Who will be the leading metaverse platform? Several big players are in the mix – so let’s take a look at who is calling themselves a ‘metaverse’ and how we can enter these virtual worlds.
The race to the Metaverse
The race to the metaverse has officially commenced. Indeed, there are multiple metaverse platforms emerging in a complex interplay between mainstream gaming, blockchain gaming, NFTs, virtual reality, augmented reality and so much more. One thing is for certain, what we know as the ‘internet’ will never be the same.
Just to be clear – there is no true metaverse yet. As I alluded to in my previous article, there are multiple, virtual, open-world platforms that you can explore online now and many are still being developed.
One day, these online platforms will comprise a seamless metaverse experience. This experience will enable us to take our virtual avatars between worlds and explore freely in an immersive 3D environment – performing all the activities the internet currently allows with added presence.
Think how we explore the internet now so seamlessly or use our mobile smart devices to achieve almost everything via apps – this all took time to achieve and the metaverse will be no different.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and the metaverse needs time. Let’s remember, the word ‘metaverse’ has only recently become a worldwide fascination and a focal point – largely thanks to Facebook and their earth-shaking switch to Meta.
After Zuckerberg’s announcement last November, the metaverse quickly emerged from the shadows to become the destination for tech companies – our future in the digital world.
It has become quite clear that immersive virtual worlds will play a major role in our lives. Indeed, the global metaverse market is forecast to reach $829 billion by 2028, according to a report by Emergen Research.
As of now, we’re watching an enthralling battle take place between some of the best tech companies and developers in the world – so let’s take a closer look at who they are…
Launched in February 2020, Decentraland has a major claim as the first-ever virtual world owned by its users. This was quite a revolutionary idea at the time and it was all made possible by the emerging blockchain technologies.
There are 90,000 parcels of land in Decentraland divided into Estates, Districts, and Plazas. These lands are completely owned via non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on the Ethereum blockchain and its Polygon sidechain. Upon each parcel of land, an experience can be built and these are called ‘Scenes’.
You can design your Scene with a simple ‘Builder’ – a drag and drop editor or alternatively, there is a more complex coding tool that will give you more freedom in your design.
At the time of writing, the average plot of land is going for around 2-3 ETH ($6-9,000 USD) on the Opensea marketplace. If you think that’s a lot, imagine how much those plots will be worth if Decentraland becomes a thriving digital metropolis filled with brands and millions of visitors every day. They’re not there yet, but they’ve achieved some impressive feats.
For example, Decentraland became a DAO (Decentralised Autonomous Organisation) in May 2021 and if you’re a holder of the native currency, the MANA token, you can cast votes on certain suggested changes to the project. In June 2021, Sotheby’s – the world-famous auction house – opened a virtual gallery in Decentraland.
Back to the MANA token, this can be used to buy parcels of land or Estates, wearables for your avatar, and unique names that are for sale. You could also buy an NFT from an art gallery, or perhaps a ticket to a virtual event and you can even gamble in the casino.
To get into Decentraland, you can enter right away as a guest via the website and roam around the land freely. In guest mode, you can explore the creations of those who have already bought plots of land and created ‘Scenes’, including the company Samsung.
To get the full experience in Decentraland, you will need to get a MetaMask crypto wallet, then go to an exchange, sign up, and then buy some Ethereum (Eth) and MANA.
There is much hype surrounding The Sandbox metaverse and for good reason. Firstly, this started as a 2D mobile game in 2012, created by Pixowl, and attracted over 40 million users. Then, they decided to invest in a 3D metaverse, and last year, they raised a staggering $93 million in a funding round led by SoftBank – one of the biggest investment companies in the world and the 6th largest publicly traded company in Japan.
Now, they’re building this 3D virtual world experience under new owners, Animoca Brands, and there is much anticipation for its launch.
There are 166,000 plots of land in The Sandbox and the goal is to build gaming experiences within your Estate, which you can then monetize in a pay-to-play system. You can also monetize your land by renting it out and the land is exclusively yours to own, thanks to NFT smart contracts.
Much like Decentraland, land and digital assets are bought as NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain or the Polygon sidechain, using the native SAND token. Hence, entry into The Sandbox requires you to get a crypto wallet, then some ETH and SAND in your wallet. The rewards are ownership over your land and assets, which you, as an owner, are free to trade, sell, rent and gift to others.
Currently, in The Sandbox, there are some notable residents – none more so than Snoop Dog, who has built ‘The Snoopverse’ experience and has already started hosting private events within his Estate. Just days ago he released his latest music video ‘The House I Built’, all made in The Sandbox, and it’s an absolute blast!
Indeed, The Sandbox hasn’t officially opened its gates to the general public yet. They’re in the process of testing and giving limited access to selected residents at the time of writing, but the roadmap is clear: they plan to open The Sandbox, create their own DAO, create real jobs for people in The Sandbox, build a ‘Sand Vegas’ casino, bring The Sandbox back to the mobile phone and finally to consoles like the XBox and the Playstation. Just to name a few!
Finally, the news this year that gaming giants Ubisoft are going to buy an Estate in The Sandbox and create multiple blockchain games within its metaverse only adds fuel to the fire – this hype train is real!
Enter the mainstream gaming kings! This immersive game has literally taken the world by storm and it’s completely free to play. Roblox empowers you to be a gaming developer, much like The Sandbox, and to attract players to your experience.
In Roblox, your game can have its own economy where players spend money to buy items required in your game. If developers make enough ‘Robux’ – the in-game currency – and meet the Roblox guidelines, they can start converting their Robux into real money and thus, monetising their game.
Remember, the way this game differs from The Sandbox and Decentraland is fundamentally, the assets that you buy are not strictly yours to control. This game is not on the decentralized blockchain and thus, as a centralized game, Roblox owns the experiences you create (you will get a split share of earnings if your game performs very well) and the in-game assets. Nevertheless, this game has completely absorbed the mainstream gaming community around the world.
During an epic 2021, the Roblox community grew from 32.6 million daily active users in 2020 to nearly 50 million across 180 countries. At the time of writing, more than 55 million users visit Roblox every day and this shows no sign of slowing down.
The reality is: the on-boarding for Roblox is so simple and you can enter an experience, with your own custom avatar, in a matter of seconds. You simply download the Roblox app and you’re ready to rock and roll.
Indeed, Roblox are riding a wave of momentum after a jaw-dropping 2021. In February this year, The National Football League and Roblox (NYSE: RBLX), announced the launch of ‘NFL Tycoon’ to engage the next generation of NFL football fans in the Metaverse. The NFL will be the first official major sports league to offer a persistent experience on Roblox.
Recently, Roblox and Sony announced that music artist 24kGoldn will perform a virtual concert inside the platform, adding to an illustrious roster of virtual events already accomplished in Roblox, which includes ‘Gucci Garden’, ‘Twenty One Pilots Concert Experience’, ‘KSI Launch Party’, the ‘Fashion Awards 2021’, and ‘Nikeland’.
Make no mistake, Roblox is a prime contender for being a leader in the metaverse era.
Facebook rebranded to Meta last year and announced its intentions to develop a metaverse platform incorporating its $2 billion acquisition in 2014 – the Oculus VR Quest headsets. Meta has invested heavily on building an integrated VR environment for work, play and socializing.
According to its Q4 earnings call, Meta spent approximately $10 billion on the Metaverse in 2021. On the same call, Meta’s platform Horizon Worlds was cited as a “core to our metaverse vision” and the concept for Horizon Worlds is not dissimilar to Roblox and The Sandbox – namely, an immersive 3D world of user-generated experiences.
To date, Meta has launched Horizon Worlds for content creation and its Presence Platform for designing naturalized immersive experiences.
This year, we’re going to see the fruits of that $10 billion metaverse investment emerge, which should shake things up quite a bit in this race to the top.
The Microsoft metaverse is coming and as you can imagine, they’ve got big plans in this space. Firstly, it will begin with Mesh for Microsoft Teams in early 2022, which will revolutionize the way we have virtual meetings.
“Microsoft Mesh enables presence and shared experiences from anywhere – on any device – through mixed reality applications”.
Thus, from Mesh we can expect immersive 3D environments and workplaces to collaborate and connect using our virtual avatars. Soon, we will be able to access these collaborative, immersive spaces using VR, augmented reality (AR) glasses, our desktop, or even mobile device.
You get the feeling that Mesh is merely the tip of the iceberg for Microsoft. In fact, they’ve been making major steps in the gaming world, recently buying the gaming giants Activision Blizzard for a whopping $68.7 billion. That’s the company that created legendary experiences like ‘World of Warcraft’ and ‘Call of Duty’.
Therefore, with Activision Blizzard on board, they will be tapping into one of the biggest industries on the planet and perhaps we could see a full-scale entry into the metaverse.
After all, games are perhaps the closest thing we have to the metaverse at present, because they allow us to engage in virtual experiences which feel real and where we can connect with millions of others seamlessly.
Games like WOW and Call of Duty connect people through their immersive worlds, provide gripping experiences with their gameplay and if Microsoft can take those aspects and pair them with a strong, secure metaverse, including a functioning economy, we could be witnessing the birth of something spectacular in the metaverse realm.
Choose your metaverse
In truth, there are several other metaverse platforms worthy of a mention, like Cryptovoxels, Somnium Space and Bloktopia. All provide unique experiences and have varying requirements.
Whether you’re sold on the decentralized blockchain metaverse or you prefer things more simple and centralized, there’s a platform for you being built out there.
In the meantime, in these nascent days of the metaverse – happy exploring!