What is a Metaverse?
The world of metaverses has been one of the most talked-about spaces in cryptocurrency lately and has seen intense debate over its investment opportunities, future, and ultimate goals. But between the highly technical jargon and many-layered memes that make up this debate, many are left scratching their heads, asking: What’s a metaverse?
So what is it?
‘Metaverse’ is a catch-all term used to describe any virtual platform that blurs the lines between video games, social networks, and virtual reality. Metaverses have been compared to certain video games, such as Roblox or Second Life, where players log on to interact with each other in user-generated environments or minigames.
However, these games shouldn’t be confused with modern-day metaverse projects. On the tech side of things, these projects are predicated on blockchains and other coding advancements.
On the user side of things, the blockchain of a metaverse always involves one or more crypto tokens. These tokens bring real-world monetary value into the virtual landscape, enabling users to buy and sell a wide variety of items, services, and even virtual real estate.
Who’s behind these projects?
Depending on which metaverse you ask about, the organization behind it could be anything from Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta (recently rebranded from Facebook) to the Decentraland DAO, an organization of token holders and coders building a massive metaverse of their own while touting the banner of blockchain-based decentralization.
Metaverses can be equally diverse, ranging from browser-based virtual worlds to simulated realities accessible only through a VR headset.
How can I get involved?
On the gameplay side of things, it’s relatively easy to get into a metaverse. Just find out what platforms you can play on, set one up, and plug in! Whether through an old laptop or an Oculus Quest 2 (recently renamed Meta Quest 2), you’ll be making friends in no time.
But there’s more you can do with a metaverse than just spending time there. If you’re willing to invest in an accompanying token, you can become part of that world’s economy and trade items and cosmetics using real-world monetary value, watching your investment rise and fall according to the values of the items and the token itself.
One of the most popular ways to invest your metaverse tokens is to buy metaverse land. The idea of building and using your own virtual space however you like is a big part of the current wave of Web3 optimism, and that has given rise to a bustling real estate industry within the limited world maps of certain metaverses.
Currently, the metaverse real estate market is centered around four of the largest metaverses: Decentraland, Sandbox, Somnium Space, and Cryptovoxels. Each offers a marketplace where virtual property can be bought or rented, and each has an active userbase to trade and socialize with.
How have metaverses been doing lately?
Over the past year or so, the prices of popular metaverse coins have generally mirrored the ups and downs of the broader crypto market, peaking in late 2021 before a long period of drops that are only just now seeming to stabilize.
However, these heavy ups and downs have seemed to affect metaverse coins much more dramatically than they’ve affected any big-name cryptos. For example, SAND, the main token of the Sandbox metaverse, peaked at $7.37 before dropping to around $1.1, while Bitcoin peaked at just over $67,000 before dropping to just under $20,000.
This increased volatility only confirms what many already knew- when crypto is doing well, interest is focused on its new frontiers and innovations, with metaverses being one of them. People will be focused on safer, more established assets when it's doing poorly. This means that metaverse tokens are some of the most high-risk, high-reward coins out there.
What does the future hold for metaverses?
No one knows. Many tech companies have been vocal about their enthusiasm for this new way to enter cyberspace, but few seem to have concrete visions about how it might pan out. Meta, for example, has been very vague about what plans it currently has in the field, committing only to working on projects that somehow relate to it.
It often seems as if these companies are using the idea of metaverses as a way to appear futuristic while making minimal commitments to the field itself. This impression can scare away investors and users alike, especially when amplified by meme culture or news outlets.
If major tech companies act like metaverses are a fad, people will believe them- and that might become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The future size of metaverse userbases is also something to consider. If they shrink or die out, millions of dollars of virtual land could suddenly turn into nothing but a VR ghost town. It’s up to metaverse developers and administrators to keep their worlds entertaining, or else the users might move on to greener pastures.
In addition, metaverses are heavily tied to other tech concepts, such as cryptocurrency and VR, which might face their own popularity issues in the future. Meme culture, often considered the bread-and-butter of monetized Web3 spaces, is highly unpredictable and can turn against anything at a moment’s notice.
All of these setbacks are potentially deadly to any metaverse, perhaps even to the entire field, but the perilous road ahead still has a destination. It’s difficult to talk about the future of tech without talking about metaverses, and some of the most enterprising minds in the industry have already staked their claims in the field.
Mark Zuckerberg recently admitted that he expects Meta to lose money on its metaverse projects in the short term, but that the results and experience will be invaluable in the future. Other figures, from big tech to crypto, are making similar investments.
There are many different metaverses out there, each with its origins, goals, and community. If you’re looking to get involved with one for any reason, it shouldn’t be hard to find one that suits you. Doing so is a great way to become a part of that platform’s future- but that future might not be bright.
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Daniel Speth is a content writer at the International Youths Organization for Peace and Sustainability. He is also a final-year student at the University of Cincinnati, majoring in Rhetoric and Professional Writing as well as Creative Writing.
Inputs and Edits by Aswin Raghav R.