Virtual World Economy

tags: M3 research

We’ve gathered an incredible cast of lead developers building VR platforms to discuss virtual economies. How can creative people make a living inside these worlds? What ingredients are missing to catalyze a thriving user-generated content economy? What’s the landscape look like? How can startups compete with big tech?

Tune in to hear about what’s around the corner and what excites these veteran VR developers in this riveting discussion filmed inside a virtual reality studio!



0:45 Introductions
7:58 Youtube is kind of Metaversey
10:00 Building Communities
12:30 3D social worlds catching on
15:12 Gaming and Web growing together
17:40 Stadia
21:37 Transferable ownership via NFTs
23:25 Blockchain 101
27:27 How do you maintain value of money?
31:00 Benefits of digital currency
35:25 What would you tokenize?
37:40 Value of human work
42:14 In-world transactions
43:40 Successes and Failures
46:40 Solving Plagarism
50:05 Missing Ingrediants
51:32 Real world economy
52:27 Play money for virtual worlds
55:35 Land Rush
58:54 The New Mesh
1:00:17 Metacafe advertising
1:05:00 Growth
1:07:25 Tickets
1:12:14 Prioritizing Platforms
1:18:25 Asynchronous Gaming
1:20:20 Standards are awesome
1:23:15 Advertisements in VR
1:24:50 Importance of non-VR
1:26:54 What would you pay for?
1:34:29 Trust and Integration
1:37:07 Closing statements
1:40:30 Credits


James Baicoianu: Working on Elation Engine since 2011 building web based virtual worlds and JanusWeb for past few years as a framework for anyone to easily create social VR experiences. Bai has 20+ years of web dev experience, is a webgl / threejs contributor, and a part time internet archivist.

Ben Nolan: Built scenevr which lead to aframe, worked at Decentraland for awhile building their first web client. Currently developing Cryptovoxels full-time, a browser based virtual world owned by users via the Ethereum blockchain.

Avaer: Created a minecraft clone on the web about 6 years ago, ran into browsers at the time. Took C++ background and built own web browser named Exokit just doing WebVR / WebXR. Now focused on bringing people together and incentivized to work on proper Metaverse with Exokit Web.

SM Sith Lord: Lead developer of Anarchy Arcade, a 3D desktop with VR support. Has been using 3D desktops for 10 years and streams to Twitch regularly to show it off on


What are your thoughts on live events? What would you pay to see in VR?

Avaer: Latest success story been thinking about that’s kind of metaversey is not even VR, it’s Youtube. The social aspect, interconnectedness, from video to livestream or between platforms (going from youtube to twitch, twitter to youtube, etc). Currency: there are things happening and I want to be part of them, live events are one of the main drivers of that.

One thing Sith would pay for is a live gaming tournament. Premium gaming events like special races one would put in some kind of currency into playing.

On another note, streaming builds community. It’s only until recently that things we’ve grown up wanting to do people are finding value in.

Bai: Virtual web and the communities around that have that callback to the early web - meeting online and finding like minded people. Those that were on during the early web days it was obvious where it was going: social, shopping, etc. It took awhile for people to wrap their heads around typing into a little box, electricity going through a phone line, then Amazon sends you a book. People are still in the mindset with social VR and still unsure what its going to be used for while for creators like those on the panel its more obvious but hard to get to the point where anyone can jump in and use it.

Bnolan: Social VR feels very futuristic, not evenly distributed. Unsure when its going to go viral and everyone realizing how cool it is to hang out with people in 3D.

Hanging out in a 3D world is catching on: the next generation is growing up playing games like Fortnite, Minecraft, and Roblox.

Bai: Growing up, it was Doom and Quake and communities around that and still talk to people from those days. The distinction from the online and real world being two separate planes of reality isn’t true, we’re interacting with real people in these virtual worlds.

Bnolan: Wonder if social VR will replace the web or change how the web looks?

Bai: Gaming world and web world are converging. If you look at what Epic is doing they’re growing into the metaverse from their direction from the game. Sweeney is investing heavily to build the Metaverse and is seeking inspiration from web in scaling / interoperability.

Stadia coming out that bridges web and gaming very close together. Perhaps this can onboard people into virtual worlds since its simply a link away and will have a free tier in a year.

Stadia can allow people who don’t have gaming PC to jump in without doing a large investment but it does lock people into this ecosystem where they rent media and processing power.

Epic’s worst nightmare would be people moving from Fortnite to something else.

Google started with building on open tech, indexing the web and offering an awesome search engine.


How do people who care about freedom compete in a post-Stadia world?

Non-fungible Tokens are offering the ability to own digital assets and transfer them between worlds, how might they be used to build an open yet profitable business model for the future of web / gaming?

What are NFTs?

Fungible assets are interchangable like dollars and bitcoins where $1 = $1 wheras non-fungible is akin to a unique piece of art.

NFTs are basically new and unique representations of goods or assets that take the form of digital tokens. Through the use of cryptography, NFTs can prove the authenticity, as well as ownership of such assets and goods.

If a virtual artwork that is tokenized, then whoever holds the token acts as the direct owner of the piece of art itself. If they sell the piece, they no longer can claim that they own it.

Like with a physical art piece, ownership causes patrons to be economically incentivized to support and spread the gospel of the creator, because the more famous the creation/creator, the more valuable the patron’s collection. Here’s some more links if interested:

How do you maintain the value of what you’ve done in that transaction when the price of cryptocurrency fluctuates wildly?

Can sell NFTs for DAI which is a stablecoin built on Ethereum. In the end its not that different from dollars or other currencies which fluctuate also.

Many currencies have gone through hyperflation.

When it comes to NFTs, how does it benefit creators and collectors? There’s currently a lot of friction to opt-in to the ecosystem, is it worth it? What’s the endgame?

Use-cases of NFTs

Parcels that hold user-generated content on a virtual grid.

Interested in exploring concept of tokenizing time.

Perhaps everyone gets a certain amount of tokens for doing a chore, like physical work such as cleaning or swinging a pickaxe and rewarding tokens to the player.

Think we’re overcomplicating how to make money in VR.

We should be able to compensate content creators somehow, like the person who built the studio everyone is in.

Perhaps be able to tip tokens to someone busking or doing an interesting talk.

What are some successes and failures of virtual economies?

We’re still early on the curve, it’d blow most peoples minds that what we’re immersed in exists.

Opensea has many NFT collectibles and show that virtual economies and tokens on public blockchains are showing really well. The terraforming event that sold 28M worth of virtual land was record breaking. Fortnite sells billions of dollars worth of virtual goods but thats private.

When it comes to projects integrating VR and blockchain there’s only a handful of projects like Cryptovoxels, Decentraland, Somnium Space, and High Fidelity to some extent.

Plagarism is a very hard problem especially when it comes to a permissionless platform like a blockchain.

Finding the delta between certain pieces of content, sorta like Youtube has for audio detection.

Can whitelist creators that are trusted now like josie.

What other components do you see as necessary to catalyze a virtual economy?

Bai: One thing that bothers me is how we’re building upon foundation of scarcity. Real world economy doesn’t run on collectibles, it runs on commodities like food, metal, fridges, etc.

What’s missing?

Perhaps seed capital in a world, play money that can be airdropped to have some kind of clay to experiment with. Imagine a million dollars air dropped into VRChat and having players work out the channels and systems. At some point in the future people will have some sense that it’s going to be real as they experiment with the testnet version and have all the problems worked out.

Artificial scarcity sucks but it does make sense to tokenize 3D space in some ways. In VRChat’s instance, you don’t have any neighbors but like in the real world there would be something outside of this building and when you walk out there will be some part of the city. (bnolan)

You do run into problems of running a city like if you have bad neighbors or if you have people who don’t develop anything.

It’s important to think back to how cities got formed. They weren’t formed just by saying there’ll be a city in some place and throw a million dollars to make it so (with the exception of Vegas / Dubai).

There’s usually an economic activity such as natural resources or a port that people gathered around to start with. It made sense for people to live closer to the areas they work in. Cities tend to form naturally in the real world while ICOs are the opposite with someone declaring there’s going to be some industry after money gets poured in.

Cryptovoxels seems to counter some of these issues well since there was no massive land rush and parcels are being released gradually as people build content.

At this stage it doesn’t look like someones going to build one metaverse, there’ll be a bunch of interlinked metaverses to go between.

Contain the Madness

Story about ads on Metacafe and what happened when the site expanded to India and China.

There’s a ton of ad fraud going on, perhaps half of the clicks are fraudulent. The ad supported web industry is going through cycles of booms and busts as scammers go where the money is being made.

It’s easy to destroy potential before getting off the ground with the world wide web.

Startups in the valley are advised to start with a narrow focus, building up tinder for a fire and sparking it into much bigger. Facebook started with stalking classmates then became the largest social network in the world.

Don’t want this to be a World Wide Web mall. Want this to be local-first with local advertising and users. Not interested in expanding beyond. Virtual mall made up of mom and pop businesses in a local real world area. Walk through a mall to see all the things in one’s local community and know that the stores are actually real stores you can also physically visit.

Eternal September effect.

Virtual Tickets

Tickets and events are considered pretty high risk. If you look at most payment providers there’s special restrictions they’ll put on you if you’re offering ticket sales because:

Which target platform is worth prioritizing?

Mobile is where the money is at, if its fun then great!

Desktop and VR should go hand in hand, not one or the other.

The business aspect, generally don’t want to be developing your app multiple times for different platforms which is why the web is awesome with this. With the web you can write it once and it can gracefully degrade across different platforms.

Asynchronous cross-play

Different experience on tablet/mobile than from main experience. Watchdogs did this.

WebXR and standards in general allow for unexpected awesome things to happen.

What is someting you would pay for in VR?

SMSithLord: VR games

Avaer: Pay to meet a famous or non-famous person in VR. On-demand people’s time.

Bai: On-demand presence with stackoverflow programmers or tutors.



This topic has heated up by a recent job listing in the VR industry. VRChat, the largest social VR platform, has recently opened a position looking for a Virtual Economy Manager which includes responsibilities to plan, document, and design a virtual currency economy and marketplace around user-generated content (UGC).