First Mover Asia: How Many Metaverse Users Are There? The Figures Are Debatable and Discouraging

Decentraland and Meta’s Horizon Worlds, among others, say they’re popular, but a deep dive into user data indicates they’ve yet to catch on; Bitcoin trades up slightly as inflation report nears.

AccessTimeIconOct 13, 2022 at 1:56 a.m. UTC
Updated Nov 14, 2022 at 7:28 p.m. UTC

James Rubin is CoinDesk's U.S. news editor based on the West Coast.

Good morning. Here’s what’s happening:

Prices: Bitcoin rose slightly amid tepid trading as investors await the next Consumer Price Index report – not that it will likely present any surprises.

Insights: Metaverse companies would like you to think they've built significant followings, but data suggests that's far from the case.

Catch the latest episodes of CoinDesk TV for insightful interviews with crypto industry leaders and analysis. And sign up for First Mover, our daily newsletter putting the latest moves in crypto markets in context.

Prices

CoinDesk Market Index (CMI): 939.17 +0.1%

Bitcoin (BTC): $19,117 +0.4%

Ether (ETH): $1,294 +1.0%

S&P 500 daily close: 3,577.03 −0.3%

Gold: $1,679 per troy ounce +0.0%

Ten-year Treasury yield daily close: 3.90% −0.04


Bitcoin, ether and gold prices are taken at approximately 4pm New York time. Bitcoin is the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index (XBX); Ether is the CoinDesk Ether Price Index (ETX); Gold is the COMEX spot price. Information about CoinDesk Indices can be found at coindesk.com/indices.

Bitcoin's Ongoing Sounds of Silence

By James Rubin

Bitcoin's quiet life continued.

The largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization was recently trading just over $19,100, about flat for the past 24 hours as investors waited for Thursday's release of the next U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI) report. Barring the unexpected, the CPI is expected to show a slight drop, but hardly sufficient to sway the U.S. central bank from its current monetary aggressiveness. BTC has remained range-bound for weeks, largely between $19,000 and $21,000, although it dipped briefly below the lower support on Wednesday. Trading volume has remained tepid, falling regularly below 20-day averages.

"Nothing happening today, Bodhi Pinkner, a research analyst at crypto-focused financial services firm Arca, told CoinDesk. "Markets were up marginally."

Pinkner added: "Very, very low trading volumes across the space. We've been stuck in a range."

Ether, the second-largest crypto in market value, was recently changing hands below $1,300, about where it stood much of Wednesday but up roughly 1% from Tuesday, same time. Other major cryptos were mostly flat, although SUSHI recently fell more than 5%, while TRON was up more than 1%. The CoinDesk Market Index (CMI), a broad-based market index that measures the performance of a basket of cryptocurrencies, was flat.

Equities

Stocks cast their promising first two days of October further in the rearview mirror as the tech-heavy Nasdaq, the S&P 500, which has a strong technology component, and Dow Jones Industrial Average extended their current losing streaks to six days. Markets chewed nervously over a 0.4% increase in September's producer-price index, a discouraging sign following the previous month's slight decrease.

CPI observers anticipate the latest reading remaining above 8% with core inflation, which eliminates the impact of volatile food and energy prices, rising to 6.5%, a four-decade high. The increase would bolster an already determined Federal Reserve's argument for continuing its recent diet of sharp interest rate hikes, discouraging already skittish investors from riskier assets.

In an on-stage discussion Wednesday at the International Monetary Fund's annual meeting, the organization's Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, said that central banks should refrain from currency interventions, instead suggesting that they use interest-rate raises as the preferred tool for combating foreign-exchange weakness versus the dollar. “Do not waste your reserves to protect your currency,” Georgieva said

Arca's Pinkner noted a downward trend in the correlation between cryptocurrencies and other risk assets over the last couple of months. "However, in order for any decoupling, you likely need a catalyst, and it's possible that catalyst would be widespread currency debasement across various economies and mostly to bitcoin as a non-sovereign, safe haven asset, and it's possible that catalyst is unforeseen or that there's just no catalyst, and we remain correlated to risk assets."

Biggest Gainers

Asset Ticker Returns DACS Sector
Gala GALA +3.5% Entertainment
Polkadot DOT +2.3% Smart Contract Platform
Stellar XLM +1.7% Smart Contract Platform

Biggest Losers

Asset Ticker Returns DACS Sector
Cardano ADA −0.4% Smart Contract Platform
Decentraland MANA −0.1% Entertainment
Dogecoin DOGE −0.1% Currency

Insights

The Metaverse Struggles to Catch On

By Sam Reynolds

The metaverse is in need of a census. A few have tried, but so far nobody can agree about the findings of the enumerators.

Horizon Worlds, like Decentraland and the metaverse at large, isn’t as popular as what Mark Zuckerberg or metaverse token holders want you to think. The problem is in the numbers.

Earlier this month, The Verge reported Meta’s VR social network Horizon Worlds is so bug-ridden that even its developers aren’t using it much.

“But currently feedback from our creators, users, playtesters, and many of us on the team is that the aggregate weight of paper cuts, stability issues, and bugs is making it too hard for our community to experience the magic of Horizon,” Meta’s vice president of metaverse, Vishal Shah, wrote in a memo obtained by The Verge. “Simply put, for an experience to become delightful and retentive, it must first be usable and well crafted.”

Meta claims that Horizon Worlds has 300,000 signups, but there’s no indication of how many are active users.

One proxy could involve looking at the population of related Facebook groups: The official Horizon Worlds page has 31,644 followers while an official Horizon Worlds Facebook community group has 28,200 members. Let’s assume there’s plenty of overlap meaning the higher number is the total addressable market.

If we want to figure out the serviceable available market we must look at the install base of virtual reality headsets.

CoinDesk - Unknown

(Steam Hardware Survey/Steampowered.com)

Digital gaming store Steam – a must-have for any PC gamer – says that 2% of its 132 million monthly active users have a VR headset. Of this two million, 64% are using Meta’s Oculus headsets, putting the install base at 1.28 million.

So with that in mind, even if Meta’s figure of 300,000 is correct it only means that 23% of its VR install base is using what Meta believes to be the future of the company. But that’s the best-case scenario, the more realistic number is closer to 31,644 which would mean that around 2% of the VR install base is using Horizon Worlds as Meta intended.

Decentraland’s fuzzy math

But what about Decentraland? There was some MANA mania earlier this week when CoinDesk, citing DappRadar numbers, reported that it was a lonely world with 38 people in the $1.3 billion ecosystem.

DappRadar’s number relies on analyzing smart contracts from Decentraland that are being interacted with. Decentraland HQ says it's not looking at the whole picture and only a handful of the hundreds of available smart contracts.

Decentraland, instead, offers its own sets of numbers via its portal DCL-Metrics which says that there have been around 7,000 unique users in the last 24 hours visiting 6,900-odd virtual parcels.

The validity of these numbers begins to dissolve once you take a closer look at them. Their data shows that there are also dozens of "marathon users" that have spent the majority of the day in Decentraland.

CoinDesk - Unknown

Marathon users (https://dcl-metrics.com/)

There’s also another list of users – that don’t seem to overlap – that have visited hundreds of parcels during the course of the day.

Clearly, there are bots among us.

Perhaps the most realistic number from DCL-Metrics could be found in the daily active users at the ICE Poker house, which it says is just under 3,000. This might actually be where Decentraland’s real population lies as ICE Poker has an actual, documented player base.

There are two more stars in the sky of data that can help us triangulate a position.

On Github, Decentraland runs something called a Catalyst Monitor, a tool for tracking the load on each of its servers which it calls catalysts.

CoinDesk - Unknown

(https://decentraland.github.io/catalyst-monitor/)

The count from the servers shows that there are 518 total users on the platform as of late Wednesday afternoon Asia time.

This number comes close to the headcount of 457 that Nansen estimates on its Entity Billboard tool. Nansen would like to stress that this tool is very much in Beta, and only tracks 72 of the smart contracts Decentraland uses.

At the same time, there are 269,698 unique holders of MANA tokens. Even if we use some best-case numbers from ICE’s poker house count of 3000 as a proxy for Decentraland’s total active population (this would be a best case scenario, realistically the number is closer to what Catalyst and Nansen provide) that means only 1% of MANA token holders are users of the platform.

Not exactly a bullish case for Decentraland and the Metaverse at large.

But we had all of this a decade ago with Second Life. Which had better graphics, smoother gameplay, and an actual community – not token holders pumping their bags trying to make you believe that this is the future of the internet.

Important events

8:30 p.m. HKT/SGT(12:30 p.m. UTC) United States Consumer Price Index Report

9:30 p.m. H1HKT/SGT (1:30 p.m. UTC) Celsius Meeting of Committee of Unsecured Creditors

CoinDesk TV

In case you missed it, here is the most recent episode of "First Mover" on CoinDesk TV:

There's been another massive exploit in crypto, this time tied to market manipulation on Mango, a Solana-based decentralized exchange. "First Mover" discussed the state of the crypto industry and markets with Tribe Capital co-founder and CEO Arjun Sethi. CoinDesk's Cheyenne Ligon provided an update in Grayscale's lawsuit against the SEC over the agency's rejection of the CoinDesk sister company’s Bitcoin ETF application. Plus, DIMO aims to help drivers gain and monetize their car data, and DIMO co-founder Andy Chatham joined the conversation.

Headlines

Ethereum’s Second- Layer Projects Duke It Out for Dominance: Ethereum's layer 2 scaling platforms are taking center stage in the network's newest chapter, and it is unclear whether first movers hold the greatest advantage.

Canadian Self-Regulatory Agency Approves First Crypto-Native Investment Dealer: Coinsquare has also been granted a license to operate as a regulated alternative trading system, allowing it to match large, illiquid crypto trades between institutional investors.

Crypto Think Tank Coin Center Sues US Treasury Over Tornado Cash Sanctions: Coin Center is backing a second lawsuit against the U.S. Treasury Department, alleging its sanctioning of Tornado Cash overstepped legal bounds.

Kazakhstan Legislature Pushes New Crypto Rules Forward, Russian News Agency TASS Reports: The lower house of the country's parliament has passed five bills relating to digital assets as the government seeks to tighten its grip on crypto activity, particularly crypto mining.

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CoinDesk - Unknown

James Rubin is CoinDesk's U.S. news editor based on the West Coast.

CoinDesk - Unknown

James Rubin is CoinDesk's U.S. news editor based on the West Coast.