To be precise, metaverse is not a new concept, it is more like a rebirth of a classic concept, a conceptualization of new technologies such as extended reality (XR), blockchain, cloud computing and digital twins.
The concept originally originated from the 1992 novel Snow Crash by the famous American science fiction master Neal Stephenson: Putting on a headset and goggles and finding a connection terminal, you are able to enter a virtual space simulated by a computer in a way that is parallel to the real world as a virtual doppelganger. Although once only fictional content, it seems highly likely that the idea of a metaverse will become a reality in the future.
Although the metaverse has received much attention and expectation from all sides, there is likewise no universally accepted definition. Returning to the essence of the concept, it can be considered that the metaverse is a virtual world that is both mapped to and independent of the real world, built on the basis of traditional cyberspace, along with the increase in maturity of various digital technologies. At the same time, the metaverse is not a simple virtual space, but a perpetual, wide-coverage virtual reality system that encompasses the network, hardware terminals and users, in which there are both digital replicas of the real world and creations of the virtual world.
At present, everything about the metaverse is still under debate, and analysis from different perspectives will lead to very different conclusions, but the basic characteristics of the metaverse have been generally recognized by the industry.
Its basic characteristics include:
- Immersive experiences, where low latency and anamorphism give the user an immersive sensory experience.
- Virtualized bilocation, where users in the real world will have one or more ID identities in the digital world.
- Open creation, where users enter the digital world through the terminal and can start creative activities with massive resources.
- strong social attributes, where the real social relationship chain will be transferred and reorganized in the digital world
- Stabilized system, with a safe, stable and orderly economic operation system.
In addition to games or social media, it will integrate economy, digital identity, decentralized governance and other applications. Even today, the creation and ownership of high-value items and currencies by users helps to develop an independent and unified meta-universe. With all these features, blockchain has the potential to empower this future technology.
Why are video games linked to the metaverse?
Because of the emphasis on 3D virtual reality, video games offer the closest metaverse experience currently. This point isn’t just because they are 3D, though. Video games now offer services and features that cross over into other aspects of our lives. The video game Roblox even hosts virtual events like concerts and meetups. Players don’t just play the game anymore; they also use it for other activities and parts of their lives in “cyberspace”. For example, in the multiplayer game Fortnite, 12.3 million players took part in Travis Scott’s virtual in-game music tour.
Gaming provides the 3D aspect of the metaverse but doesn’t cover everything needed in a virtual world that can cover all aspects of life. Crypto can offer the other key parts required, such as digital proof of ownership, transfer of value, governance, and accessibility. But what do these mean exactly?
If, in the future, we work, socialize, and even purchase virtual items in the metaverse, we need a secure way of showing ownership. We also need to feel safe transferring these items and money around the metaverse. Finally, we will also want to play a role in the decision-making taking place in the metaverse if it will be such a large part of our lives.
Some video games contain some basic solutions already, but many developers use crypto and blockchain instead as a better option. Blockchain provides a decentralized and transparent way of dealing with the topics, while video-game development is more centralized.
Blockchain developers also take influence from the video game world too. Gamification is common in Decentralized Finance (DeFi) and GameFi. It seems there will be enough similarities in the future that the two worlds may become even more integrated. The key aspects of blockchain suited to the metaverse are:
- Digital proof of ownership: By owning a wallet with access to your private keys, you can instantly prove ownership of activity or an asset on the blockchain. For example, you could show an exact transcript of your transactions on the blockchain while at work to show accountability. A wallet is one of the most secure and robust methods for establishing a digital identity and proof of ownership.
- Digital collectibility: Just as we can establish who owns something, we can also show that an item is original and unique. For a metaverse looking to incorporate more real-life activities, this is important. Through NFTs, we can create objects that are 100% unique and can never be copied exactly or forged. A blockchain can also represent ownership of physical items.
- Transfer of value: A metaverse will need a way to transfer value securely that users trust. In-game currencies in multiplayer games are less secure than crypto on a blockchain. If users spend large amounts of time in the metaverse and even earn money there, they will need a reliable currency.
- Governance: The ability to control the rules of your interaction with the metaverse should also be important for users. In real life, we can have voting rights in companies and elect leaders and governments. The metaverse will also need ways to implement fair governance, and blockchain is already a proven way of doing this.
- Accessibility: Creating a wallet is open to anyone around the world on public blockchains. Unlike a bank account, you don’t need to pay any money or provide any details. This makes it one of the most accessible ways to manage finances and an online, digital identity.
- Interoperability: Blockchain technology is continuously improving compatibility between different platforms. Projects like Polkadot (DOT) and Avalanche (AVAX) allow for creating custom blockchains that can interact with each other. A single metaverse will need to connect multiple projects, and blockchain technology already has solutions for this.
As we mentioned, the metaverse will combine all aspects of life in one place. While many people already work at home, in the metaverse, you will be able to enter a 3D office and interact with your colleagues’ avatars. Your job may also be metaverse related and provide you with income directly usable in the metaverse. In fact, these kinds of jobs already exist in a similar form.
GameFi and play-to-earn models now provide steady income streams for people worldwide. These online jobs are great candidates for metaverse implementation in the future, as they show that people are willing to spend their time living and earning in virtual worlds. Play-to-earn games like Axie Infinity and Gods Unchained don’t even have 3D worlds or avatars. However, it’s the principle that they could be part of the metaverse as a way to earn money entirely in the online world.
Facebook is one of the loudest voices for the creation of a unified metaverse. This is particularly interesting for a crypto-powered metaverse due to Facebook’s Diem stablecoin project. Mark Zuckerberg has explicitly mentioned his plans to use a metaverse project to support remote work and improve financial opportunities for people in developing countries. Facebook’s ownership of social media, communication, and crypto platforms give it a good start combining all these worlds into one. Other large tech companies are also targeting the creation of a metaverse, including Microsoft, Apple, and Google.
When it comes to a crypto-powered metaverse, further integration between NFT marketplaces and 3D virtual universes seems like the next step. NFT holders can already sell their goods from multiple sources on marketplaces like OpenSea and BakerySwap, but there isn’t yet a popular 3D platform for this. At a bigger scale, blockchain developers might develop popular metaverse-like applications with more organic users than a large tech giant.
While we don’t yet have a single, linked metaverse, we have plenty of platforms and projects similar to the metaverse. Typically, these also incorporate NFTs and other blockchain elements. Let’s look at three examples:
SecondLive is a 3D virtual environment where users control avatars for socializing, learning, and business. The project also has an NFT marketplace for swapping collectibles.
Axie Infinity is a play-to-earn game that’s provided players in developing countries an opportunity to earn consistent income. By purchasing or being gifted three creatures known as Axies, a player can start farming the Smooth Love Potion (SLP) token. When sold on the open market, someone could make roughly $200 to $1000 (USD) depending on how much they play and the market price.
While Axie Infinity doesn’t provide a singular 3D character or avatar, it gives users the opportunity for a metaverse-like job. You might have already heard the famous story of Filipinos using it as an alternative to full-time employment or welfare.
Decentraland is an online, digital world that combines social elements with cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and virtual real estate. On top of this, players also take an active role in the governance of the platform. Like other blockchain games, NFTs are used to represent cosmetic collectibles. They’re also used for LAND, 16×16 meter land parcels that users can purchase in the game with the cryptocurrency MANA. The combination of all of these creates a complex crypto-economy.
While a single, united metaverse is likely a long way off, we already can see developments that may lead to its creation. It looks to be yet another sci-fi use case for blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. If we will ever really reach the point of a metaverse is unsure. But in the meantime, we can already experience metaverse-like projects and continue to integrate blockchain more into our daily lives.