UPDATED: Rough Notes from Today’s Sansar Product Meeting, Nov. 1st, 2018

Please note that my notes are rough notes only, and may contain errors.  Inara Pey was present and recording the meeting, so there will be a full report from her at a later date. But for now, here is what was discussed at the well-attended meeting.

UPDATE Nov. 2nd: I have added Inara Pey’s excellent notes from this meeting. They include audio excerpts.


Ebbe, Eliot, Landon, Cara, and Nyx (among several other Linden Lab staff) attended the Product Meeting today, which (at least according to the Sansar Atlas display) seems to have set a record for the number of avatars in a single Sansar experience!

Product Meetup 2 1 Nov 2018.png
Questions I asked Landon and the other Linden Lab staff are bolded.

Why has Linden Lab decided to make Sansar available on Steam?

Landon: We think we’ll be ready to launch on Steam after the next couple of Sansar client updates. Also, people cannot find us (they expect us to be on Steam). Steam is where the highest density of people who meet our hardware requirements are found (VR users and gamers).

Will Sansar still be available outside of Steam, as it currently is for Oculus Rift users?

Landon: Yes, absolutely.

Why is Linden Lab pushing to release Sansar on Steam before the end of this year, rather than wait another six months to a year to further polish the platform and add new features?

We want to get more people in, to help refine the product and make it better. We want to start building a community on Steam.

Re: dealing with any negative feedback on Steam, Eliot will pass that along to the appropriate people to deal with and respond to.

Besides losing the SandeX, what other major changes to Sansar are going to be required before it launches on Steam?

Landon: No other major changes to the platform.

What steps are you going to take to promote Sansar once it launches on Steam?

Eliot: expect some significant ad spend, expect some original assets. Linden Lab wants to build a community on Steam.


Linden Lab is also working towards launching on the Oculus Store, but they are prioritizing Steam first. (Sansar is already available on VIVEPORT.)

Some notes on the economics (Warning: economics is not my strength, so I may have some of the finer details wrong):

The buy rate will be set to 100 Sansar dollars to 1 US dollar. The exchange rate back (the sell rate) will be set to 250 to 1. However, the sell rate will be grandfathered for current Sansar users at the “legacy” rate of 143 to 1 until at least the end of next year (2019). The fees for process credit will stay.

Steam will not be part of the process of Sansar dollars, that will be entirely internal to Sansar. Cashouts will be entirely within Linden Lab, not Steam.

Users will be able to buy Sansar dollars on Steam and Steam will make 30% on that transaction. The division is: roughly 30% Steam, 30% Linden Lab, and the rest goes to creators. Note that there will be no 30% cut to Steam if you buy Sansar dollars on your credit card (as you do now).

The plan is to remove the transaction fees on sold items, but keep the transaction fee in gifting (which is a minor part of the economy). Galen said that he thinks that giving up the 15% transaction fee will lubricate the Sansar economy.

Linden Lab told us that they will be building a hub (or hubs) for a better first-time user experience.

Ebbe: Sansar will be listed on Steam as an Early Access game.

The Steam refund policy will not/does not refer to microtransactions within Sansar.

There are currently no plans to integrate with Steamworks.

Don’t expect Linux or Mac clients at the time of Steam launch.

Eliot: We want to be an alternative to VRChat. VRChat users are telling us that they are looking for something different.

Expect an influx of Steam users into the Sansar Discord channel. We now have over 1,000 users in Discord (including LL staff).

Oh, and Landon wants more male outfits and hair in the Sansar Store! 😉

Product Meetup 1 Nov 2018.png
Product Meeting, Nov. 1st, 2018

And the next client release is anticipated for next Wednesday, November 7th (no promises!).

Also, there was a complaint about a continuing problem with the mouth and teeth of the female avatar. Chic Aeon noted later on Discord:

AND —- I want to put in a pet peeve for the gals again. At the end of the meeting someone asked if the female teeth would be fixed and got brushed off with a “that’s just the smile” comment that seems to be the party line. That did NOT go over well with most of the gals I am thinking. Wondering if that would have been fixed if it was the MALE avatar that is “messed” up. (insert stronger word if you like). I was pretty insulted on many levels. Doubt I was the only one.

Note to Linden Lab: FIX. THE. TEETH. ALREADY. People have been complaining about this for weeks now. Please listen to them.

Eliot livestreamed the meeting to Twitch, if you happened to miss it, or were late.


Inara Pey 2 Nov 2018.png

Inara Pey has also posted her detailed notes from this meeting on her blog, along with audio excerpts. Thank you, Inara!

Advertisements

Editorial: Fasten Your Seatbelts, It’s Going to Be a Bumpy Night!

Yesterday’s announcement that Sansar is moving to Steam was a big shock, but it should not have been so unexpected. It’s clear that Linden Lab is under increasing pressure to show a profit from Sansar, after plowing years of work into the platform without getting much back in return. They simply can’t keep relying on the profit from Second Life to build Sansar indefinitely. Eventually, Sansar has to pay its own way.

Some people will say (in fact, they are already saying) that Sansar is not yet fully-featured enough to be on Steam. High Fidelity made the mistake of putting its product up on Steam well before it was ready, and it got savaged in the user reviews. Is Linden Lab really ready to take this fateful step now, rather than wait another six months or a year to further polish the platform? Why the sudden pressure to do this now, before the end of this year?

What surprises me is how quickly and easily Linden Lab is jettisoning its SandeX exchange. The delicate and intricate balancing of the Sansar economy was something that LL staff put a lot of time, effort and energy into (even going so far as to create a subsidiary called Tilia, which focused on payments and the compliance work associated with operating virtual economies). All of that work, or at least a good chunk of it, gone.

Obviously, integration with Steam was considered to be a higher priority than the SandeX, which was considered a key component of Sansar. Which leads to the question: What other major changes to Sansar are going to be required before its launch on Steam? 

Yesterday’s announcement has probably raised more questions than answers. Several content creators have already announced on the official Sansar Discord channel that they are taking a break, cashing out their profits, and watching from the sidelines as all this plays out over the next few months. Which is exactly what Linden Lab doesn’t want.

And, of course, the even bigger question is: What happens if moving to Steam doesn’t bring a significantly larger audience to Sansar? (You could argue that High Fidelity’s launch on Steam has so far had very little impact on its usage levels, aside from the monthly spike of users attending regular stress testing events.)

As Bette Davis says, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” A bumpy night not only for Sansar, but for all the competing metaverse platforms in this overcrowded and uncertain marketplace.

bigfive

Mark my words; there are going to be winners and losers, and it will not be pretty. I predict that one or more of the blockchain-based virtual worlds will be among the first to fail, given the current grave state of the cryptocurrency markets, but really, anything can happen at this point.

Oh, and by the way, in response to those people talking about how Linden Lab tried—and failed—to get Second Life on Steam way back in 2012, Eliot, Sansar’s Community Manager, said on Discord today:

I also saw some people commenting that trying to get SL on Steam didn’t work out. Well we’ve learnt from that experience. The announcement we made comes after months of negotiation with Valve. We have an active dialogue with them on this :thumbsup:

So, it would appear that this move has been in the works for quite some time, and it’s not an impulsive decision by any means. But no matter how well they plan, it’s still going to be a bumpy ride. Stay tuned. And fasten your seatbelts!

UPDATED! Sansar Is Moving to Steam—And Dropping the SandeX

Sansar Steam

Linden Lab just dropped a major announcement tonight!

Titled We’ve come a long way together. We can’t wait for what’s next, here’s an excerpt:

Sansar has come a long way since we started the project. In 2018 we have devoted an enormous amount of effort to improving the end-user experience, and will continue to do so.

Given those improvements, we believe we are quickly approaching the point where we want to start bringing a large number of users onto the platform. This is an important milestone for us and especially our creators. One of the foundational principles of Sansar is that creators must be able to profit from their creations. For us to make that a reality, we need to give our creators a large audience of customers.

The cornerstone of our growth effort will be to put Sansar on Steam. Steam is where more than half of the VR market goes to find software. It also is a huge pool of users who are interested in our space and are likely to have the hardware required to run Sansar. We anticipate being able to get onto Steam by the end of this year. This is a huge step for us and we’re excited to be able introduce Sansar to an even wider audience.

In order to do this, we are obligated to make significant changes to how Sansar works, especially in how the Sansar Dollar and process credit system work. These changes, will also make the credit process for Creators far more consistent and predictable. The first change is that we will be discontinuing the Sandex as of December 4, 2018.

After that date, we will be moving to a fixed conversion rate model. Creators will continue to be able to sell their work for Sansar Dollars on the Store (and soon in experiences!). Eligible creators may convert some or all of their earned Sansar Dollar balance to US dollars at a rate of S$250 to $1, and then request a USD credit to be processed in 30 days. This matches Steam’s payment timeline.

We understand that this may have an impact on the amount of revenue returned to creators compared to the Sandex. However, we believe that in the long run our creators will significantly benefit from having access to the larger Steam user base. In addition, anyone who has created their Sansar account before December 31, 2018 will receive a legacy conversion rate of S$143 to $1 until December 31, 2019, after which the conversion rate for all accounts will be S$250 to $1.

In other words, Linden Lab has decided to drop the economic model pioneered by Second Life and its LindeX exchange. A content creator has reposted this update to the official Second Life user forums, saying:

A must read for any creators with money in their accounts or that sell things on the Marketplace. Since I have over 400 items on there it is going to take a fair amount of work to reprice things. Hopefully everyone still active there will know about this. Please spread the word.

Obviously, Linden Lab is betting the farm that putting Sansar on Steam will lead to an influx of new users with cash to spend. They’ve weighed the pros and cons and they’re willing to put up with the fees that Steam will charge, in exchange for a wider audience.

I simply cannot overstate what a major change in strategy this is. And it is a total surprise to me; I certainly wasn’t expecting it!

While I am still processing this news, what do you think? Please leave a comment on this blogpost with your thoughts and opinions, thanks!

UPDATE Oct. 30th: Landon McDowell, Linden Lab’s Chief Product Officer for Sansar, did answer a few questions in the official Sansar Discord channel. When asked if LL was going to remove Sansar Store transaction fees, he said:

Yes, the intent is to remove the store transaction fees in conjunction with this… The process credit fees will not be change[d].

When asked why they are implementing a 30-day delay in processing US$ credits, Landon answered:

The problem is that Steam operates on a 30-60 day window. If we keep it at a few days, we will be floating credit for 1-2 months. That’s an uncomfortable financial situation to be in.

And, this push sure sounds a lot like the “consumer launch” of Sansar I predicted back in April. And I note with dismay that there are still many things on my list that haven’t been implemented yet, that I would still like to see in place before this push to Steam and a much larger potential audience.

Interesting times, indeed. Stay tuned for more coverage as all this rolls out!