Longtime 3D content creator Dartagan Shepherd had some really incisive comments to make after I posted that side-by-side comparison on Project Sansar and Amazon Lumberyard, arguing that it points to the even greater competitive market Linden Lab's new virtual world faces:
Sure, the capabilities of the engine and tooling is important. I think the screenshot comparison tells part of the tale quite well.
One of the problems with Sansar is that they're coming into the existing game engine market (or an experience engine, if it makes Linden Lab feel better) partway through the game engine pricing wars.
Unity3d had been expensive, as had CryEngine. Unreal Engine came out pretty recently, replacing their UDK product first at $19/month and then knocked it down to completely free with 5% revenue share.
CryEngine went subscription for drastically less, Unity3D dropped their prices, and now Amazon comes out with a free alternative based on their hosting and services model.
How can Sansar compete against all that? Mr. Shepherd suggests some steps:
Sansar is probably going to try to stick with their same monetization by selling currency and their associated sinks, as well as hosting costs and a much higher percentage of their content marketplace as well as whatever other sinks and services.
There's even a more obscure engine called Hero Engine that already has collaborative live game building that handles game currency, handles the hosting, etc.
Facebook and Google are likely to come out with game/VR tools as well with their own business models, and possibly some surprise players will enter the market over the next year or two.
So for people not familiar with Second Life, but familiar with mesh and content creation, game programming, animation, etc., they know that Sansar doesn't exist in a bubble and that there are other choices.
These people will be looking at issues such as not only who has the best rendering capabilities, but also who has the best business model for my game/experience, what platforms does the engine port my game/experience to, what are the restrictions.
By the way, if that Linden Lab Terms of Service comes along for the ride with Sansar? It's going to be a no-go for a lot of people.
But yes, Sansar is coming into a market where people have options. It's not the only walled garden in town that Second Life was and it will have to find a niche or good business model because it won't be able to compete with some of these companies that already have better product, more employees dedicated to engine development and more money to throw at it.
It can be done without being the best engine, but they've got to have something special to offer and be far more transparent. If they handle Sansar with the same attitude that they handle Second Life, it's going to bite them.
There may be hope yet for a metaverse.
This echoes a point made about Sansar by a longtime VR executive: "Community rules. Fidelity does not." Sansar is the only platform trying to be both a professional 3D platform and a consumer community, and far as I know, the only one planned to have its own internal virtual currency and marketplace (which by definition, implies community, at least on the economic level). For that reason, community is the very thing Linden Lab has to get right, and right at launch. Because without it, Sansar has no competitive edge.
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