Editorial: My Social VR/Virtual World Predictions for 2019

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Time to peer into that crystal ball and make some predictions!

First: Second Life is going to continue to coast along, baffling the mainstream news media and the general public with its vitality and longevity. It will continue to be a reliable cash cow for Linden Lab as they put a portion of that profit into building Sansar. And I also predict that the ability to change your first and last names in SL will prove very popular—and also very lucrative for Linden Lab! Remember, they’ve got seven years of pent-up demand for this feature. (I have a couple of avatars myself that I’d like to rename.)

Second: An unexpected but potentially ground-breaking development in OpenSim was the announcement of the release of a virtual reality OpenSim viewer to the open source community at the 2018 OpenSim Community Conference. There’s still lots of technical work left to do, but if they can successfully pull this off, it could mean a new era for OpenSim.

Third: I confidently predict that one or more blockchain-based virtual worlds are going to fold. Not Decentraland; there’s too much money tied up in that one to fail. But several cryptocurrency-based virtual worlds are starting to look like trainwrecks of epic proportions (and I’m looking at you, Staramaba Spaces/Materia.One). Somebody still needs to explain to me why people will want to pay to hang out with 3D-scanned replicas of Paris Hilton and Hulk Hogan. The business model makes absolutely no sense to me. Another one that I think is going to struggle in 2019 is Mark Space.

Fourth: I also predict that one or more adult/sex-oriented virtual worlds are going to fail (yes, I’m looking at you, Oasis). I’ve already gone into the reasons why even the best of them are going to find it hard to compete against the entrenched front-runner, Second Life.

Fifth: High Fidelity and Sansar will continue their friendly rivalry as both social VR platforms hold splashy events in the new year. (I’m really sorry I missed the recent preview of Queen Nefertari’s tomb in HiFi, but it looks as though there will be many other such opportunities in 2019.) And High Fidelity will continue to boast of new records in avatar capacity at well-attended events (it certainly helps that they’ve got those venture-capital dollars to spend, to offer monetary enticements for users to pile on for stress testing).

Sixth: the Oculus Quest VR headset will ignite the long-awaited boom in virtual reality that the analysts have been predicting for years. There; I’ve said it! And those social VR platforms which support Oculus Quest users will benefit.

Seventh: Linden Lab’s launch of Sansar on Steam will likely have only a modest impact on overall usage of the platform. I’m truly sorry to have to write this prediction, because I love Sansar, but we’ve got statistics we can check, and they are not looking terribly encouraging at the moment. And where is the “significant ad spend” that was promised at one of the in-world product meetups back in November? Now that they’ve pulled the trigger and launched on Steam, it’s time to promote the hell out of Sansar, using every means at Linden Lab’s disposal. Paying bounties to Twitch livestreamers is not enough.

And Facebook? If they thought 2018 was a bad year, I predict that we’re going to see even more scandals uncovered in 2019 by news organizations such as the New York Times. And more people (like me) will decide that they’ve had enough of being sold to other corporations and data-mined to within an inch of their lives, and jump ship. The public relations people at Facebook are going to face a lot of sleepless nights…

And, still on the same topic, we might yet see the launch of a new social VR platform backed by Facebook, after they decide to ditch the lamentable Facebook Spaces once and for all. Maybe it will be based on Oculus Rooms; maybe it will be something completely different. But despite my negative feelings about the social networking side of Facebook, they still have the hardware (Oculus), the money, and the reach to be a game-changer in social VR. (Just not with Facebook Spaces. At this point, they should just kill the project and start over. Any improvements will be like putting lipstick on a pig.)

Finally, I predict that the RyanSchultz.com blog will head off into new and rather unexpected directions (that is, if the past 12 months’ activity is any indication!). I never expected to cover blockchain-based virtual worlds, or Second Life freebies; they just kind of happened.  Expect more of the same in 2019, as various new topics catch my interest.

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Linden Lab Issues a Second Life End-of-Year Update: User Concurrency Figures Are Remaining Steady

Linden Lab has released a Second Life End-of-Year Update, outlining some of the achievements and events of 2018, and things are looking pretty good overall.

They shared some statistics on user concurrency, which show that it has remained steady over the past two years. It’s not increasing, but it’s not going down, either, which is encouraging:

As the year comes to a close, we’ve rounded up some interesting statistics to share insight into how the Second Life community is spending its time and money.

One thing is clear: Second Lifers were a busy bunch in 2018.   You spent an estimated 336 million hours inworld in the past year alone!  And there are 50 million+ chat messages daily.

Our daily concurrency rates remain stable, too. Take a look at this chart, which shows the overall traffic trends on logged in Second Life users over the past two years.

 

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Pictured: Second Life concurrency rates from early 2017 to late 2018.

Also, They shared some stats about sales this year, and they’re pretty good too:

This active population helped keep the Second Life economy healthy in 2018. Approximately $65 million was paid out to Residents in the past year for a variety of items and services. On the Marketplace, there are currently over 5 million virtual goods for sale. Since we lowered prices on the Mainland and maintenance fees on Private Estates, we’ve seen some growth in the overall land market as well. For example, we saw increases across the board in land ownership – more Region owners, more parcel owners, more group-owned land, more Regions on the Grid. As many owners traded up from Openspaces and Homesteads to full Regions to take full advantage of the lower pricing, we saw growth in overall SQM owned by Residents.

Back in 2011, ReadWrite reported that Second Life made almost $100 million in revenue a year, so sales appear to have gone down, but I still think that $65 million is a pretty impressive figure. It’s clear that Second Life is still a cash cow for Linden Lab, the profits of which are funding not only SL development but also the company’s work on Sansar.

Here’s to the next 15 years!

Let’s Talk Stats: The Various Sansar User Statistics Now Available, and Why They Differ From Each Other

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Image by Mediamodifier on Pixabay

Now that Linden Lab has launched on Steam, we have quite a few different statistics available, some of which may which may contradict each other. Gindipple recently shared some rather encouraging statistics on the official Sansar Discord, which show an overall increasing trend in the average number of daily and monthly Sansar users:

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Galen’s live statistics page also shows an encouraging increase in peak and average Sansar visitors over time:

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Gindipple’s and Galen’s statistics will differ because they take samples of the user data at different times, using a publicly available API. One may sample the data more often than another; I don’t know how often Gindipple samples the data, but Galen says he takes a sample approximately every 10 minutes.

And Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg said on the official Sansar Discord channel this morning:

Steam tracks [people] logged in via Steam. Gindipple]/Galen log people in [Sansar] experiences that are public. We [Linden Lab] count them all – regardless how they logged in, where they are or what they do. 3 different numbers where ours will always be the bigger, sum of all, number.

As far as I am aware, Linden Lab does not publish their statistics, which are internal to the company. (If this is incorrect, then could somebody from Linden Lab let me know, and then I will update this blogpost accordingly, thank you!)

Now that Sansar is on Steam, we can also get statistics which Steam collects. Steam Charts offers what it calls “an ongoing analysis of Steam’s concurrent players” (here’s the link for all the data it currently has on Sansar):

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Obviously, there’s not a lot of data yet to see yet! 😉

There’s also a more detailed statistical graph available on this page on Steam:

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Interestingly, please notice that the latter Steam graph gives a different 24-hour peak usage than the former (the top one says the peak usage in the past 24 hours is 65 users, while the bottom one says it is 75).

So now we have a wealth of different data showing us just how much Sansar is being used! This is a vast improvement over the early days in Sansar, where most of the time we had to guess how many people were using the platform.

UPDATED: It’s Official! Sansar Has Launched on Steam

I just checked, and Sansar has now officially launched on Steam:

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Here’s the new promotional trailer from the Steam page:

 

Linden Lab also sent out the following announcement:

SANSAR HAS LAUNCHED ON STEAM!
As of today, December 5th, we are officially live on Steam!

We wanted to give a huge thank you to our current community who have been so supportive, and to extend a warm “Welcome” to all our new community members joining us from Steam!

You can find us on Steam as an Early Access Game, where we’re free to download. Even better, you’ll get to enjoy all the benefits of Steam as a social platform for gamers including full access to our Steam Community Hub!

As reminder, as part of our effort to get onto Steam we have had to make alterations to our currency model, details of which can be found in this blog post.

We can’t wait for you to take this step with us, and we’d love your help in spreading the word!

Here are some things you can do if you’d like to help out:

  • Leave a review on Steam!
  • Host an Event!
  • Enter our Sokoban Puzzle challenges!
  • Make something to sell on the store!
  • Share videos and screenshots of you in Sansar!
  • Stream Sansar on Twitch!
  • Tell your friends!

Be sure to check out events.sansar.com – or find the Events tab in Sansar – to see what events we have coming up in December. You can also join our Discord if you haven’t already to hear up-to-the-minute announcements.  We’ve got some great events coming up, including Comedy Gladiators: A Virtual Comedy Experience (12/10) and the Grand Finals of Star Trek Trivia (12/13)!

If you have any questions, feel free to bring them to our weekly Product Meetup Thursdays at 11am PDT in Sansar!

Here is some handy documentation explaining Steam integration issues:

  • How to install Sansar from Steam
  • How to create a Sansar account using Steam credentials
  • How to log into Sansar using your Steam credentials
  • How to link your Steam wallet to your Sansar account

And there’s a list of Frequently Asked Questions:

Frequently Asked Questions

    • Will I have to use a Steam account or have to launch Sansar through Steam?
      • No. If you have an existing Sansar account, it will still function the same way it always has. Additionally, you will still be able to launch Sansar from the desktop client. Even after we launch on Steam, you will still be able to create new Sansar accounts and download the latest Sansar client, from our website.
      • You can also add Sansar (downloaded from our website) as a 3rd-party program you can launch from Steam.
    • Will I be able to merge my Sansar and Steam accounts?
      • No. We are not allowing account merging at this time.
    • If I want to use my existing Sansar account, can I still login to Steam?
      • Yes! If you are logged in to Steam, and download Sansar through the Steam platform, when you launch Sansar you will be prompted to login with the Sansar account of your choice.
    • Do I have to buy Sansar dollars through Steam?
      • If you created your Sansar account through Steam you have to have to use your Steam Wallet to purchase Sansar Dollars. If you created your Sansar account through our website, we will use the purchasing information we have one file.
    • How do I request a cashout of my Sansar balance?
      • Processing credit from Sansar into your Paypal account is temporarily on hold, but will be re-enabled in early 2019. Until then, if you would like to request a manual payout, you can find instructions on how to do that here.

Have fun! Join the party!

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UPDATE Dec. 6th: Inara Pey has done her usual excellent job of covering the launch of Sansar on Steam on her blog, and she adds a few details I neglected to mention:

The Sansar page on Steam includes a promotional video and a series of images from Sansar. In addition, and to underline the platform’s status, there is also a Q&A element, which addresses a number of questions, including:

Why Early Access?

“Sansar is a place where you can hang out with friends, play games, explore new worlds, and share incredible creations, but we can’t do that without you! Being in Early Access is important to us to make sure we’re hearing directly from the community on what you’d like to see and do in Sansar. Come join us!”

Approximately how long will this game be in Early Access?

“We plan on staying in Early Access until Sansar is the very best it can be. We’re constantly making improvements, and we’re eager for your feedback.”

How is the full version planned to differ from the Early Access version?

“We want Sansar to be the place where people can connect with communities and celebrate what they love through immersive virtual experiences, interactive events, customizable avatars, and easy creation. That’s why we plan to develop even more features around socialization, interactivity, personalization, and creation – elements that enrich the social experiences our platform enables. Plans will change based on your feedback, and we’re always listening and learning.”

What is the current state of the Early Access version?

“Right now, Sansar lets you host and attend virtual events, play games, explore user-created experiences, and buy and sell merchandise in the Sansar Store. Meet friends for a watch party and tailgate. Buy clothing and accessories for your avatars, or objects for the virtual experiences you build.”

The sansar.com log-in page now allows web log-ins using Steam account credentials (l). Sansar and Steam integration allows logging-in to Sansar using a user’s Steam credentials (r)

The launch blog post also has some important words for existing Sansar users (or those who have already created a Sansar account). these include:

  • Existing users can still access Sansar directly from their downloaded version of the client, and use all the capabilities with it, including creating new accounts; they do not have to use Steam to log-in.
  • However:
    • Existing Sansar users with a Steam account can add Sansar to their Steam account and launch it from there it they wish
    • Or if they are logged into Steam and opt  to launch Sansar via Steam, they will be prompted to log-in to Sansar with the account of their choice (Sansar, Steam or Twitch).
  • There will be no direct merging of Sansar and Steam accounts (“at this time”).
  • User with an existing Sansar account can continue purchasing Sansar Dollars using the payment information they have on file with Linden Lab.
    • However, users signing-up for Sansar via Steam must use their Steam Wallet to purchase Sansar Dollars.