The Metaverse is often touted as the next big thing by tech execs and crypto enthusiasts alike. However, most people only have a vague understanding of what this new technological phenomenon is all about. This article will provide you with a general overview of the Metaverse, how web3 technologies like blockchain are one of its fundamental building blocks, and briefly cover some of its biggest projects.
So what is this metaverse thing, anyway?
Technologist and science fiction writer Neal Stephenson introduced the concept of a "shared-ever-present digital reality" in his iconic 1992 novel Snow Crash. He named this digital dimension "the Metaverse.
Stephenson describes the Metaverse as a "shared immersive virtual realm in which humans can partake in distinct experiences individually or together." Users enter this virtual universe by using specially designed equipment such as VR or AR headsets.
Imagine a virtual immersive world where you can enjoy any experience, create your own adventures that others can enjoy, visit fascinating cities and places that don’t even exist in the real world-well that’s what the metaverse can basically allow us to do in its fully developed form. Some of you might rightly point out that we already inhabit virtual platforms such as Instagram, Tiktok, and Sandbox through our digital avatars. What exactly makes the Metaverse different from these already existing platforms?
Let’s have a look:
- Persistent Presence: There will be no ending or pause to the Metaverse. It will exist despite the onboarding and departure of its inhabitants. It mirrors the actual reality in that aspect.
- Immersion: While we do spend a lot of our time on virtual platforms, they don’t really offer any real sense of immersion. In almost every case, you’re separated from the experience by a glass screen currently. However, the Metaverse will allow for total immersion in the experience of your liking. Wish to ride a whale, or freefall from the highest peak in the world without hurting yourself? Do it in the metaverse.
- Functioning digital economy: the metaverse will have its own fully functioning virtual economy. where individuals and businesses create, purchase, sell, and trade digital goods and services
- Interoperable: The ideal version of the Metaverse will likely host every single person in the world. It’s more than likely that most people will not get along in this shared virtual reality and try to create their own version of the Metaverse. But the good thing about the metaverse is that it’s infinitely scalable(setting aside the physical technological limits). This means that every version of the Metaverse can be integrated into a larger cohesive whole. There’s enough space for everyone in there!
Why is Web3 Technology a Metaverse Building Block?
As we understand now, a metaverse is a shared virtual reality with its own economy, but how do we provide digital property rights to people in a digital medium? Some of you might have already guessed that we can do that through blockchain-based tokens. In non-metaverse settings, blockchain tokens like cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens are already used to prove the ownership of digital items. Leveraging them to support the burgeoning metaverse economy is arguably the most logical step ahead. Every single metaverse startup, whether it considers itself a part of web3 or not, will need a digital currency for its economy.
Readers might know about virtual reality platforms like Second Life and games such as Fortnite that are considered a precursor to the metaverse. However, these platforms lack the economic aspect of the equation. The integration of blockchain technology into metaverse platforms allows for the creation of a completely digital economy of virtual experiences and products.
Another hugely important attribute that tokens bring to the metaverse is decentralization.
Centralized systems are often more structured and orderly, but people usually sacrifice their autonomy to participate in these platforms. There’s no lack of documented evidence about the corruption and censorship of centralized platforms. Tokenization can effectively decentralize a metaverse—distributing the ownership and governance of the platform among its community. You don’t want to build your virtual house on rented land, believe us.
Most metaverse startups, in their current form, are offering tokenized virtual land and experiences to their users. Let’s look at some of these interesting platforms that are pioneering the Metaverse.
Note that we are probably years away from building a true metaverse—The platforms we are featuring here are largely early attempts by companies to create their own separate virtual worlds. These digital universes might be interoperable in the future. Still, these platforms are important experiments that will lead to breakthroughs necessary for mainstream adoption. So, without further ado, here’s some metaverses for ya.
The Sandbox is a community-driven virtual gaming world where players can create and monetize digital assets and experiences. The Sandbox metaverse consists of thousands of virtual land plots. Players who own these plots can customise and create almost any virtual experience they can imagine. For example, you can create mini games or host concerts, art exhibitions, or meeting spaces within the Sandbox metaverse. If you'd rather enjoy experiences created by professional developers, Sandbox has an array of mini games ranging from RPGs to side scrollers to simulation games.
One of the OG crypto metaverse startups, Sandbox has partnered with some of the biggest companies and brands in the world. Some of its partners include Adidas, Animoca Brands, Standard Chartered, The Smurfs, and even Snoop Dogg.
The Sandbox metaverse is based on the Ethereum blockchain and has two primary crypto assets in its economy: sand and land.
Sand is the primary utility token which is used for every transaction within the Sandbox metaverse. LAND is an NFT virtual land plot that users can buy and customize to their liking.
Players who have previously played VR-based games might really like this one. Decetraland is a decentralised virtual gaming platform built on top of the Ethereum Blockchain. Similar to our previous entry, the metaverse of Decentraland also has virtual land plots, items, and other assets that players can own and customize. The assets in the Decentraland world are much more scarce and thus more expensive. The land plots in Decentraland are divided into parcels that are determined through cartesian (x,y) coordinates. Players purchase these plots through the metaverse’s official currency, MANA, and maintain full ownership over them. One of the most popular games on Decentraland is Decentral Games ICE Poker. Players wear VR glasses and play medium-to high-stakes poker with other users.
Star Atlas is a grand strategy, space exploration, and massively multiplayer online (MMO) game. In the Star Atlas metaverse players will fly around in spaceships, gather resources, engage in combat with other players, and take over entire galaxies. The game plans to couple all of the things that people have come to love about the escapism of gaming with the advantages of decentralisation and digital ownership. Star Atlas is arguably the most ambitious web3 gaming project ever. I mean, guys, they’re literally trying to create an entire universe that you can traverse digitally. However,we’re very early in the development of this project, and it might take a good five years before you can drive around in a shining spaceship in its metaverse.
Mirandus is a medieval-styled metaverse RPG developed by Gala Games. In Mirandus, players exercise absolute freedom of choice and action. Much like in Web2’s iconic game Skyrim, players in Mirandus can either enjoy the in-game environments created by the game developers and other players or complete missions. Some readers might argue that it's more like a game than a metaverse due to its theme restrictions, and they’d be correct. But, Mirandus features all the properties of a metaverse-it’ll be always live(after its release obviously), players can own every in-game asset, and they’d have freedom of choice to pursue any course of action.
Roblox is a virtual gaming platform where players can come together to enjoy a wide variety of games and create their own mini games. The game bills itself as the ultimate virtual universe, combining elements of gaming, social networking, and commerce under one platform. Interestingly, Roblox does not use blockchain technology and thus doesn't offer digital ownership rights to its users. Still, it has many attributes of a metaverse. The platform is live and synchronous, features a wide variety of experiences, and players engage in economic activity through a virtual currency in its economy. Roblox is often considered one of the first metaverses, but it's hesitation to use web technology might hold it back.
There are countless other projects that are building a metaverse. Sadly, we can't cover every single one of them. Some for ideological reasons(centralized platforms such as Meta) or some because they are too early in their development phase(Lamina1 by Neal Stephenson). However, we’ve tried to bring you some of the best metaverse that you can interact with today. The technology is far from its true potential and, as we said, it might take years before you can experience the true metaverse. To make that a reality, developers will need to make multiple breakthroughs in extended reality technologies such as AR and VR, figure out a way to simulate true immersion and make it universally interoperable. Until these developments take place, let’s enjoy the current metaverse offerings to their fullest.