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

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.

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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: A Project Update

Did you know that you can help support my work on this blog (as well as the Metaverse Newscast show), and get some great rewards in return? Here’s how.


Decentraland (DCL for short) is making progress!

The company is slowly letting more and more users onto the closed beta test platform (around 50 to 75 new people per week since July, last week they raised it to 150, and this week they raised it again to 400). DCL is also running weekly stress tests to see how well Decentraland performs under maximum avatar load. I have been participating in the stress tests when I can.

A quaint little lowpoly cottage I visited during today’s Decentraland stress test
Another picture taken during today’s stress testing
A closer look at the variety of avatar customization options

There are several new features in their web-based Decentraland Explorer client: a mini map in the upper-left corner so you can see where you are (a much-needed feature!), and a small user profile icon in the upper-right corner which, when clicked, displays information about your avatar. Also, they have finally integrated the avatar customization system on their website, so that your avatar now looks the way you designed and clothed him, and has the name you selected for him.

Prior to this, your avatar just had a randomly-generated appearance, and had a name of the form Guest ####, even if you had paid 100 MANA to register a custom avatar name. At current exchange rates, 100 MANA works out to about US$3.00. I still believe that charging for a custom username is a tactical mistake, and a potential roadblock to the average, non-crypto consumer that DCL will need to market to. On the other hand, it might cut down on the number of alts, which tend to be abused by the griefers who plague other virtual worlds such as Second Life.

Overall, I do get the strong impression that Decentraland is going to be the epitome of free-market capitalism in virtual worlds, charging people left and right for things that other virtual worlds offer for free. Want to play boar hunt? You gotta pay for them arrows, bud. Ten arrows cost 10 MANA (approx. US$0.40). Living and playing in Decentraland could get rather expensive! Decentraland developers and investors may want to take a close look at the 16-year history of Second Life to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t in a virtual world economy.

Many people are busy building wonderful scenes on their virtual parcels of LAND, and there is already much to see. There’s even a spreadsheet making the rounds, listing all the places the DCL sightseer can visit!

Life on the Blockchain (a tower with scenes of everyday life),
a Decentraland scene built by Interweaver

Don’t forget to join the Decentraland SDK Hackathon (which seems to have been renamed as the SDK Game Jam), running from Sept. 16th to 30th, 2019, where you can win a share of 2,500,000 MANA and/or 200 LANDs (with a total cash value of over US$250,000)! Just click the link above for more details on the contest, and how to apply. Good luck to all the contestants!


However, one of the things that I do find a little troubling about this virtual world project is that there seem to be a lot of people who have piled onto the cryptocurrency bandwagon, and rather blindly invested in MANA (Decentraland’s cryptocurrency) or LAND (Decentraland’s virtual land) without doing a lot of proper research into the project. Some people still think (wrongly) that DCL supports virtual reality, for example. I find that people are asking the same newbie questions over and over again. It’s not hard to scroll through and find comments like the following over on the official Decentraland Discord channels:

A: Can I explore without an invitation? I set up an avatar etc.

B: Does anyone know how to get early access to DCL?

C: So can we build things & bring them into Genesis city, for example?

D: hi all. i am new. i dont know how this works. what is the first step i should take here?

E: Hello I have one parcel. Can I rent it ?

I almost get the feeling of the Yukon Klondike Gold Rush, where everybody and their dog headed north, eagerly in search of gold, fueled by greed and tales of the few people who became millionaires. It will be fascinating to watch Decentraland’s economy evolve over time.

Image of one of Decentraland’s plazas

UPDATED! Decentraland Announces a Content Creation Hackathon with Prizes Worth US$275,000

We are getting ever closer to the open public beta of Decentraland (DCL for short), and I am among the many people who have already set up avatars and are eagerly awaiting their invitations to enter and explore this new blockchain-based virtual world.

And to encourage developers and artists to create interactive content and interesting places to visit, Decentraland is hosting a two-week hackathon starting September 2nd, 2019, with a chance to win a share of 2,500,000 MANA tokens and 200 LAND parcels worth an estimated US$275,000 in total:

Get your creative juices flowing for two weeks of intense online competition to produce interactive content that will form part of Decentraland – a virtual world powered by the Ethereum blockchain and owned by its users. You’ll submit your most creative interactive scenes, whether it be a multiplayer game, interactive art installation or a virtual shop. The only boundaries are the limits of your imagination…

You don’t need to be fully versed in the theory and mechanics of blockchain or own LAND to participate, just have a healthy dose of the creative spirit. Your work will be assessed and prizes awarded by a judging panel comprising Decentraland staff, community members and gaming industry figures…

You can either work on your own or in a team, it’s up to you. A team submission will be counted as a single entry. Once you’ve created your scene using the Decentraland SDK, simply share an interactive preview of it. If you create something great our team or other LANDowners will be able to upload your scene into the world. Plus, 200 LANDs will be given out as rewards to the top participants.


FULL DISCLOSURE: I am choosing to participate in the Ambassador program for the upcoming Decentraland SDK Hackathon. Why? Two reasons:

  1. I want to be an embedded reporter as Decentraland moves from closed alpha to open beta to full launch. I want to be present to see what happens and how it all rolls out. reporting on both the good news and the bad news as it happens.
  2. To do that, I will likely need some money in my purse. As I do not wish to buy MANA on the cryptocurrency markets, an alternative is to take part in sponsorship events such as the Ambassador program. For every person who registers to enter the Decentraland SDK Hackathon using this link AND submits a qualified scene, I will receive 1,000 MANA (currently worth about US$41). They will in turn get 200 MANA (about US$8.23) for using my referral link. I will not be cashing out any MANA from the platform; I will only be using it in Decentraland as in-world currency (similar to how I use Linden dollars in Second Life).

I want you to know this right up front: this blogpost is a promotion for the Decentraland SDK Hackathon, in exchange for MANA.  You can use my referral link (located above or at the very end of this blogpost), or use anybody else’s if you wish to award that bounty to someone else.

VERY IMPORTANT: Decentraland has two digital assets called LAND and MANA. LAND are the non-fungible, transferable, scarce parcels into which the virtual world is divided (each of which a digital asset stored in an Ethereum smart contract). MANA is a utility token which is redeemed for LAND during Decentraland’s virtual land parcel auctions. It’s is also intended to serve as an in-world currency that players can exchange for goods and services within the platform. For more information, please read the DCL white paper and this 2019 project update. I very strongly urge any investor to do every single scrap of their homework before investing in ANY cryptocurrency.

You can follow Decentraland via Twitter and Reddit, or via their blogYou can also join their official Discord server. To read everything I have written about Decentraland to date (including this one), here is a link to all my blogposts tagged “Decentraland”. I will freely admit that I have been skeptical in writing about this project in the past; however, it looks like Decentraland will indeed be among the first blockchain-based virtual worlds to have a successful product launch. I have had opinions about virtual world projects that I thought would fail, but thrived (Cryptovoxels), and opinions about other virtual world projects that I though would never fail, but died (Virtual Universe), so what do I know? Decentraland, despite all my skepticism, could prove to be a thundering success. We’re all going to find out what happens!


To register for the Decentraland SDK Hackathon, please click here.

Image from the Decentraland website

UPDATE July 29th: The Hackathon is now starting on Sept. 16th instead of Sept. 2nd, and running until Sept. 30th.