Recent Statistics Show a Slow But Steady Increase in Sansar Users (Also: The Most Popular Worlds in Sansar)

Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay

I do find it somewhat ironic that the two Sansar users who have posted user concurrency statistics for the platform in the past—Galen and Gindipple—have both largely moved on from Sansar to other projects.

However, I did receive a recent statistics chart generated by Gindipple, courtesy of Medhue (thanks!), which I wanted to share with you:

Gindipple’s stats show slow but steady growth in the number of concurrent users on Sansar. The monthly average concurrent Sansarians figure (bottom chart) has roughly doubled between March 2018 and October 2019.

Galen’s statistics page shows a similar growth in users, including peaks of up to 150 concurrent users at one time:

Even Wagner James Au, of the long-running blog New World Notes, who has often criticized Sansar for its low user concurrency figures in the past, posted the following “infographic” based on Steam usage figures (drawn by the talented artist Danielle Feigenbaum, creator of the regular feature Nylon Pinkney is Online comic on his blog):

Now, I do have a couple of criticisms of this image.

First, it is not an infographic; it is a cartoon. The zig-zag graph in the background is purely decorative, not informative.

Second, the small print along the bottom is almost impossible to read. It says:

Total concurrent users across all platforms potentially 2-3 times larger than Steam CCUs (concurrent users). Numbers based on Steam stats in September 2019 – Source: Steam Database Info

Even Wagner cannot deny that Sansar has had a recent jump in usage:

As of last month, in terms of peak concurrent users, VRChat remains the 800 pound Knuckle [a reference to the Ugandan Knuckles meme], with Rec Room maintaining its distant second place.  There was also a small surprise bump for Linden Lab’s Sansar… After concurrency rates that averaged in the mid two figures (yes, that low) for most of the year, Sansar peak concurrency for September jumped to 220 last Friday. Thanks, at least in part, to a VR dating show hosted by online celebrity Jesse Cox and probably more key, the launch of an official Hello Kitty experience…

The problem with relying solely on Steam statistics in the case of Sansar is that there are two different ways that people can download the Sansar client software:

  1. Via Steam (which does publish public statistics on usage);
  2. Via the Sansar website (Linden Lab does not publish user stats).

We have no way of knowing what percentage of Sansar users downloaded their client software via Steam. Therefore, we still have to guess at the total overall level of usage of Sansar, using imperfect tools such as Steam stats and Galen’s and Gindipple’s statistics.

However, all three sources do show a slow but steady increase in the number of concurrent users in Sansar, which I’m sure Linden Lab is pleased to see. Of course, they also have their own internal statistics, which they do not release to the public, which I am sure confirm this trend.


Gindipple also released a pie chart showing the most popular Sansar worlds. Unsurprisingly (since all incoming users spawn there by default now), the Nexus is the most visited world, with 70% of the total number of recent visitors (I believe that these stats cover the past seven days):

Following the Nexus, the most popular Sansar worlds (formerly called experiences) are:

  • Skyway Avenue (3.69% of total recent visitors)
  • The Point of No Return – Chapter I (2.65%)
  • Susan’s Diary (2.39%)
  • Orphanage of Angels (2.35%)
  • Fire Goat’s Free Avatar Store (1.96%)
  • Ultimate Disc (1.93%)
  • The Slewhouse (1.85%)
  • Once Upon a Midnight Dream (1.77%)
  • Scurry Waters (1.57%)
  • Monstercat Call of the Wild (1.52%)
  • Sanrio World (1.44%)
  • Camp Goonies (1.24%)
  • 114 Harvest (1.07%)

I do have rather mixed feelings about Linden Lab’s recent design decision to have users automatically spawn in the Nexus when they log into Sansar. On one hand, it does make it much easier for avatars to encounter other avatars in-world, and I often see groups of people gathered having conversations with each other, which is good.

But on the other hand, it is an absolute pain in the ass to have to keep going back to the Nexus when you simply want to explore the various Sansar worlds. If you are in desktop mode, you can still use the Atlas on the Sansar website, but if you are in VR mode, you pretty much have to keep cycling through the Nexus to find and select new experiences to visit, which quickly gets tiring.

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Why Second Life STILL Has 600,000 Regular Users After 16 Years

“Peace? …” by Alice Buttigieg
(Second Life Pic of the Day 07.22.2019)

In the December 2017 issue of The Atlantic magazine, Leslie Jamison wrote an article about Second Life. The webpage for that article has the original article title, Second Life Still Has 600,000 Regular Users (which you can check for yourself by doing a Google search):

However, it would seem that Leslie’s editor at The Atlantic wanted a somewhat punchier title, and so we have The Digital Ruins of a Forgotten Future, which shows up when you click on that link. (I’m pretty sure that Linden Lab is less than pleased with that particular editor.)

There’s a quote from that article which is, to my knowledge, the most up-to-date statistic we have about how many people still use Second Life:

Of the 36 million Second Life accounts that had been created by 2013—the most recent data Linden Lab will provide—only an estimated 600,000 people still regularly use the platform.

“Only” 600,000? That still makes Second Life, far and away, the most popular virtual world. And yet, somehow, the mainstream news media continues to portray Second Life as quaint, outdated and underused.


Well, today, Jessica Lyon, the founder, CEO, and project manager of the Firestorm viewer project, posted an editorial about their recent decision to separate the Firestorm viewer into Second Life and OpenSim versions, titled OpenSim: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Now, I am not going to dissect all the gory technical details of that announcement here. But one statistic did happen to catch my eye:

Let’s get this out of the way first:  542,967 unique users across 9.9 million sessions spending 17.7 million hours logged into Second Life on Firestorm over the last 30-day period. 

That is our most recent set of metrics regarding Firestorm usage in Second Life, directly from Linden Lab. Those are mind-blowing figures. Although we don’t have metrics for how many OpenSim users run Firestorm, it is safe to say it isn’t anywhere near that. My estimate would be somewhere around 2,000 users. But still… THAT’S NOT WHY!

It is because of those numbers that we prioritize Second Life, but those numbers are NOT why we struggle with OpenSim.

So, in other words, over the past 30 days, 542,967 unique Second Life account holders used the Firestorm viewer to access Second Life. Now, Firestorm is by far the most popular viewer. Let’s assume that all the other viewers combined (including Second Life’s own native viewer) have only 10% of the market that Firestorm occupies, which I think is a fairly reasonable assumption.

10% of 542,967 is 54,296. Adding 54,296 to 542,967 (or just multiplying 542,967 by 1.10) gives us…597,264.

Which means that Second Life, still, has approximately 600,000 regular users in the past month.

Why are people still so committed to Second Life after 16 years? As I have written before:

What is the secret to Second Life’s “stickiness”? In a word, it’s investment: investment of time, investment of money, investment in an avatar representation, and investment in community.

Until a social VR/virtual world platform comes along that can offer everything that Second Life does, it is going to continue to be the most commercially successful and most popular virtual world around, and a reliable cash cow for Linden Lab.

One day, one of the newer social VR platforms like Sansar, VRChat, Rec Room, or perhaps even Facebook’s upcoming “Metaverse” project, will steal that crown. But not today. And not tomorrow.

Whether you like it or not, and whether the news media admits it or not, Second Life is still relevant and still rules. Competing metaverse platforms would kill to get the level of usage Second Life still gets, even after 16 years of continuous operation, even as it has been all but written off by mainstream media.

Which Social VR Platform Has Been the Most Successful at Raising Money?

Image by Capri23auto from Pixabay

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!

From Crunchbase:

-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.

In comparison:

-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!

Social VR Platforms 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!

Addressing the Elephant in the Room: Social VR Sustainability

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

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:

Inara Pey has done her usual excellent job of summarizing last week’s Sansar Product Meeting, and she shares the following item from the discussion:

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.

Given the significant compromises that have had to be made to VRChat in order to get it to run at all on the Quest, and the rather disappointing results, it seems Linden Lab’s decision to not support an Oculus Quest version of Sansar is a wise one. Inara reports:

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.)

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

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!