There’s been a very interesting discussion taking place today on the RyanSchultz Discord server. One of the regular contributors to the many conversations that take place there, Michael Zhang, pulled together the following information from Crunchbase:
Today I Learned: Building social VR, MMOs, and virtual worlds are a lot more expensive than I imagined!
-High Fidelity raised $72.9 million over five rounds and is struggling with their recent pivot to enterprise. -Rec Room raised $29 million over two rounds, $24 million only recently, so they lived off of $5 million for several years. -Altspace raised $15.7 million over three rounds, went bankrupt and shut down, then revived when bought by Microsoft. -Bigscreen raised $14 million over two rounds. -TheWaveVR raised $12.5 million over three rounds. -vTime raised $7.6 million over one round. -VRChat raised $5.2 million over two rounds. -JanusVR raised $1.6 million over two rounds. -Somnium Space raised $1 million over two rounds.
-Epic Games raised $1.6 billion over two rounds, $1.25 billion coming after Fortnite. -Mojang’s Minecraft launched in 2003, started making profits in 2007, earned $237.7 million in revenue by 2012, and sold to Microsoft for $2.5 billion. (Wikipedia) -Roblox raised $187.5 million over seven rounds. -Linden Lab’s Second Life raised $19 million over two rounds.
Then, another contributor named Jin put together this graph to illustrate how successful the various social VR platforms have been in raising venture capital (please click on this picture to see it in full size on Flickr, or just click here). As you can see, High Fidelity is far and away the leader in raising money!
(In comparison, Decentraland raised 24 million dollars in their initial coin offering. Jin also made a second chart including Decentraland, but I have not included it here because, unlike the other platforms, it does not currently support VR, and it is unlikely to do so anytime in the near future.)
Thank you to Michael Zhang and to Jin for their work!
I have been enjoying my self-imposed vacation from the blog. It’s given me an opportunity to step back, enjoy the all-too-brief Canadian summer, and reflect a little bit. I’m going to start easing back into blogging over the next week. There’s certainly no shortage of things to write about!
Yesterday, Gindipple shared his most recent compilation of Sansar user concurrency statistics, and while they do show a slight increase in the average number of users over time, it’s clear that users have not exactly rushed to embrace Sansar in the way that Linden Lab has been hoping:
It’s now almost two years since Sansar opened its doors to the public, and general user concurrency is still only in or around the mid-20s level. This has raised questions of Sansar’s sustainability, and whether the Lab have set any goals for the platform that need to be achieved in order for it to be continued, etc.
Landon McDowell, the Lab’s Chief Product Officer, and the person most directly in charge of Sansar’s development, responded thus to one of these questions:
I am not going to put any date on the board. I think we’re taking this day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month, release-by-release, and we want to see what is happening and what is resonating and what isn’t … I believe steadfastly in the future of virtual worlds, that what we’re doing here is really important … Are we happy with the result? I’m not happy with the result; I would want a million people in here today, and we’re obviously not there.
But in terms of sustainability, I think we know what our limits are, and we are proceeding accordingly. If we have 50 people in here in a year then yeah, I’m going to be really massively disappointed. I think everybody here is working hard to make this an absolutely monumental success … I feel that everyone that’s here is here because they’re digging something about what we’re doing, and I want that to spread like wildfire quite frankly. So we definitely have hopes and ambitions.
But again, I’m not going to put a dot on the board of, “this date and this time, this number of users”. I think we want many more users in, and we want them relatively quickly, and we go from there.
While it is good news that Linden Lab appears to have no internal make-or-break date for Sansar, the fact remains that the company is putting time and money into a platform that, so far, is not attracting a lot of use.
The elephant in the room of social VR, not just for Linden Lab but for all companies in this marketplace, is sustainability. Many companies are pouring resources into various social VR platforms, in hopes that they will be able to relight the same spark that ignited over a decade ago with Second Life. Most projects have not had a great deal of success yet. The few social VR platforms which have attracted some attention to date (VRChat and Rec Room) face a daunting transition to an in-world economy, plus a slew of technical problems trying to shoehorn their experiences into wireless VR headsets like the new Oculus Quest in order to reach the broadest possible potential audience. Add to that rumours that Facebook is reportedly working on a major social VR initiative for all its Oculus VR hardware users, which will likely upend the current marketplace. The road ahead is rocky indeed.
Oculus Quest support: As has been previously indicated, this is not currently on the cards. The Quest processor and general capabilities are seen as being unable to handle to quality of content LL want to provide without massive amounts of auto-decimation, which can be problematic. However, as the capabilities of emerging VR systems continues to improve and Sansar improves in terms of performance limits, the hope is that the two will converge at some point in the future.
And that convergence may come sooner than you think. It is interesting to note that at least one eager early adopter has reported that he is able to use the PC streaming app ALVR to play Sansar on the Oculus Quest. (“PC streaming” refers to the use of sideloaded Quest apps to enable your desktop computer to stream VR games directly to your Quest. You’ll have to sideload the app onto your Quest, and then install a coordinating PC program before you can start playing. These programs, such as ALVR and VRidge, are new, highly experimental, and currently require a certain level of geek skills to set up and use. But they will no doubt become easier to use over time.)
However, as Landon McDowell says, I’m still a fervent believer in the future of virtual worlds. I still believe it’s a question of when and where, not if, social VR takes off and virtual worlds have a renaissance. High Fidelity’s recent pivot towards business users is just one example of a social VR company adjusting its sails to meet evolving conditions. Expect more such shifts as the market grows and changes.
Stay tuned! As I often say, things are getting interesting!
The first diagram is one year’s worth of statistics, showing the daily and monthly average of concurrent Sansar users. There is a noticable spike in users around the time of the Steam launch on both graphs:
Gindipple also shared the following graph, saying:
Of particular interest is this graph that shows the last 2 weeks. The spikes are the comedy event and a product meetup.
The news from both sets of graphs is about the same. Both show a noticeable spike in Sansar usage due to the Steam launch, but unfortunately, many of those users did not seem to stick around. However, there does seem to be a small uptick in the total number of simultaneous Sansar users overall, comparing the periods before and after the Steam launch.
Also, both Galen’s and Gindipple’s statistics show that Sansar is now hitting up to 80 concurrent users at a time, mostly due to events such as the stand-up comedy series. This is a definite improvement, although I’m quite sure that Linden Lab wants much higher numbers than that.
So, the struggle continues. And Linden Lab is far from alone in trying to figure out the magic formula that will bring users in—and make them come back. The only social VR platform which is still consistently packing the users in is VRChat (with Rec Room a distant second).
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.
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.