On Tuesday, October, 30th, 2018, Linden Lab announced a significant set of changes to Sansar. In We’ve come a long way together. We can’t wait for what’s next, Landon McDowell, Linden Lab’s Chief Product Officer for Sansar, announced the Lab will, from around the start of 2019, be offering Sansar to users via the Steam gaming platform.
As Landon also goes on to explain, in order to achieve this goal, some significant changes are to be made to how Sansar operates, particularly with regards to SandEX, which is to be discontinued, and how the process credit system work, with Landon noting:
These changes will also make the credit process for Creators far more consistent and predictable. The first change is that we will be discontinuing the Sandex as of December 4, 2018.
After that date, we will be moving to a fixed conversion rate model. Creators will continue to be able to sell their work for Sansar Dollars on the Store (and soon in experiences!). Eligible creators may convert some or all of their earned Sansar Dollar balance to US dollars at a rate of S$250 to $1, and then request a USD credit to be processed in 30 days. This matches Steam’s payment timeline.
We understand that this may have an impact on the amount of revenue returned to creators compared to the Sandex. However, we believe that in the long run our creators will significantly benefit from having access to the larger Steam user base. In addition, anyone who has created their Sansar account before December 31, 2018 will receive a legacy conversion rate of S$143 to $1 until December 31, 2019, after which the conversion rate for all accounts will be S$250 to $1.
Our automated Sansar Dollar Conversion page will not be available until January 2019. In the interim, we are committed to working with our Creators to manually process credit requests of Sansar Dollars through an email process, the details of which will soon follow.
These are significant changes which bring with them significant questions. While attempts have been made to address some of these through the Sansar Discord channel, Landon has indicated the next product meet-up, scheduled (at the time of writing) for Thursday, November 1st, 2018 at 11:00 PST (not Friday, November 2nd, as quoted in the blog post) will be used as an opportunity to address and discuss questions and concerns directly.
All told, this is an interesting move, one the Lab sees as in keeping with the aim – stated at the start of 2018 – that they wanted to start growing their consumer user base (as opposed to designer / creator users). While some have chosen to question it on the basis of Steam’s VR-capable user base (which would appear to be just 0.72% of Steam’s 90 million monthly active users), it’s important to remember that Sansar has a Desktop mode and – as Landon alludes to in his blog post – Steam users are liable to have the kind of hardware required to comfortably run Sansar.
Of course, whether or not Sansar really is ready for a consumer focused prime-time is highly debatable. It could rightly be argued that there is a lot of functionality that might be seen as essential to generating widespread user appeal that is still missing from the platform. It’s a view I’d actually agree with; but it is worth pointing out that Sansar has come a long way in the last 18 months, and some of the more recent updates, together with those planned for between now and the end of the year, stand to significantly improve Sansar’s usability even further.