The open virtual world, for which the metaverse has come to be known, has been growing rapidly in recent months, and investment in it has been massive. Platforms such as Decentraland and Sandbox are at the forefront of interest. Virtual real estate and land located there are selling for hundreds of thousands to millions of crowns. However, other global corporations such as Facebook, Microsoft, Nvidia or smaller projects such as the Czech Somnium Space are also joining the race to control the future of the Internet.
The metaverse has attracted the attention of Facebook in particular, which last year renamed itself Meta and announced that in the coming years, it would focus entirely on creating a working model of the virtual world. Since that moment, other companies such as Microsoft and Nvidia have joined the metaverse. Older projects that have been working on virtual and augmented reality platforms for several years are also resurfacing.
The world of virtual and augmented reality is growing much slower than expected a few years ago. Four years ago, some experts expected the market to generate over $150 billion in annual revenue by 2020, Futurism.com wrote. The reality, however, is that last year revenues barely exceeded $30 billion, according to data from the platform Statista.com. That may soon change, however, especially thanks to Facebook, whose announcement brought the concept of the metaverse to the attention of the media, celebrities and the public.
When you say metaverse, most people probably think of the former Facebook, now part of the Meta group. Mark Zuckerberg is trying to make Meta a major influence on what the virtual world will look like. That’s why he plans to invest around ten billion dollars in developing the metaverse over the next ten years and hire ten thousand employees to accomplish this goal. However, at the moment, Meta’s plans are for a startup.
Meta is building the metaverse on the Horizon Worlds social platform. This virtual environment was only opened to the general public in December last year, until then it had only been beta tested. To access the Horizon Worlds platform, you need Quest virtual goggles from Oculus, which is also owned by Meta.
Horizon is only available in the United States and Canada for now, but three months after launching, over 300,000 users have signed up for the basic form of Meta. They can create a legless avatar in the virtual world and explore the environment there. This involves interacting with other users or simply building a new world.
The first to respond to Facebook’s gauntlet was Microsoft, which was already working on the virtual world. Unlike Zuckerberg’s company, which wants to penetrate all spheres of people’s lives with the metaverse, Microsoft is focusing on a narrow segment for now – the use of virtual reality in the work environment. The move is a response to online meetings, which have increased rapidly with the global pandemic. Microsoft’s solution will be usable without VR accessories, so it will be a hybrid solution, which could make it easier to scale.
However, Microsoft already has a wealth of previous experience that can greatly help the development of the virtual world. The company, founded by Bill Gates, already bought the game Minecraft years ago, which essentially functions as a virtual world of unlimited possibilities. In it, players can create environments and also interact with other players. In addition, Microsoft has focused on strengthening its gaming division in recent years, culminating in its purchase of Activision Blizzard, one of the world’s largest game developers.
In the meantime, gaming technology is likely to be key in the development of virtual worlds. This was confirmed by Microsoft boss Satya Nadella, who mentioned the know-how for building the metaverse as one of the reasons for the acquisition.
What is and what is not a metaverse is not yet precisely defined. Thus, in recent months, projects that essentially just use the futuristic virtual world to attract interest have tried to ride the popular wave. An example is Nvidia’s Omniverse, whose main source of income is the production of graphics cards.
Nvidia has developed a program that allows collaborative work on graphics projects. The added value of Nvidia’s program is that it can integrate multiple tools into one environment.
The Czech project Somnium Space, headed by Artur Sychrov, already ranks among the most advanced virtual worlds. The principle is exactly the same as the idea of a metaverse – a virtual space where avatars of various shapes and sizes move around and where it is possible to let your imagination run wild or just participate in meetings with other players.
Somnium Space uses the cryptocurrency Ethereum for transactions; the most expensive plot on the Czech platform sold for half a million dollars at the exchange rate at the time. According to the latest data, transactions worth 22,000 ether have taken place in Somnium Space’s environment, and around two thousand users actively enter the Czech metaverse every day.
Decentraland and The Sandbox. Metaverse attracts real estate
Well-known platforms are Decentraland and The Sandbox, which could be laconically described as virtual worlds in which events such as concerts, fashion shows and other real-life events can take place. These platforms are flexible and can be used to build a world according to the creator’s preferences.
Since Facebook’s announcement that it was entering the virtual world, prices for virtual real estate have increased fivefold in the aforementioned Decentraland. Tokens.com, a company that focuses on blockchain technology, recently purchased land in Decentraland for $2.5 million.
On rival platform The Sandbox, an unknown buyer recently paid $450,000 for a plot of land adjacent to the virtual property of famous rapper Snoop Dogg, who is currently creating his virtual world. “I’m always looking for more ways to connect with my fans, so we’ve created an environment at The Sandbox where we can virtually meet, release NFT and host exclusive concerts,” the famous rapper described his “Snoopverse.”
“The digital world is just as important to some as the real one. It’s not about what you believe in, it’s about what happens in the future,” real estate agent Oren Alexander told CNBC. “Although this vision seems remote and completely absurd, we should remember that people once had doubts about the potential importance of the internet and the same was true of social networking,” Theo Tzanidis of the University of the West of Scotland points out to The Fashion Law. So the motivation can be twofold – a bet on the further development of the digital world or an escape from the real world.
What the two platforms have in common is that they use the linkage of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) to the cryptocurrency Ethereum. The Sandbox has the Sand token, and Decentraland uses the Mana token. Both can be traded, so their value can be tracked and, if buying land is merely an investment, sold to other interested parties. Space is not unlimited even in virtual worlds. In total, nearly a hundred million dollars worth of land has been sold on The Sandbox platform, and tens of millions of dollars in Decentraland.
Do you need help with your Metaverse journey? Contact Enkronos team today.