Editorial: VRChat Needs to Step Up Their Game When It Comes to Contest Prizes

Look, I’m not saying you have to hand out golden trophies, BUT…

I think that somebody really needs to have a little chat with the people running VRChat about their contests. Specifically, their contest prizes.

The recently concluded Decentraland Game Jam gave content creators the chance to win a share of prizes worth US$275,000 in total.

Sinespace has just announced several contests with total prizes worth US$29,000.

And VRChat? According to their Spookality 2019 contest page, the prizes in their avatar and world creation contests are…

First place receives a $50 Threadless Gift Card, usable at the VRChat Merch Store

First through Fifth place will receive a Limited Edition VRChat ceramic mug, as seen on our Dev Streams:

Now, I can understand that contest prizes can be a somewhat artificial inducement to get people to use the platform. (High Fidelity very much learned this lesson the hard way; once the contests ended, and HiFi stopped paying out prize money, people stopped coming.)

But, on the other hand, what kind of message do $50 gift certificates and $10 coffee mugs send? And this is from VRChat, a company that has raised US$15.2 million in three rounds of venture capital funding.

It’s hardly a rousing reward for content creators, who may spend hours working on their contest submissions. Sure, you get bragging rights if you win, but couldn’t VRChat have upped their game just a little bit? I’m sorry, but to me this just feels…cheap. VRChat, you can do better than this.


“The Beyoncé of Virtual Reality”: VICE Interviews VRChat Video Maker Syrmor

VICE interviewed Syrmor (a.k.a. Canadian VRChat video maker and livestreamer Sherazee Syrmor) in a recent episode of VICE News Tonight:

If you’ve never heard of Syrmor before or viewed his work, this video is an excellent introduction to who he is and how he got into the habit of interviewing various people he encounters on the social VR platform VRChat.

Syrmor actually earns a living from advertising on his popular YouTube videos (he currently has 647,000 subscribers to his channel) and from his Patreon supporters (here’s a link to his Patreon page). He is also an active livestreamer on Twitch. He was even the focal point of a real-life meetup of his fans in Toronto, dubbed Syrcon 2019, which people attended from around the world!

The interviewer and he share a joke in this VICE News video that he has become “the Beyoncé of Virtual Reality”, because he is now so well known for his video interviews that he can’t venture out in public without getting accosted by his fans! Syrmor tells the interviewer that he receives thousands of emails from people who want to be interviewed for the videos in his series.

If you are interested in reading more about Syrmor and his work, there is an excellent March 27th, 2019 article on the Kotaku website, which I would encourage you to go over and read in full. Here’s an excerpt:

Syrmor notes the most memorable experiences he’s ever had in VRChat and the subject of one of his most recent videos. The subject explained that he was a kid suffering from epidermolysis bullosa, or “the butterfly condition,” a lifelong genetic disorder that makes your skin as “fragile as a butterfly’s wings.” (In some cases, it can even lead to amputations.) Everything, from crawling on your hands and knees to taking a bath, can be very, very painful. He told Syrmor a story about daily battles with the disorder through the guise of a sprightly Piglet avatar.

“What really got me is that he talked about his dad very highly, because his dad is his caretaker. I said something like, ‘Your dad sounds like a cool guy,’ and he actually got his dad on the microphone,” says Syrmor. “Having this very burly, 40-year-old male voice coming through Piglet in virtual reality, talking about his son’s disease, and what life was like for him, was just not something I ever expected to encounter in video games.”

Thanks to Wagner James Au of the blog New World Notes for the heads up!

VRChat Raises Another US$10 Million in Venture Capital

Social VR platform VRChat, which has raised US$5.2 million in two previous rounds of venture capital funding, announced today that they have received an additional US$10 million in a Series C investment round:

According to a blogpost on their official blog:

The VRChat team is excited to announce that we have closed a $10m Series C investment round. This latest financing includes new investor Makers Fund, alongside existing investors HTCBrightstone VC and GFR Fund. We welcome Makers Fund and are proud to have them on board!

As to where that new investment money is going, VRChat also shared a diagram of what they plan to work on next (the text on this is a bit small, so you might want to look at this picture over on their blogpost instead, where you can zoom in on it and read it clearly):

The VRChat Development Roadmap (from their blog)

There are a lot of references to something called “Udon” on this roadmap. According to their blogpost:

VRChat “Udon” is an in-development programming language designed specifically for VRChat. It utilizes a “node graph” graphical interface to permit both new and experienced users to create complex, interactive content for their VRChat worlds.

Udon will unlock a whole new class of creativity in VRChat by allowing content creators to build far more interactive worlds, games, and experiences. We expect Udon to be a big deal! We believe it will have a massive impact on the types of content the community can enjoy in VRChat once released. Udon is currently in internal testing, and planned for release in Q4 2019.

But what I find the most interesting thing about this roadmap is what is not on it: a virtual economy, currency, and an in-world marketplace for user-created content. As we already know, they are actively looking to hire someone to get that ball rolling. I guess that part of VRChat is still too far off in the future to add to the plan…

VRChat Is Planning for a Virtual Economy, Currency, and a Marketplace for User Generated Content

VRChat just posted a tweet to let people know they’re hiring:

So, I moseyed over to take a look at their job listings. Among other things, they don’t mind if you are a remote worker:

The VRChat team all work remotely. We are distributed around the United States, Canada and Europe. We have semi-flexible working hours with some core hours in the Pacific (UTC -7/-8) time zone. It really doesn’t matter where you work from, as long as you have a great internet connection and the ability to connect to the VRChat platform. We’ve also recently launched on the Oculus Quest, which is a really handy travel-ready version of VRChat.

They are looking for a wide variety of people—Unity engineer, security engineer, customer support—but what really got my attention was a posting for a Virtual Economy Manager:

We’re looking for someone to lead the development of VRChat’s virtual economy, currency and marketplace. VRChat is a “live” platform that’s constantly updated and evolving, so you’ll see your work have an immediate impact to our massive global community of users.

At VRChat, we’ve got ideas about how we’d like to move forward with our economy, but we’re looking for someone with experience to help guide and lead the effort. As our Virtual Economy Manager, you’ll be responsible for the oversight, development, release and management of VRChat’s virtual economy, currency and marketplace. If you’re interested in creating a whole new virtual economy and help the community make a living in the VRChat universe, then this role could be right up your alley.

Among the responsibilities of the position are the following:

– Work with design and production to plan, document, design, implement and manage a virtual currency economy with user generated content
– Work with design and production to plan, document, fully design, implement and manage a marketplace for virtual goods
– Work with various teams to implement, QA and release various monetization models
– Engage with the community team and community feedback to iterate on VRChat’s economy and marketplace
– Review and design monetization-based analytics
– Provide new feature recommendations that improve monetization and retention

As you may already know, there is a booming economy already happening around VRChat, but it is all happening entirely outside the platform itself. In April 2018, I interviewed Ghoster, who runs the popular and successful VRC Traders Discord, where many people are already earning hundreds, even thousands, of dollars by designing and creating custom user avatars for other VRChat users. Here’s an invitation to join their Discord if you’re interested.

VRChat faces a somewhat tricky transition from an anything-goes, intellectual-property-flouting wild, wild west to an more orderly, legal in-world economy. Among many other things, they will have to learn how to deal with Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notices issued against content creators. Not to mention compliance with new U.S. financial regulations to prevent money laundering, such as the new Tilia rules in Second Life.

It will be very interesting to watch as this all plays out, and learn how in-world commerce will be built into the platform. (Let’s hope they don’t decide to jump on the cryptocurrency bandwagon!)