Sansar has come a long way since we first caught wind of the project. In 2015, Linden Lab, the company behind the wildly successful Second Life virtual life simulator, saw the potential of virtual reality and set out to develop a successor to Second Life that would take advantage of modern graphics technology.
Second Life is a virtual world where you can create an alter ego that mirrors your desires. The platform features a rich marketplace filled with custom user-created items and clothing, which you can purchase for your Second Life avatar. The marketplace in Second Life enables users to sell their custom virtual items for real money, and many creators have made a good living from doing just that. Second Life’s virtual marketplace generates more than $500 million in sales to date, and from the get-go, Linden Lab intended to build a similar, yet superior, marketplace for Sansar.
Linden Lab launched a critical component of Sansar, the company’s upcoming virtual reality experience platform, as it prepares for the public release later this year. The company also released the first public video footage of a Sansar experience.
Sansar is the modern successor to Linden Lab’s wildly successful online experience, Second Life. It provides a platform for anyone to build compelling VR experiences, and for talented 3D artists to profit from their creations.
Linden Lab introduced the Sansar Dollar today, which developers in the Creator Preview can now purchase. Creators can list their virtual items on the Sansar marketplace and accept Sansar dollars as payment, which can later be converted into real money.
Tom's Hardware interviewed Ebbe Altberg and Peter Gray about the company’s upcoming VR experience platform.
We're now in the—roughly 500, maybe 600, invited creators on the platform, and over 10,000 people have signed up for the waiting list. As we continue to mature the platform and improve it, and release new updates to make it more feature rich and better, we continue to add more creators so we can get even more feedback and see even more awesome content that they create on the platform. And we will continue to do this throughout the first quarter of .
We'll continue to release roughly every month with great updates and continue to add more and more users until we're confident that it's ready for the world at large and completely open the doors. And the monetization piece is just a very critical component of that. It’s something very unique to Linden Lab--or in the industry—to not only offer tools but also offer the ability for creators to make a living on the platform.
Peter Gray: We want to empower people to create their own social VR experiences, share those with others, reach their audience, and also profit from them--build businesses like we've seen happen over the past thirteen years and in Second Life. And so, in this creator preview period, we're very focused on our creator community. They’ve been able to create the experiences, been able to share them with one another, and publish them to our cloud and go and experience them together. […] But now with this new step, they're also able to start buying and selling their creations to one another. And so, it’s the start of that sort of economic engine that’s getting warmed up in this creator preview period, and ultimately it will expand. Today they're able to buy and sell items—pieces of content, but ultimately, creators will be able to monetize entire experience.
TH: So, you’ve opened the monetization platform for the 500+ invited creators to sell amongst each other to work out the kinks of the system?
EA: Yeah, that's fair. I mean, part of it is for us to make sure that the marketplace and the user experience for buying and selling content is working great. And the whole exchange where people can buy Sansar dollars and spend Sansar dollars and then also redeem back to FIAT currency, and that all that works. But it also enables creators to start monetizing their work. You often find that creators become quite specialized, kind of like creators are in the physical world.
I mean, you have a few manufacturers who might create a gazillion different things, but you often find that they either make cars, or bicycles, or furniture, or whatever. And you see the same thing in the virtual world; that people end up being experts at creating trees, and shrubbery, and furniture, and houses, or vehicles. And so, as [creators] start to specialize, you find that as people want to assemble creations or experiences, that they don't want to build everything themselves. They start to acquire assets that other people have made. It actually ends up reducing friction for people to create interesting experiences when they don't have to create all the original content by themselves.
TH: So, you’re running the private creator preview for Sansar for the next quarter or so?
EA: Yeah. We’re trying to be data-driven in the process as opposed to date driven. I wouldn't say we have all kinds of luxuries and that we’re taking our sweet time, but we want to make sure that it's incredibly great by the time any user can get access.
We’re sort of choosing the types of creators we onboard based on their level of experience and also what they're attempting to do so that they have a high chance of being successful [...] with the skills [they have] and what they're trying to accomplish.
Right now, we're just so focused on making sure that we get the features that the creators need to be successfully implemented. And they can already create amazing things...for example, this last release just started to expose our scripting framework so that people can start creating interactivity. A lot will happen in that area over the coming months, with more and more APIs in our platform so that they can do more and more interactive, interesting games, or classrooms, or whatever it might be they want to build.
TH: How do Sansar Dollars work? Is there some sort of conversion rate where you buy a Sansar Dollar for X number of [real] dollars? I’m assuming that’s where Linden Lab is getting its cut. Or, do you take a cut from the sales of creators?