Call it Second Life for virtual reality, if you will: Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life, publicly launched its new social virtual reality world Sansar as part of a public beta test Monday. Sansar offers anyone with a compatible headset or PC the ability to visit VR experiences, mingle with others, as well as create their own virtual games and locations.
Linden Lab has been working on Sansar since early 2014, and began privately testing it with some 2000 creators a couple of months ago. Those creators have since built around 1700 VR experiences ranging from narrative games to virtual museums. “It’s been a very active period,” said Linden Lab vice president of product Bjorn Laurin.
One experience even recreates the site of the Apollo moon landing, Laurin said. “You can actually walk on the moon.”
Sansar offers anyone signing up during the open beta an area of 4 by 4 kilometers of virtual lands for free to develop their own residences or experiences. Users can either import existing 3D renders done with programs like Maya, or simply go tho the Sansar store and buy pre-made assets — something that Linden Lab senior director of global communications likened to real-life clothing and furniture shopping: “It’s much like most of us create in the physical world.”
Sansar comes with a free tier as well as a paid $9.99 subscription for creators that want to build more than three separate experiences. The VR world is at launch offering users a choice from more than 50 different avatars that can be further customized. And creators are able to earn real money by selling their virtual items in the Sansar store — much like creators have long been able in Second Life.
The launch timing of Sansar is interesting, to say the least. Just last week, social VR startup AltspaceVR announced that it was shutting down due to a lack of funding. AltspaceVR also had struggled to attract substantive audiences, and only seen some 35,000 users per month, something that the company blamed on the slower-than-expected uptake of VR headsets.
Sansar can not only be used with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but also with a regular PC without any additional VR hardware. But the company is also betting on content as a key differentiator from other social VR efforts, including Facebook’s own Spaces VR experience.
Laurin said that the company is already in conversations with a number of Hollywood studios, which could use the platform to create vast virtual worlds without having to start from scratch. “We can put you into ‘Game of Thrones,'” he said.