Linden Lab Lays Off Over 20 Members of Sansar Team, Confirm Insiders; Social VR Platform to Continue Operating With Skeleton Crew
Confirming a blog post from Ryan Schultz (along with some ominous rumblings I heard last Friday), some insiders tell me that Linden Lab has recently laid off over 20 staffers working on Sansar, the company’s social VR platform. Even more tragically, the layoffs include some longtime Lindens who got their start working on Second Life, Linden Lab’s core profitable product, but who were moved to the Sansar team.
Asked to comment on these layoff reports, a Linden Lab spokesperson just sent me this response, in its entirety:
“We have no comment at this time, but we’re continuing to develop both Second Life and Sansar, and we’re excited about the many new partnerships and features on tap for 2020!”
This move is not at all surprising, and follows a round of Linden Lab layoffs last year; more key, Sansar has steadfastly refused to grow its user numbers, with peak concurrency remaining in the low hundreds at most, despite marketing campaigns with major brands like Hello Kitty, Spielberg’s Ready Player One, and top esports groups.
My understanding is Sansar will not be closed down, or sold, but will continue operating with a skeleton crew, and in all likelihood, eventually be run as a spinoff company and product separate from Linden Lab.
In any case, this is a sad turn for a project that began under the leadership of former Linden Lab CEO Rod Humble, when Sansar was conceived as a spiritual successor to Second Life. But between Humble stepping down and Ebbe Altberg taking the reigns at CEO, some management decisions shifted Sansar’s direction:
Originally developed to be a direct successor to Second Life, including a heavy emphasis on creation tools, I’m told Linden Lab management ignored the advice of longtime Linden developers who helped launch Second Life, and moved away from that direction. This meant that Sansar creation would only be possible by uploading mesh (as opposed to in-world creation), which made the world less appealing to longtime SLers. Sansar management then jumped onto virtual reality as the new hotness (something Ebbe Altberg fully admitted to me when I interviewed him last Spring), so shifted the virtual world to be a social VR product. The company has been moving away from that VR emphasis in recent quarters, but by then, the Sansar ship was already floundering.
In recent product meetings streamed on Twitch, Linden Lab has suggested they’ll put more focus on Sansar as a platform for live events, as there has been some limited success with Sansar-based EDM shows put on by MonsterCat records. But that shift is meeting some skepticism.
“That’s the spin they going with now,” as longtime third party Sansar developer “Gindipple” tells me. “They’ve changed direction so many times now. They are winging this and hoping. I gave up on them a while ago, so don’t care as much now. They lost a lot of good people in this cut back, some went to SL but many [are] just out.
“And the thing is, when a company does this,” he adds with irony, “the remaining people come to work so highly motivated now.”
As for Second Life, Linden Lab is still hiring team members to work on that 16 year old virtual world.
We at Zoha Islands wanted to make sure these allegations were correct and true before we passed along in our blog. And we will keep you posted with any updates on this subject as they become available and reliable sourced.
Have a great week from all of us at ZI and FI