UPDATED! Comparing and Contrasting Cryptovoxels and Decentraland: A Look at the First Two Blockchain-Based Virtual Worlds

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It’s only natural to want to look at the similarities and differences between the first two blockchain-based virtual worlds to launch, Cryptovoxels (CV) and Decentraland (DCL). While Decentraland is still in closed beta testing, I was among the first group of people who was invited to visit and explore this new platform. Therefore, I have decided that now would probably be a good time to compare and contrast the two virtual worlds, in an effort to provide the best information to current and potential investors in both platforms.

Most of the information I am reporting here comes from two sources:

Where information differs between these two reports, I have chosen the more recently updated version, the Crypto Cities report.

Decentraland and Cryptovoxels are two virtual worlds that currently exist on the Ethereum blockchain. Both of these virtual worlds are divided into square pieces often referred to as parcels, aligned on a grid to form a city. In both virtual worlds, land parcels are a non-fungible asset maintained in Ethereum ERC-721 smart contracts.

Project Background

Unlike many other social VR projects such as Sansar and High Fidelity, where the company has built the virtual world over time in anticipation of earning future income from users, Decentraland started with a well-timed, highly successful Initial Coin Offering (ICO) of their cryptocurrency token, MANA, in August 2017, raising US$24 million in less than a minute! This was followed by two successive auctions of virtual land parcels (called LAND), which were also very successful. Today, MANA has a market capitalization of approximately US$50 million. Decentraland is based in Argentina, and currently employs an estimated 45 people full time.

Contrast this with Cryptovoxels, which started in 2018 as a part-time project by a single New Zealand software developer, Ben Nolan. Cryptovoxels has been funded to a total of approximately US$140,000 worth of Ethereum (ETH) over the course of one year of virtual land parcel sales. This profit has recently enabled Ben to be able to work on the project full-time.

Project Size and Maps

In terms of overall size of the projects, Decentraland is approximately 23 times bigger than Cryptovoxels:

Note the size of Cryptovoxels (the white square in the lower left-hand corner) superimposed on the much bigger Decentraland project map.

Decentraland itself is about half the size of Manhattan in New York City:

Cryptovoxels (white) and Decentraland (blue) superimposed on
the island of Manhattan in New York City

Jin reports on the differences between maps:

Decentraland’s atlas hasn’t changed much since the auction. The content that’s currently deployed into the world is not displayed on the marketplace map. Some wonder if this may have been a factor leading to several anomalies of parcels having sold for enormous sums of money.

We’ve analyzed the blockchain a few times since September 2018 to see how much content was deployed to Genesis City.
– In September 2018 there was ~63 parcels with content deployed
– In January 2019 there was ~100 parcels with content deployed
– In July 2019 there were 24,000 parcels deployed*

(*see UPDATE at the end of this blogpost)

The Cryptovoxels map shows content that’s currently deployed to the city as well as analytics and other useful features. Anyone can jump into the world right now and try before they buy.

Content Creation Pipelines

In Decentraland, the content creation pipeline is asynchronous and somewhat difficult to master: publishing custom content requires users to know command-line and editing JSON files. For any custom models you will have to rely on using the SDK and setting positions of objects manually through code. Earlier this year, a simple drag-and-drop editor for novice users was created, called the Builder.

The editor for Cryptovoxels appears in-world when you press the Tab key. You can edit and publish to the content server seamlessly and in real-time, similar to games like Minecraft. You can add or remove different types of blocks to build any shape you want. You can even further decorate it with images, audio, art, texts, hyperlinks, ERC-721s, GIFs, etc. Changes to the parcel are saved automatically so that if you log out and log back in you see the changes persist. 

Land Sales

Decentraland has had two massive auctions of land parcels. Parcels in Decentraland were auctioned in December 2017 at prices averaging around 1,000-2,000 MANA, where a record breaking US$28 million was spent on virtual property. All the MANA spent on LAND and staked into Districts (themed areas) was burned after the auction, lowering the overall supply of MANA. Individual parcels have been sold on the secondary markets for very high prices, with some premium lands going for as high as US$32,000 in MANA just this year. In one extreme case, I reported in February 2018 that someone had actually spent over US$120,000 on single parcel of Decentraland’s virtual land!

There was no massive auction for Cryptovoxels land parcels; the project started off as a very small community that has grown bigger over time in an organic fashion, as parcels are minted slowly outwards from The Center. CV has grown by leaps and bounds within the past few months, as can be seen from this comparative illustration:

Jin reports:

Average land sales from Cryptovoxels are beginning to catch up to the Decentraland market. However, it is worth noting that the entire market for DCL post-auction is now second hand. Cryptovoxels did not have a massive auction and instead mints new lands with procedural generation scripts for the size of each parcel and road.

Number of land parcels sold per month
(purple: Decentraland; orange: Decentraland)

Average Cost of Land Parcels

Land in Decentraland is significantly more expensive than Cryptovoxels. Currently, the lowest price for parcels in Cryptovoxels is about 20-25% that of the lowest price of parcels in Decentraland.

Average cost per land parcel per month
(purple: Decentraland; orange: Decentraland)

Client Software

Decentraland started with a client based on A-Minus in 2017, then a Babylon JavaScript client in 2018, but has since switched to a web-browser-based Unity client, which is currently in closed beta. There is also a JanusWeb client, which is unreleased. The majority of deployed content features a low-poly cartoon aesthetic but the SDK supports any glTF models that fit within the scene limitations.

Cryptovoxels has a variety of clients in development: the default Bagbylon JavaScript client (https://www.cryptovoxels.com/play), which requires a standard web browser or the Oculus Quest default browser. There is also a JanusVR client (unreleased), an Exokit client (https://github.com/exokitxr/exokit), a Substrata client (http://substrata.info), and an open source Unity client and plugin. Over this past summer, there have been experiments with importing Cryptovoxels into VRChat, the largest social VR platform in terms of user count and the best platform for a custom avatar experience.

One significant difference between Cryptovoxels and Decentraland is that Cryptovoxels supports users in VR headsets, while Decentraland does not, and it is unlikely that the platform will do so anytime in the near future.

Some Final Figures

Market CapUS$142,000US$35,800,000
Supply of Land
1,246 (Current)45,000 (Accessible)
Total Supply of Land3,026 parcels90,601 parcels

This blogpost would have been impossible without the tireless work of CL and Jin, from whose reports I drew most of this information. Thank you!

*UPDATE 4:16 p.m.: Apparently, Decentraland (the company) is very unhappy with this blogpost, and I have been approached by a representative of the company who tells me that “your latest article contains lots of discrepancies and out of date data”.

The company feels in particular that Jin’s portrayal of Decentraland is unfairly negatively biased, but when I asked the representative for a list of concrete examples of errors made in this report, all he could give me was one figure, “In July 2019 there were 24,000 parcels deployed“, to replace one of Jin’s statements, which I have now inserted above.

I appear to have gotten myself caught in between two sides of a dispute, with Decentraland (with whom I felt I had a very good working relationship) on one side of the argument, and Jin (with whom I have worked before without incident) on the other side. I fucking hate being caught in the middle like this, and I don’t appreciate being caught in the cross-fire.

From my perspective, the blogpost I wrote today seems to be very even, not painting either company in a bad light in any way whatsoever. I pride myself on being as accurate as possible in my reporting, especially where facts are concerned, and if a company has a serious problem with something I have written, then I will certainly address the issue, BUT I NEED A LIST OF WHAT THE FACTUAL ERRORS ARE AND WHAT THE CORRECT FACTS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE. And so far, I have only had one factual error pointed out to me, and not “lots of discrepancies and out of date data”, which is what I was originally told by the Decentraland representative. The company seems to be very upset about how this blogpost makes them look, when I think it makes them look pretty good. I’m very confused. What did I do wrong here? This episode has just left a bad taste in my mouth.

SECOND UPDATE Sept. 13th: I have since received an apology from the DCL representative, which I have accepted. He had been at the end of a very, very long workday, and was not at his most diplomatic in asking for corrections, and I took what he said the wrong way. We are both moving on from this unfortunate episode. This is just a bump on the road forward.

There is still much left to write about Decentraland, and (as my regular blog readers already well know) I will not shy away from reporting both the good things and the bad things as they happen, at all the companies working on the various social VR platforms and virtual worlds I cover on this blog.

Sometimes we just need to take a step back and appreciate just how far we’ve come in the development of all these projects. Both Cryptovoxels and Decentraland have come a long way in a very short time, and both are truly pioneers. I look forward to seeing how both develop and evolve over time and I wish both teams the best in their future endeavours.


Threedium: A Brief Introduction

In my early morning conversations on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, another web-based virtual world was mentioned, that is still in development, called Threedium.

The Threedium website consists of just a placeholder image:

I have been told Threedium is a project by an Autralian company called Punk Office, which specializes in avatar cration for various platforms:

Another one to add to my list!

Beloola: A Brief Introduction

I was up at 3:00 a.m. this morning with insomnia, so rather than try to get back to sleep, I got up, made a pot of coffee, and started blogging 🙂

And I kept a window open to the RyanSchultz.com Discord, where a lively discussion about various virtual worlds was kept up by numerous members (as I like to call them, “my people”).

And one of them, yodorovvv, mentioned a virtual world called Beloola. And I immediately asked, “Beloola? What’s that??”

I checked, and yes, I actually had visited Beloola before! I already had my username and password saved in my Chrome web browser. I had just completely forgotten about it, since I first visited it back in 2017 or so. (This is an occupational hazard of a blogger who tries to cover too many social VR platforms and virtual worlds!)

Beloola (which, for some reason, I keep mistyping as “Baloola” or “Bellola” because my brain is telling that’s how it should be spelled) is a Web browser-based virtual world that has been around for several years, and never really took off. They do have a few themed experiences, like the ones for the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco Giants basketball teams:

Another product to add to my ever-expanding list of social VR platforms and virtual worlds!

Making Money Off the Metaverse

Did you know that you can help support my blog (as well as the Metaverse Newscast show), and get great rewards in return? Here’s how.

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!