Welcome to the Metaverse
As 2021 came to a close, the metaverse became part of the broader crypto story.
Facebook decided to rebrand to Meta. Even stodgy old Microsoft is thinking about the metaverse. They dove in by buying out Activision Blizzard (Call of Duty and Warcraft) in early 2022. They called their shiny new acquisition part of the building blocks for the metaverse.
Virtual property sales have been racking up millions in various metaverse properties. You even have access to a broker for these transactions.
The metaverse combines numerous elements of crypto and adds another dimension to one’s value discovery portfolio. And all of this metaverse talk got me thinking about the possibilities, which are substantial.
The metaverse may one day shape the physical world
The metaverse is opening up a series of extraordinary opportunities. There will be an entire unique ecosystem developed for all sorts of activities, ideas, and creativity. Unconstrained by the physical world, people will eventually create their own utopia as they explore other visions of a utopia.
The unexpected result of this interaction will be an evolution of culture taking place outside of the physical world. There may be experiments with governance that directly influence the world around us.
It will provide an environment to test out ideas and things that may find their way back to the physical world. Instead of the physical going to the digital like Nike with shoes to NFTs, it will go the other way. The digital will be tested in the virtual world and then manifest in the physical world.
There will be new and yet unimagined products and services. New business models will be discovered.
In this way, the metaverse may help create an entirely new boom in innovation and creativity.
Defining the metaverse
If we were to define the metaverse, it would be 3D + Monopoly + Crypto + gaming + avatars.
Or, in two words, fun and speculation.
The path to the metaverse has involved the development of several different elements in parallel. The VR glasses give you access to the immersive 3D experience. The growing interest in avatars gives people options to represent themselves in any way they wish in a close to realistic way.
And these avatars interact within a virtual rendition of a physical environment created by the visions of the users.
Crypto provides the NFTs, ownership rights, decentralization, and loads of potential.
Then gaming uses its vast experience with platforms, graphics, rewards, UI, and UX to deliver an incredible immersive experience. It also brings a big audience.
All of these elements are coming together to create an incredible venue for value discovery and new markets.
The story of the metaverse starts in 1992
The story of the metaverse traces itself to 1992, where Neal Stephenson talks about it in his book Snow Crash. In interviews, Stephenson says he didn’t plan on being prophetic with his prediction. He said he was making it up. He said that if you are a writer and make enough predictions, eventually, some will become reality.
The next reference to the metaverse is attributed to the circulation amongst various Ethereum developers. There are also references to various tech mavens who read the book at some point.
Given what the metaverse is, I’m surprised that the movie Tron from 1982 isn’t part of the origin story.
Like crypto, the metaverse has taken time and numerous technological developments to become reality.
The various elements of the technology involved have come a long way. But so has the ability to visualize a whole world of value in a virtual representation.
It is this acceptance of digital or virtual expressions of value that is the most important development leading to the metaverse.
Vitalik the gamer, World of Warcraft, and NFTs
One of the important parts of the metaverse is the confluence of gaming and NFTs. An article by Polygon tied the development of NFTs directly to the experience of 15-year-old gamer Vitalik Buterin.
Buterin was an avid World of Warcraft player. Then one day, an update destroyed a character he had spent countless hours creating. So significant was this event that he mentions it in his current personal profile.
He says, “I happily played World of Warcraft during 2007-2010, but one day Blizzard removed the damage component from my beloved warlock’s Siphon Life spell. I cried myself to sleep, and on that day I realized what horrors centralized services can bring. I soon decided to quit.”
This experience resulted in his distrust of centralized authority and a journey to Bitcoin. Then came the founding of Ethereum. The evolution of the platform created the fertile ground for smart contracts and then NFTs. And it also provides the foundation layer that much of the current metaverse is being built on.
A virtual taste for fashion
Several big brands are starting to mint NFTs to participate in the metaverse. These include Nike, LV, Ralph Lauren, Balenciaga, and Gucci. While Italian brand Balenciaga teamed up with Fortnite, LV, Ralph Lauren, and Gucci are using Roblox.
Decentraland has developed a Fashion Street area in their metaverse platform.
It’s not hard to imagine every fashion brand attaching an NFT to their products at the physical point of sale in the future.
The emphasis in the media is on the royalties these brands will earn in the secondary market. But the earned advertising in the virtual world is the real benefit. Every customer that uses these branded NFTs in the metaverse will be a mini-billboard to a virtual audience.
Snoop Dogg and the virtual land grab
NFTs, blockchains, and the option for fractional ownership have also created a virtual metaverse land boom.
Snoop Dog built a mansion in the metaverse. He’s even got his own Snoopverse inside The Sandbox, a metaverse gaming platform.
Republic Realm picked up property in Sandbox for $4.3 million. Their goal is to create an entertaining experience with numerous NFT products and services designed for the metaverse.
The Metaverse Group ponied up $2.4 million for virtual property on Decentraland, another metaverse platform.
There is even a broker to help you with your land sales. I guess this keeps the experience “real,” even though it means that there is a middleman in your peer-to-peer experience.
Metaverse platforms where brokers are selling virtual land include Decentraland, The Sandbox, Somnium Space, Cryptovoxels, and Upland.
Metaverse land platforms
Five big players in the metaverse space have some things in common. They have land, gaming, and marketplaces. And these platforms are all entertainment-based, with the flexibility to grow in numerous directions.
The Sandbox is a game-centered metaverse platform built on Ethereum. It has a native utility and governance token (SAND), NFT marketplace, virtual NFT based real estate (LAND). The whitepaper describes a move to a DAO and opportunities to play as you earn.
Decentraland is a virtual world owned by its users and supported by the Decentraland DAO. Decentraland, built on the Ethereum network, has two tokens. LAND represents the NFTs for the sections of virtual property in the Decentraland metaverse. The MANA tokens are used for payments and governance.
Somnium Space is another virtual world developed in partnership with Matic and OpenSea. The platform is a gaming and community project with a marketplace built on Ethereum. The native token on Somnium Space is CUBE, and the NFTs are based on World tokens.
Cryptovoxels is on Ethereum with virtual land parcels and the ability to build stores and galleries. Land parcels and other items are available in ETH on the Cryptovoxels marketplace and OpenSea.
Upland describes itself as an NFT metaverse built on the EOS chain. It has virtual real estate and the ability to build virtual businesses. The native token is UPX, a utility token. They also have the NFL version of Top Shots called Legits on the platform.
All of the platforms have their unique takes on the metaverse, and we are likely to see these business models change over time. And there are many others involved in the space. I recommend you get the whitepapers and look them over for yourself.
Is the Sci-Fi metaverse next?
Let’s think big for a moment.
Imagine a series of galaxies, planets, and spaceships. There is no reason why the metaverse has to be tied to what we know. That’s the whole point of being virtual, isn’t it?
Imagine a virtual world unbounded by current constraints.
Could the metaverse become a series of physical-like assets on planets where you move from planet to planet in your own ship?
A place where we envision other forms of life with avatars.
Where we explore and experiment with various types of governance. Or a new financial system.
And a galactic view where we explore the crazy products of imagination playing out as virtual representations in real-time. You know, the things you normally find in the great Sci-Fi movies and novels.
Maybe metaverse adventures will become the new novels and movies.
A new frontier is here on earth, and it looks infinite.
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