What is driving virtual world user activity?
The rise of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has opened up prospects for virtual worlds. Projects like Decentraland and MegaCryptoPolis have enabled the creation of entire universes on the blockchain. These virtual worlds have properties, items, events, and internal economies with their own currencies.
While some virtual worlds have been live for more than two years. The daily active wallets and transaction volumes are still very volatile. There is no doubt that high Ethereum gas prices were one of the reasons for the fluctuations. While different events, new features, and initiatives help in maintaining the activity.
Within this overview, we will analyze the effect of specific events on daily active wallets and transaction volumes. Events are referred to as pre-sales, an important feature, or token releases.
- Virtual world dapps face difficulties in keeping a stable number of daily active wallets and steady transaction volumes. One of the reasons was high Ethereum gas prices.
- MegaCryptoPolis, Decentraland, and The Sandbox activity are mainly driven by events based on rewards and land sales. Both these events are based on the play-2-earn model.
- MegaCryptopolis’s daily active wallets declined by 35% in August, then grew by 37% and 61% in September and October respectively.
- Decentraland’s daily active wallets grew by 8%, 4%, and 74% in August, September, and October respectively.
- The Sandbox’s daily active wallets showed no growth in August compared to July. While daily active wallets grew by 4,700% and 50% in September and October respectively.
The play-2-earn model is the latest development in the dapp game industry. It’s a business model that embraces the concept of an open economy and provides financial benefits to all players who add value.
For example in MegaCryptoPolis players can sell, rent, or trade resources like land, water, energy, etc whereas in Decentraland players can sell ERC-721 tokens through the marketplace and also rent their LAND.
MegaCryptoPolis is a decentralized city builder strategy game that runs on the Ethereum and TRON blockchains. Recently MegaCryptoPolis launched its own token called $MEGA on both the blockchains; ERC 20 and TRC 20 respectively for staking, yield farming, and liquidity mining.
Daily active wallets declined by 35% in August, grew by 37% and 61% in September and October respectively.
The above chart depicts various events that have influenced daily active wallet numbers and transaction volume surges from launch, to-date.
MegaCryptoPolis as a project started on the 1st of May 2018. However, the game was officially launched on the 10th of October 2018. The launch attracted its highest recorded number of daily active wallets – 328.
A steady drop in daily active wallets and transaction volume can be seen until the concept of microeconomy and macroeconomy incentivization was announced in January 2019. Before this concept was introduced there were few opportunities where players could construct a building, upgrade it, or collect the proceeds.
After the launch of the microeconomy and macroeconomy features in March 2019, daily active wallets and transaction volume spiked again. It was one of the most important events and provided users with a deeper virtual world experience. It also marked the very first step to a play-to-earn model.
The macroeconomy layer offered immutable assets like land, districts, plots, and buildings whereas the microeconomy layer offered a new layer of operations produced on the macroeconomy layer like appliances, resources, citizens, and pets which helped to enrich the user’s experience.
At the end of December 2019, there was a fall in daily active wallets and transaction volume due to a massive upgrade of the application from MegaCryptoPolis classic to MegaCryptoPolis 3D. It was one of the most important upgrades for the application as it offered players a variety of features where they could now build, rent, manage, govern a district, and produce NFT’s. This resulted in a surge of daily active wallets and transaction volume.
The second biggest surge in terms of daily active wallets and transaction volume was witnessed due to the announcement and launch of MegaCryptoPolis 3D on the TRON blockchain in March 2020. This opened MCP 3D up to a new audience and navigated the gas fee issues on Ethereum.
In September 2020, MegaCryptoPolis signed a partnership with MakerDAO which opened the gates for players to buy resources using DAI on the Ethereum network. As one of the most widely held stablecoins, this addition had a positive effect on both user numbers, and transaction volume.
Last but not least the hype surrounding the launch of the platform’s native $MEGA token caused a peak in daily active wallets- 215. $MEGA tokens enable players to liquefy their resources and transfer them between Ethereum and TRON networks.
MegaCryptoPolis has experienced major fluctuations in growth during its existence. It is evident that the introduction of new features was responsible for these surges whilst additions such as the $MEGA token and economic advancement also created an opportunity for users to make money.
Decentraland is another decentralized virtual universe built on the Ethereum protocol where users can create and monetize NFTs. Furthermore, the dapp hosts various virtual events that help users to sell created items and encounter a far from usual virtual world experience.
In Decentraland, users can buy land which is a non-fungible asset called “LAND”. The land is divided into parcels that are identified by cartesian coordinates (x,y). To buy this LAND users need to use Decentraland’s token called MANA.
By owning LAND on Decentraland, players can use it to build three-dimensional spaces that can be rented or traded with other users and used as galleries to display crypto art collections and more.
Daily active wallets grew by 8%, 4%, and 74% in August, September, and October respectively.
As shown above, the daily active wallets and transaction volume have experienced some erratic peaks.
When Decentraland was released in 2017, it gathered attention quickly with more than 200 daily active wallets. However, this activity vanished by February 2018.
Another important step for Decentraland was introducing marketplace features. It was one of the major features that enabled users to sell, buy, transfer, or explore the NFT’s within the dapp. As expected, both daily active wallets and transaction volumes peaked- 212 wallets and $1.8 million volume
After the release of the marketplace, it’s observed that for almost a year Decentraland experienced fluctuations in daily active wallets ranging between 20 and 50. Until the land Auction of Genesis City at the end of December 2018 which prompted the highest peak in volume and daily active wallets – 235 wallets and $2.5 million.
Decentraland carried out events such as a treasure hunt in February 2020 and a competition on August 9th, 2020 worth $100,000 and $15,000 respectively. Such events resulted in increases in daily active wallets of 675 and 124 respectively.
Currently, within Decentraland, there are multiple social events happening weekly: art exhibitions, live music, conferences, games, launch parties, competitions, and meetups.
The effect of these regular events on daily active wallets and transaction volume is lower when compared to treasure hunts or important feature updates and ranges between 30-50 wallets and $5,000 to $30,000 volume. While it helped to maintain a stable number of 50 daily active wallets over the last 3 months.
After analyzing all the important events since the launch of Decentraland it becomes clear that the introduction of the marketplace feature had the biggest and most sustained impact on the virtual world. The marketplace feature allowed new and old users an opportunity to make an income and this would appear to be the most appealing feature right now.
After this event and ongoing integration, the biggest peaks in activity are observed once again at a time where users have the opportunity to earn an income. The treasure hunt and competition opened up a new way to attract an audience to earn $MANA by participating.
The Sandbox created a new wave of hype in the virtual world space for users when it launched. The main strategy of the dapp is to allow users to create their own virtual space where they can build, buy, and sell 3D creations. Users on this platform can also socialize and play games. The Sandbox also has its token – $SAND.
There was no observed growth in daily active wallets in August compared to July. While daily active wallets grew by 4,700% and 50% in September and October respectively.
As depicted in the below chart, there is a peak in activity within daily active wallets and volume which is influenced by various events within The Sandbox.
Land pre-sale events drive the maximum number of daily active wallets and transaction volume. There have been a total of 5 pre-sale events that allowed players to purchase land with daily active wallets ranging between 200-928 wallets during these sales.
The biggest LAND presale 4.3 took place on the 12th of November, 2020 which offered users a discount on lands plus exclusive Smurf assets that boosted daily active wallets to their highest ever figure of 928.
In terms of transaction volume, the biggest LAND presale 3 was at the end of March 2020 and generated a volume of $448,222.
Similar to Decentraland, The Sandbox carries out events such as treasure hunts and competitions offering participants prize money. There have been major 3 events which have attracted an audience ranging from 20 to 200 on average. These events distributed $SAND to those who participated and have been proven to assist The Sandbox in growing its community.
The Sandbox In-Summary
It would be unfair to talk about The Sandbox in regards to stable growth as it is still in the pre-launch stage. However, The Sandbox has attracted a respectable audience from events like land pre-sales, treasure hunts, and competitions.
This data would point towards the virtual world having a promising future once it is fully launched. Again, it can be argued that due to the popularity of land sales users are seemingly buying the land at cheaper prices during the pre-launch events and perhaps looking to sell it for a higher price once the dapp is live.
Decentralized virtual worlds offer users a place where they can create, mint, sell, and even rent their creations and earn an income.
Virtual worlds like MegaCryptoPolis, The Sandbox, and Decentraland drive audiences and transaction volume by maximizing and capitalizing on events based around these principles. All three have regularly employed land auctions, pre-sales, feature updates, product upgrades, competitions, treasure hunts, and token releases to drive attention.
The overriding theme though is clear. Users are looking to make an income from virtual worlds and not simply play a game and have fun. Yes, that’s a side product, and of course why some enter for the first time, but it appears to not be the main event at this point.
This brings us to the conclusion that virtual worlds are still extremely volatile and event dependent and that the most important events are based on the play-2-earn model.