The word ‘metaverse’ is used to describe a shared virtual world where people can interact in real-time and share a variety of virtual experiences. The term was coined by novelist Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash.
Many people are becoming increasingly attracted to decentralized metaverses, primarily consisting of networking, cryptocurrencies and cryptonetworks like Ethereum, eXtended Reality (XR) including VR and AR, and NFTs (non-fungible tokens). Gamers will already be familiar with centralized metaverses like Roblox, Fortnite, and Animal Crossing.
What makes decentralized metaverses different to traditional virtual worlds such as Roblox, is that they are built on the blockchain. These metaverses are made up of many virtual land parcels which are represented by NFTs and instead of being owned by one entity, are owned by players, companies and investors.
This allows users to create, experience, and monetize virtual reality content and applications within self-contained economies, and people have complete ownership of their characters, accrued in-game items, and digital land. Co-founder and CEO of The Sandbox metaverse, Arthur Madrid, noted that “The idea of blockchain in the metaverse is to build a new kind of digital asset, to create based on ownership and governance.”
The four decentralized metaverses right now are Decentraland, Somnium Space, CryptoVoxels, and The Sandbox (which is yet to go live). Creators can build structures like virtual casinos, art galleries, and theme parks (and monetize them).
We have an in-depth learning section here about each metaverse. Below is a brief outline of what each metaverse is about.
Decentraland is the largest metaverse between the four leaders. What makes Decentraland unique is that it is owned and run by its users, and does not run on a central server. Instead, all content is hosted on nodes which run on various computers around the world, making it decentralized. This means it cannot be shut down, and will forever exist on the blockchain.
Project Founders: Esteban Ordano, Ari Meilich
Project Leads: Decentraland Community (Via DAO)
Main Graphics Style: Cartoon
Virtual Reality? No
Building Difficulty: Easy – Drag & Drop or Advanced SDK
Mobile Ready? No
See the full guide to Decentraland >> Here
Somnium Space is the second largest blockchain metaverse. Somnium Space looks and feels closest to the Ready Player One effect, with slick, sexy graphics and a more realistic feel. Available in both 2D and VR, if you are looking for a full Virtual Reality experience, this platform is by far the most advanced option.
Project Lead: Artur Sychov
Main Graphics Style: Realism
Platforms Main Focus: Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality? Yes
Building Difficulty: Easy – Drag & Drop
Mobile Ready? Yes (3D Web Version)
See the full guide to Somnium Space >> Here
By area, Cryptovoxels is the smallest of all the blockchain metaverses, however, it is also the only world which is continually expanding with no set limit on how big it could grow. It is by far the easiest to get started and build in. If you want to explore, a simple URL click will propel you right into the world, with no fancy software or specific hardware required. Building is done in-world by simply dragging and dropping blocks, in real time.
Project Lead: Ben Nolan
Main Graphics Style: Voxels (MineCraft Style)
Virtual Reality? Yes
Building Difficulty: Easy – Drag & Drop
Mobile Ready? Yes
See the full guide to CryptoVoxels >> Here
What Does the Future Hold?
The recent NFT market surge has attracted an increasing number of people and big brands in experimenting with the development of the decentralized metaverse. Many companies are exploring use cases for innovative technology to engage users in the metaverse, and to bridge the gap between the physical and digital world. They recognize the new opportunities it can bring for creators, gamers and artists in the same way NFTs have.
For example, Sotheby’s, a traditional auction house, recently built their own gallery in Decentraland, and Adidas, world-famous sports brand, collaborated with Karlie Kloss inside Decentraland for a digital fashion show. Decentral Games became the first official metaverse employer in the world, proving that virtual reality can become more than a place for go-to entertainment and commerce, but also act as a place of work.
Land in the metaverse is becoming increasingly valuable as more people show up to the party, some even go as far as speculating that it will one day be just as valuable as physical land, and that it could become its own trillion-dollar industry. Eric Elliot, a coding and blockchain expert and enthusiast, stated that it could be as big as up to 10x the total value of the entire current global economy.
These speculations could very well prove to be true, considering that earlier this year an NFT of a 259-parcel virtual estate in Decentraland sold for more than $900,000, and in February 2021, a piece of virtual land on blockchain-based Axie Infinity sold for a record-breaking $1.5 million in Ether.
These are mind-blowing prices, and many will be asking what is digital land in the metaverses being used for? Well, with the rise in digital art, digital fashion and gaming, there is has been an increasing demand for digital land too. CryptoArt galleries are popping up everywhere to display digital art, digital clothes are worn on avatars in the metaverse, and metaverses such as The Sandbox provide an interactive setting for games to be played in.
In the words of venture capitalist Matthew Ball, the metaverse will become “the gateway to most digital experiences, a key component of all physical ones, and the next great labor platform.” Only time will tell whether or not the metaverse has the potential to be a successor of the internet, ushering forth a new creator’s economy.
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Ivelina is an NFT and Blockchain lover. She has a knack for putting complex concepts into simple words.