Video: I Take Vbunny on a Guided Tour of Sansar

I had mentioned earlier on this blog that I had taken a YouTuber and VR game vlogger/livestreamer named Vbunny on a guided tour of Sansar.

Well, Vbunny has posted a 15-minute video of her experience in Sansar:

It was posted just 18 hours ago and it already has 828 views, which is pretty impressive! Enjoy.

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Giving a Tour of Sansar to a YouTuber: Some Thoughts

Vbunny (in an earlier YouTube video)

Yesterday, I had a different soft of experience in Sansar: I gave a guided tour of the social VR platform to an up-and-coming YouTuber from Las Vegas named Vbunny, who is a VR game vlogger and Twitch livestreamer!

I first discovered her when she posted a video review of the iOS mobile app for Rec Room. Here’s Vbunny’s YouTube channel, which is still rather small in terms of subscribers, but has what I consider to be high-quality content. I think she’s well on her way to YouTube success!

Today, she tweeted her thanks:

For my tour, I decided to show her seven worlds:

Because I wanted to keep the tour open-ended, based on what she was interested in, I made the mistake of not visiting these worlds beforehand (in order to have them added to my Codex). I had just casually assumed that they would be in my Codex somewhere because I had visited them in the past. Wrong! Obviously, the Codex only took into account my most recent world visiting history.

Because of my mistake, I landed up having to drag Vbunny back to the Nexus three times, in order to go to the Prime Portal, find the world I wanted to show her in the listing there, then open up a portal for us both to use. It was totally awkward and inconvenient, and it has made me wonder if replacing the Atlas with the Codex is such a good idea after all. (I couldn’t use the Sansar Atlas as my backup plan, as I had intended, because you can’t spawn a portal from the listings on the website. Perhaps this is something that Linden Lab could consider adding?)

Anyway, aside from that minor quibble, Vbunny had a great visit. She kept remarking on the quality of the lighting in the worlds we visited, a strong suit of Sansar. She likes the avatars. And she just loved killing zombies!

While waiting for her to show up at our agreed-upon meeting place (of course, The Nexus!), I spent a very agreeable hour or so chatting with the various people who showed up there, in a wide variety of avatars. One charming young woman’s avatar was a Chinese bowl of food, and we landed up sitting around her in a huddle, in an impromptu communal conversation! Other avatars popped in and out, both old acquaintances and new. It was a wonderfully convivial way to pass the time waiting! Despite my misgivings about the Codex, I do think that Linden Lab creating The Nexus as a meeting place was a stroke of genius, and clearly a good move overall for the platform.

The Nexus (a picture I took way back on September when it first was launched)

Another thing I discovered: I might make a great host of a pre-taped show, but when it comes to being a part of someone else’s show, I found myself surprising tongue-tied! I felt I was noticeably short on banter. Perhaps, again, it was because I did not prepare enough beforehand for this visit as much as my producer, Andrew William, and I prepare for taping an episode of the Metaverse Newscast. (And yes, we have not posted a new episode in quite a long while. Both Andrew and I have been phenomenally busy with our respective real-life jobs these past couple of months.)

Anyway, I very much look forward to seeing what Vbunny and her husband/producer come up with! She sent me the following message on Discord (which I have her permission to share with you):

Thank you so much for showing me around Sansar yesterday. I stayed on for another almost 2 hours just talking to some people and visiting the Hello Kitty world. I also customized my avatar and was blown away by how much customization you can do!

Cas and Chary Cover Five Social VR Platforms (Including Sansar)

Most of the people making YouTube videos about virtual reality hardware and software are men, so it is refreshing to find a new (well, new to me, anyways) channel about VR run by two women, called Cas and Chary VR.

Last week, Cas published a 10-minute YouTube video tour of five less popular social VR platforms, explaining:

So we all know VRChat, Rec Room, [and] AltspaceVR. This video isn’t about these games. It’s about 5 others that you might have missed.

The five platforms covered in this video include:

Videos like this are useful because they give viewers a look at platforms that they might not have had an opportunity to visit themselves. I was surprised to find that Sansar was a sponsor for this video. Cas says:

DISCLAIMER: This video was sponsored by Sansar. Per our guidelines, no review direction was received from them. Our opinions are our own.

I think it’s smart that Linden Lab is reaching out to YouTube influencers like Cas and Chary with sponsorship opportunities. As I have written before, social VR companies will likely have to turn to influencers more often in future to promote their products more effectively.

Editorial: Will Social VR Companies Have to Turn to Influencers to Promote Their Products?

Photo by Diggity Marketing on Unsplash

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Recently, I have become fascinated by a particular kind of celebrity: the YouTube influencer. Yesterday, I watched a video by the successful YouTuber and real estate agent Graham Stephan, who is currently pulling in US$100,000 per month from his YouTube channel alone:

These are people who have been able to attract significant numbers of subscribers to their YouTube video content, and earn hundreds of thousands—even millions—of dollars a year with advertising and endorsement deals. For example, the 28-year-old Swedish YouTuber Felix Kjellberg (a.k.a PewDiePie) earned US$15.5 million last year, according to Forbes.

Now, you might remember that PewDiePie was one of the YouTubers who devoted coverage to the social VR platform VRChat in late 2017 and early 2018, which led to a surge in the number of concurrent users (here is a chart from Steam showing the number of concurrent users of VRChat over time, with an arrow pointing to that surge):

Now, I’m pretty sure that PewDiePie did not sign an endorsement deal with VRChat; he probably just stumbled across it and thought it was entertaining enough to share with his audience of 98.6 million viewers. VRChat was probably just as surprised as everybody else by this sudden spike in users. I remember how they struggled to keep their servers running smoothly to deal with this unexpected onslaught over the Christmas holidays in 2017, and they were eventually forced to implement a detailed safety and trust system to cope with the resulting tidal wave of harassment and griefing on the platform. (Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it!)

But obviously, PewDiePie and his fellow livestreamers on Twitch and YouTube were a powerful, free promotional tool for VRChat. (The Ugandan Knuckles meme helped a lot, too, by becoming a self-perpetuating cycle that helped popularize VRChat.) While the platform peaked at 28,500 simultaneous users, it has since settled down to around 6,000 concurrent users in recent months, which still makes it the most popular social VR platform so far.

It’s no secret that most social VR platforms are struggling to attract users. According to a statement made by Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg to Forbes about the Monstercat 8th anniversary concert event in Sansar:

Monstercat: Call of the Wild Experience is a VR space where the music label will host artist meet and greets, giveaways, and more. Altberg didn’t give me exact numbers but over a thousand people watched the show in VR via Sansar.

“Tens of thousands of people watched the concert across Twitch, Mixer, and Huya, and over a thousand people around the world attended the event in Sansar – across 6 continents, 65 countries, and 675 cities.  Fans feel more connected and immersed in the music they love, while artists, in turn, effectively reach more people and places in a single day than they’d reach on a real-life tour. “

Now, while I am slightly suspicious at that “675 cities” figure (I always knew you could determine country by IP address, but I wasn’t aware you could pinpoint IP addresses down to the city level), the fact remains that 1,000 users in one day is seen as a major success for Sansar. But compare this with the estimated 600,000 regular users for Second Life. And compare this with the estimated 7,500 users of the adult virtual world 3DX Chat, which, as one commenter noted (here and here):

… 3DXChat. It started as just a sex sim. Then they added building. Then users started building and visiting each others places, instead of paying for sex like they were supposed to.

It’s more successful than High Fidelity, Sansar, and Sinespace put together. About 7,500 paying users.

So, although 1,000 users in one day for one event in Sansar is a significant achievement, it still doesn’t take the platform to the next level, where Linden Lab can really start making money off it.

Which leads to my question: will Linden Lab and other social VR companies eventually have to pay YouTubers and other influencers to promote their platforms to a wider audience and attract more attention? The experience of VRChat was an instructive lesson on the advertising power of influencers like PewDiePie.

Linden Lab has already taken some tentative steps in this direction already, with links to Twitch livestreamers like UmiNoKaiju (which, as far as I know, went nowhere). It would appear that companies would get more of a bang for their buck if they entered into partnerships with people with much bigger followings on Twitch and YouTube. And frankly, that is not cheap. Viral Nation, one of the top influencer marketing agencies, which represents hundreds of successful influencers using Instagram, Vine, YouTube, and Snapchat, is only interested in customers who have a advertising budget in the range of $10,000 to $10,000,000.

Linden Lab and other social VR companies may decide that slower, organic growth is best. However, the pressure to attract a lot of users more quickly using high-profile influencers must be sorely tempting. Will Linden Lab, High Fidelity, Sinespace, and other social VR platforms eventually bite the bullet and sign deals with popular influencers? Only time will tell.

UPDATE Aug. 16th: I have been told that it is, indeed, possible to identify cities by IP address, which I did not know before!