Second Life Grid Survey, between 20.7% and 21.4% of Mainland by area is abandoned parcels, but to my eye, it looks like much more than that. No wonder Linden Lab is trying to encourage more land use by decreasing the cost of tier and doubling the amount of free land given to Premium members.
  2. There are a lot of people who are land barons, who buy land, subdivide it, and rent it out to other people. I really had had no idea that it was such a big business in SL! I have visited some attractively designed communities like Cedar Creek, Lionheart, and Orchard Heights, where I was tempted to rent a beautiful home for myself.

Which got me thinking about the concepts of land and land rental in the newer virtual worlds. It’s going to be a lot harder for people to make money as land barons in places like Sansar, where you can get up to three 4km-by-4km spaces for free (and even more land if you upgrade to one of the paid subscription levels).

However, there may still be a market for people who create well-designed spaces that other people want to rent. Drax has said that he wants to rent out the currently empty houses that line the street in his 114 Harvest experience. I’d certainly be interested in renting one of those houses!

The thing is, once you own land, you want to build something on it. This, in turn, drives the economy, as people purchase houses, trees, swimming pools, etc. I used to own land in Second Life, both on the mainland and then in the planned community of Bay City, but I sold it years ago. For many years I was homeless, like many SL avatars (although I did have access to a secret spot with build rights, where I could unpack boxes and change outfits).

Then very recently, I decided to use one of my Premium accounts to get myself a Linden Home in Second Life, and right after that I went out and bought some new furniture from many of the designers whom I have met and gotten to know from my time in Sansar, like Maxwell Graf. Loz Hyde, Froukje Hoorenbeek (a.k.a. Dutchie), and Ria Bazar!

What about newer virtual worlds other than Sansar? I seem to remember visiting a domain in High Fidelity where avatars could set up homes for themselves, but I’m not sure what the status of that project is (and I’m not even sure if I could find it again!). Much like Sansar, Sinespace actually gives you a free home space which you can decorate as you wish.

Frankly, most of the people currently exploring and inhabiting the newer social VR spaces/virtual worlds are creators rather than consumers, who are going to build from scratch rather than select ready-made items from a marketplace to decorate their living space. This means that most people are going to use their own (free) land rather than rent it from a landlord. It might stay that way for quite some time, which could be bad news for wannabe land barons in the newer virtual worlds. And it could be even worse news for people who bought expensive virtual land in places like Decentraland, hoping to be able to make some money by renting it out.