Making Money Off the Metaverse

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Recently I was approached by an entrepreneur who wanted me to work with him to expand and monetize my comprehensive list of social VR platforms and virtual worlds. I told him I would think about it and get back to him in a couple of weeks. I also was told by social VR researcher and consultant Jessica Outlaw that she used and appreciated my comparison chart of the 12 most popular social VR platforms (which I do need to update soon). This has made me realize that I am one of the few people out there who are actively compiling this sort of information about social virtual reality, and that people are finding it useful.

My comparison chart of social VR platforms (full-size version available here)

I think what I will do (rather than throw my lot in with the entrepreneur and try to make money off my labour) is try to work something up for publication in a research journal instead. Working for a university, I tend to have more of an academic than an entrepreneurial bent anyways. Then I could add it to my résumé for the next time I apply for a promotion at work (assuming I do so before I decide to retire).

Which beings me to today’s topic: people making money off the metaverse. I’m actually already making a little money in two ways:

  1. serving advertising from WordPress’ WordAds and Google’s AdSense on my blog (which brings in anywhere from $5 to $35 per month);
  2. my Patreon page (currently bringing in $13 a month from 7 supporters—thank you!).

This money earned goes toward my blog hosting costs with WordPress (I have their Business plan at $33 a month, billed annually). Every little bit helps!

Other people are generating income by creating content for the metaverse: mesh buildings, trees, and furniture, avatar clothing and attachments, animations, etc. In fact, some Second Life content creators actually are able to make a decent living wage from their work (but they are definitely in the minority; most creators earn only a secondary income from SL, and some do it just for the creative outlet).

I’ve heard that some people are making good money creating and selling custom avatars for VRChat, but I’m not certain that anyone is making a full-time living at it.

A few people like Bernhard Drax (a.k.a Draxtor Despres) have been able to parlay their video-making work into a lucrative side hustle, working for companies such as Linden Lab to help promote their products. Strawberry Singh, who is well-known for her pictures and videos of Second Life, even landed up getting hired by Linden Lab! And who’s to say that what happened to Drax and Berry can’t happen to you, too?

While I seriously doubt that anybody is making a living wage off the various social VR platforms so far (except for the people working for companies creating the platforms, like High Fidelity and Linden Lab), we can expect that at some point in the future, individual entrepreneurs will generate a good income from social VR. The big questions are where and when it will happen, not if. Many people are waiting on the sidelines, honing their skills and biding their time, to see which social VR platforms will take off in popularity. There’s no sense dumping a lot of time and money into a platform if nobody’s using it.

What do you think of all this? Do you think that we are still years away from people earning a living off the metaverse? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments section, or better yet, join the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, the first cross-worlds Discord where people discuss and debate the issues surrounding social VR and virtual worlds. We’d love to have you with us!

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You Better Work! A Comprehensive Guide to Jobs in Second Life for Newbies

Image by mohamed_hassan on Pixabay

Sylvannas Zulaman has just posted a wonderfully detailed introductory guide for those new to Second Life, about how to get a job to earn some money. (And yes, there is no free money. Girl, you betta work!)

Here’s the link to her post in the official Second Life user forums. I think it’s a wonderful service to SL’s userbase. (I added my own comment about how to meet the requirement of many public-service type jobs such as host, DJ, customer service rep, stripper, escort, etc. for a modern mesh avatar without spending a fortune.)

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: How Do I Earn Free Money in Second Life?

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

It never fails to happen. A newbie (i.e., someone new to Second Life) gets onto one of the SL forums and asks the inevitable question:

How do I earn free money in Second Life?

And the answer, of course, is that you can’t.

In the old days (say, a decade ago), you used to be able to hit the camping spots to earn a few Lindens. Those days are long gone; the very few camping spots that still exist in Second Life are closely guarded secrets, and the chances of you earning any amount of money by camping are pretty much history. Most camping spots earn you, at most, L$1 per 10 minutes, and most are L$1 per hour (and that’s if you can find them).

The closest thing I have found to “free money” in Second Life nowadays is the Magic Fishing system, and even then, you are limited to earning about 15 Linden dollars per fishing session, before the system locks you out for a period of time (usually something like 24 hours before you can try again at the same spot). You’re going to be fishing a long, long time to earn enough for that Catwa Bento head you’ve been eyeing.

If you happen to be good at trivia, you can earn some money by participating in the trivia tournaments which are held at various bars and other locations in SL. Join the Trivia Fiends group in-world, which regularly posts details on trivia contests in Second Life. However, you usually only win L$1 per correct answer, so it still can take quite a long time to amass enough money to buy something.

Your best chances of earning money in Second Life are to get a job. And the highest-earning jobs are those designing and creating content like clothing, hair, shoes, furnishings, trees, houses, animations, etc. that other avatars want to buy. And there’s a pretty steep learning curve associated with learning how to become a successful content creator in Second Life. Not to mention, it’s a lot of exhausting work to build a store and promote your brand in Second Life, competing against literally hundreds of other vendors. It’s not for everyone. You will likely spend weeks, months, even years working on your products before you can earn a significant income from them.

If you don’t have the time, skills, or patience to become a content creator, there are other types of jobs in-world. Clubs are always looking for DJs or hosts, and that is probably your best bet. You may also be lucky to find a business that needs customer service agents (e.g. a popular fashion store, or a land rental agency). Forget about becoming a fashion model; most stores now use alts (i.e. the creator’s alternate avatar accounts) as their fashion models or mannequins.

You can also try your luck working as an exotic dancer or even an escort (God knows, there’s enough places where you could work in SL), but you’ll need to have a very professional appearance (i.e., a mesh avatar head and body, plus sexy lingerie or other clothing), which means you’ll need to invest quite a few Lindens up front. Frankly, most people do not earn a lot of money by dancing or escorting (although you might hear of someone who does cam/voice work earning thousands of Linden dollars per session). And, let’s face it, not everybody has the stomach for this kind of soul-killing work.

You’re also unlikely to make money by being a blogger for Second Life, unless you’re already a well-known blogger like Strawberry Singh. There are literally hundreds of bloggers competing against each other for the limited number of official blogger spots for the best-known SL brands. If you are going to be a blogger, do it because you love it, and not because you expect to earn an income from it. The same goes for photography and videography/machinima; only the very best can make a living at it. This is not to discourage you; it’s simply stating a fact. You have to be the best to earn any money at it.

Where’s the best place to look for a job in Second Life? I would suggest that job seekers monitor the Inworld Employment section of the official Second Life discussion forums. There are also in-world employment agencies you can try (search for “job” or “employment” under the Places tab under Search in your Second Life client software), but don’t be surprised to find the same jobs (mostly for escorts) at the various agencies.

Finally, the most fool-proof method for earning Lindens is to BUY them on your credit card. Hate to break it to you, but it’s true.

Money in the Newer Virtual Worlds

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Image by TheDigitalWay on Pixabay

The best things in life are free
But you can give them to the birds and bees
I want money
That’s what I want
That’s what I want
That’s what I want

Your love gives me such a thrill
But your love won’t pay my bills
I want money
That’s what I want
That’s what I want
That’s what I want

Money, the Flying Lizards


In-world currency systems are an integral part of many social VR/virtual world platforms. Second Life can be seen as the perfect example of a virtual world whose popularity exploded once people realized that they could make money on the platform, inspired by a 2006 Businessweek cover story on Second Life entrepreneur Anshe Chung:

Anshe Chung.jpg

This blogpost is an attempt to provide a comprehensive overview of how the newer virtual world platforms have implemented in-world currencies and set up systems for commerce.

Sansar

Linden Lab has, of course, 15 years of experience working with Second Life‘s economy and in-game currency, and they have applied that expertise in the setup and operation of the economy for their new virtual world, Sansar. You can buy Sansar dollars in two ways, directly in bundles or via the Sansar Dollar Exchange (SandeX), a currency exchange. There are more details on the SandeX in this document:

 The SandeX is the official virtual exchange of Sansar, run by Linden Lab, where you can:

  • Buy Sansar dollars at the current market rate.
  • Make limit buy offers at a requested exchange rate.
  • Sell Sansar dollars at the current market rate.
  • Make limit sell offers at a requested exchange rate.

All SandeX transactions are subject to transaction fees.

Market buy and sell

Market buys and market sells are the quickest ways to purchase or sell Sansar dollars on the SandeX. The SandeX automatically matches your order with the best exchange rate. The quoted exchange rate includes transaction fees associated with buying and selling on the exchange.

Limit buy and sell

Limit buys and sells allow you to specify the amount of Sansar dollars and the exchange rate you are willing to accept. The SandeX automatically matches up buy and sell offers as they come in. If you are buying, you must have sufficient funds in your US$ wallet to pay for the buy order.

Creators can sell their creations on the Sansar Store, and can also receive statistics on how well their items are selling. There is as yet no in-world commerce like they have in Second Life.

Sinespace

Sinespace has two in-world currencies, called silver and gold. According to their wiki:

Gold

Gold credits can only be purchased for real money by spending users and can be converted back to real money by Sine Wave virtual goods partners.

Gold credits trade at 100 / 1 fixed ratio with USD$

Silver

Silver credits are free promotional credits given to users as rewards for participating in the community.

Silver credits cannot be converted to real money but can be used by creators to promote their content to new platform users who have not yet purchased gold.

Sinespace has a Marketplace built into its client software, and a few vendors like BlakOpal have also set up in-world stores.

High Fidelity

High Fidelity has attracted a lot of recent media attention due to the fact that they have decided to set up a blockchain-based in-world currency, called High Fidelity Coins (HFC):

  • Blockchain Technology: Our new currency, High Fidelity Coins (HFC), will be a public blockchain with a consensus group of multiple parties. A blockchain is essentially a digital ledger of transactions. We are using blockchain technology to track and record transactions made using HFC. All information on a blockchain exists as a shared database, which means the records are public and verifiable. It is not centralized. We are also using the blockchain to store information about digital asset ownership in High Fidelity. This enables us to protect intellectual property by embedding certification in items in the blockchain. HFC will eventually be convertible to local currencies or other cryptocurrencies at popular exchanges.
  • Cryptographically-secured Wallet: Users will be able to participate in transactions using their Wallet, which will be an app on their tablet in High Fidelity. Your Wallet is secured using a security picture and a passphrase which includes ECDSA public-private keys pairs. These key pairs are used to sign each transaction.
  • Proof of Provenance (PoP) certificate: This certificate is generated for every transaction between a user’s Wallet and the Markeplace. This certificate’s ID is stored on the blockchain. The certificate contains static properties that can help in identifying the item and the owner. These properties cannot be altered, except by transfer of the PoP Certificate. Currently, we only support objects that contain a file type .JSON. Support for avatars and other file types will be coming soon.

Currently, the only way to get some HFC (a free one-time grant) is to go to the Bank of High Fidelity domain at their open times and meet with the banker. Here’s some more information of HFC from the High Fidelity website:

We are currently giving out the currency for anyone interested in participating in the closed beta for High Fidelity Commerce. If you want to get your inital HFC grant, you first need to set up your Wallet.

These coins are to be used as currency for any commerce transactions in the Marketplace. Since we are using blockchain technology, all transactions with HFCs will be publically recorded and stored.

Your Wallet will be secured using ECDSA public-private key pairs, security picture and passphrase. Learn more about your Wallet here.

HFC is not intended for speculators to hold and should be used in transactions in High Fidelity. HFC is intended to be a stable currency and used to support a healthy and vibrant virtual economy for digital goods and assets.\

High Fidelity has an online Marketplace where vendors can sell their products (users can also access the Marketplace listings using their tablets in-world). Avatar Island is the first domain set up in HiFi where you can try on and purchase items for your avatar in-world.

VRChat

VRChat currently does not have any sort of commerce or in-game currency, although there is a thriving real-world business for people designing and rigging custom avatars for VRChat users. It will be interesting to see what happens when/if the company decides to implement an in-world economy on the most popular of the social VR platforms.

AltspaceVR

As I recently reported, AltspaceVR seems to be gearing up for commerce, but at the moment, there is no commerce or in-game currency system in place.

OpenSim

Different OpenSim grids have different solutions to the problem of an in-world currency. Every grid has in-world stores which offer merchandise for sale. Some grids issue their own currencies; others use the Gloebit system, which has the advantage of being one standard currency which is transferable and usable across a large number of participating OpenSim grids. The Kitely Marketplace is a popular shopping mall for the many OpenSim virtual worlds:

Kitely Market can deliver items to all Kitely avatars, as well as to avatars on all other OpenSim grids that support the Hypergrid. Our marketplace also delivers items to avatars on several non-Hypergrid grids that have been set up to receive deliveries from our system.

Kitely Market has been used to deliver items to thousands of OpenSim users on more than 100 different OpenSim grids.

Virtual Universe, Decentraland and the Other Blockchain-Based Virtual Worlds

Virtual Universe, Decentraland, Mark Space, Staramba Spaces, VIBEHub, Ceek, and Terra Virtua (among many other products in this increasingly crowded marketplace) are issuing their own blockchain-based cryptocurrencies or tokens for future use on their platforms. all of which are still in development. The product closest to a launch date appears to be Virtual Universe, which plans to start a closed beta sometime in the fourth quarter of 2018.

I’ve already strongly warned potential investors to do every. single. scrap. of their homework before investing a penny in any of these blockchain/cryptocurrency ventures (link). Caveat Emptor!

Other Social VR/Virtual World Platforms

I can’t think of any other metaverse products which have in-world currencies at the moment, besides the adult virtual worlds like Oasis and Utherverse/The Red Light Center (these links are safe for work). If I’ve missed one, please let me know in the comments, thank you!