Sansar Editorial: Where Is the Marketing?

The New Sansar Update Load Screen:
A Focus Squarely on Live Events

Why did Sansar fail?

And no, I do not consider Sansar a success, despite the most valiant efforts of the remaining staff who are still working on the platform, and the COMETS, a small group of hard-working volunteers creating and promoting events. Linden Lab themselves did not consider Sansar a success. Why else would the company sell the money-losing platform to Wookey, a company known for buying other companies which have fallen into financial distress, in a last-ditch effort to turn some sort of profit out of it?

What disturbs me most about the change in ownership is that Wookey does not seem to be doing anything different from what Linden Lab has done. The focus remains squarely on live events, but so far, I do not see a whole hell of a lot of those happening, aside from the Monstercat: Call of the Wild series of concerts (okay, there was also a Virtual Rave Prom last Friday, with DJ Yultron).

If this is supposed to be a live events platform, where are all the (NON-volunteer driven) events? Where are the performers? We should have had some announcements by now, surely. During the change in ownership, Sansar lost a lot of those events, and I do not see a lot of new events to replace those that were lost.

Tong Zou, a YouTuber who recently posted a lightly-edited one hour and 40 minute video of his adventures exploring Sansar, had this to say at the very end of his video, after finding Sansar essentially empty in his travels, and only finding a handful of other avatars hanging out at the Nexus:

I mean, this is pretty much the only players on Sansar right now, which is really sad, because in my opinion, Sansar has the best worlds out of any social VR app, but they have the least people, so what the heck? Why do AltspaceVR and VRChat have more people than here, I don’t get it. Not enough marketing or something, I dunno. This is all the people in Sansar. Give me a break. Linden Lab has got to do a better job of promoting this game. This is just sad. This game deserves better than this. This app deserves better than this. C’mon, there only about 10 people here across the entire app.

Tong Zou hits the nail on the head when he says that the company (no longer Linden Lab, but Wookey) needs to actively promote Sansar. If the Wookey-owned Sansar is doing any marketing or promotion, I sure the hell am not seeing any evidence of that. And if they are hoping that word-of-mouth advertising is going to work to attract people to Sansar, they are badly mistaken.

Seriously, what the hell are they doing? From my perspective, Sansar is simply drifting aimlessly. Just because you’ve built a social VR platform that allows for the creation of beautiful worlds, and allows for customizable avatars, and supports a marketplace for content creators to earn money, you can’t just set it out there, among all the current and upcoming competition (e.g. Fortnite Party Royale, Facebook Horizon), and just expect it to grow on its own, without promotion. There’s simply too much else out there competing for attention.

For example, Oasis, the Chinese-based social VR platform I wrote about a while back, has recently done promotions with a number of smaller YouTube vloggers to promote their platform (here, here, here, and here are four examples). I can’t remember the last time I came across a sponsored YouTube video for Sansar.

Where is the marketing push? Sansar isn’t just going to magically sell itself.

Sinespace Learns a Lesson the Hard Way: Pay-to-Play Marketing Can Backfire

Trilo Byte (a.k.a. TriloByte Zanzibar, one of the people behind the virtual fashion brand BlakOpal Designs, started in Second Life and now operating in Sinespace) reports on his blog that Sinespace has had a marketing scheme backfire on them, and it has created a serious griefer problem.

The problem is that at least one of the marketing companies Sinespace contracted with started offering what are called pay-to-play inducements, where new users are paid in IMVU credits or Roblox currency (Robux) if they download the app, create an account on Sinespace and use the program for a minimum length of time (e.g. 30 minutes).

This has apparently led to a unwelcome surplus of trolls, griefers, and online harassment in Sinespace:

According to Sine Wave, what is happening in-world is the result of a single marketing agency who they have already complained to about the practice. However, we’re still seeing these users coming in, often referred to by shady sites like this onethis one, and this one too (and those are just the sites users are posting links to in chat).

By virtue of being offered payment in another game’s currency, they are confirming from the onset that they have no interest outside of getting currency to spend on another platform. Do they really expect users coming in for IMVU or Roblux currency to abandon everything they’ve built? The promise of Sinespace may be great, but the world is far from finished.

It isn’t just a matter of setting themselves up for failure. It’s much worse. On top of bringing in a bunch of people who are very unlikely to join the community and even less likely to become economic participants, it creates the Sinespace griefing problem.

Now, other virtual worlds have made similar mistakes. For example, Linden Lab set up a Twitch bounty program which paid livestreamers to visit Sansar, which was abused by several people who trolled the platform (I’m not certain if that program was suspended or not).

What is clear is that companies in the social VR/virtual world marketplace need to think carefully about the unintended consequences of offering financial inducements to entice new users on to their platforms. This is an embarrassing episode for Sinespace, one from which I hope they recover quickly. Sometimes you just have to learn a lesson the hard way.

Thanks to Jospeh Zazulak for the news tip!