The latest buzzword ‘Metaverse’
Remember hearing about “the internet”? Well get ready for “the metaverse.” But what exactly is it?
People in the crypto space say they’re building it, gamers might already be living in it and the art world is cashing in on it.
The truth is we don’t exactly know what the metaverse is yet, exactly like the terminology “social media” when it was first introduced. But what we do know is that businesses that try to define it make an educated guess: and have the opportunity to make billions from it.
The term metaverse was originally coined by author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash”. It was then reimagined as an oasis in the Cline novel ‘Ready Player One’ which refers to the metaverse as a fully realised digital world that exists beyond the confines of which we live in. It’s where social norms and value systems can be written anew and freed from the cultural and economic constraints.
So, what is the metaverse referred to in today's world? It is an array of virtual experiences, environments and assets that has gained significant momentum as society has shifted its online consumption patterns pre and post pandemic. Alongside the technology advancements and rising shift in moving to an online-first approach.
Meanwhile Matthew Ball, former Head of Strategy for Amazon Studios, considers that the metaverse is “a sort of successor state to the mobile internet” and deciphers 8 enablers.
From this technological, behavioural and economic fusion, there becomes a new playground which puts the metaverse at the centre of it.
A world built on blockchain.
In the midst of the latest crypto boom in 2021 the price of a currency called MANA rose significantly across the crypto exchanges. It Has also continued to rise across the charts in Coinbase, a popular exchange for digital currencies.
If you own a non-fungible token (NFT) or a crypto, you’re directly part of the metaversal experience. But what makes MANA unique is that it is the digital currency for a virtual world called Decentraland. In March 2021, plots of digital land within Decentraland were being sold for the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars, which was unprecedented at the time. The previous two years saw the MANA currency being sold for around 10 cents per crypto. However in April 2021, MANA briefly broke the $1.60 mark, pushing the combined value of all the tokens past $2.4 billion
By size, Decentraland is more of a commune. as of July, just a few hundred people were logged in at any one time, which was down from its peak in the low thousands in March. Made up of user-generated NFTs, its creators have described the platform less as a place and more of an infrastructure where people can build upon a place.where Decentraland’s currency and land contracts run on the Ethereum blockchain.
The opportunities around crypto building the metaverse is certainly an interesting take, with Decentraland constantly creating scenes and experiences for users. This includes art exhibits, concerts and even gambling at casinos, using the in-world currency MANA. Users have also been paid to show up to work using MANA.
However at initial glance, users of Decentraland feel like it is a work in progress with the sparsely populated grid of half-developed plots and themed zones. This raises the question... ‘What now?’ as they move between events which leaves users mostly left to wander
We asked Zac Bell, brand partnerships executive at Kairos Media for this thoughts;
“The metaverse is the future. Whether we can accept that now, or later. The metaverse is where the physical, augmented and virtual reality worlds converge. Think “Ready Player One”... Maybe less to that scale though!
Crypto has been around for a long time, but it’s only recently that people have started to actually understand what it is, and that has led to the rise of NFTs.
An NFT is a type of crypto asset in which, unlike cryptocurrencies, every token is unique, and these don’t just have to be JPEGs, but can also be items in video games, music, GIFs or even tickets to digitals events.
The idea of creating a digital world isn’t new, look at Decentraland for example, and with the rise of NFTs, the digital world has never felt so real.“
Are we living in the metaverse already through video games?
Popular video games such as Roblox, Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Fortnite can all stake their claim to having meaverse tendencies, allowing players to build their own worlds.
During its initial development, Epic Games title Fortnite did not intend to create a metaverse. However, what started as a tower defense-style game back in 2017, quickly shifted just a year later into the global phenomenon it is today.
As millions of gamers globally flocked to play Fortnite Battle Royale, Epic Games rushed to add social features, like voice chatting and dance parties. In a federal court in May 2021, as part of an antitrust lawsuit against Apple, Epic Games stated Fornite made more than $9 billion in revenue between 2018- 2019. This was due to players spending a significant amount of money for in-game purchases for their characters, which allowed them to dress up their avatars in everything from superhero costumes to football kits.
Now, Epic Games market Fortnite as not just an interactive experience but as a metaverse. Matthew Weissinger VP of Marketing at Epic said “We're building this thing called the metaverse - a social place.”
This was followed by CEO of Epic Games, Tim Sweeney commenting on the recent music event held within the game
“Travis Scott recently held a live concert, within the Fortnite game which was a first of it’s kind last April which drew more than 12 million concurrent views with an estimated 50% of players using the game’s creative mode.” It allowed users to populate their own islands with buildings and unique games.
There is no clear way in defining the metaverse, as the metaverse isn't a tangible place within an app store with a catalog of titles. However in regards to the role gaming plays on the metaverse, currently the players, your friends in game, and your appearance and cosmetics, can go from place to place and have different experiences while remaining connected to each other socially.
This leads to the question: what does the future hold for the metaverse on its current trajectory? Is there a potential to have a tunnel between games and redefine the user experience into one centralised metaverse from Fortnite to Roblox and other games, connecting them all in one centralised world.
Only time will tell.