What is the Metaverse? A guide to Metaverses in 2021
by Corporate Trash
If you’ve recently joined the NFT space, you may be seeing a lot of mentions of “the metaverse.” But what exactly is the metaverse, and what does it have to do with your NFTs?
Today, we’ll explain what the metaverse is, how these socially-focused digital worlds can unlock the full potential of NFTs, and the metaverses that are dominating the space.
A Brief History of Metaverses
By definition, the metaverse is “a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users.” But that’s really just the start. While many fictional works have depicted the metaverse in some way or another, the term originated in Snow Crash, a 1992 novel by Neal Stephenson. In this novel, humans interact as avatars in a 3D space.
Applications like Second Life, Minecraft, and Roblox explored vast virtual universes. Perhaps the most popular application of this concept is in Steven Spielberg’s 2018 film Ready Player One, where human avatars in the metaverse could be customized, and players could purchase items to use in the game.
NFTs in the Metaverse
As we speak, universal standards are being worked on in order to unlock the true power of NFTs within the metaverse. The reason why your NFTs are so important to the metaverse is that they are owned by you and, in an ideal state, able to be used freely, including buying, trading, and selling outside of that metaverse.
Their decentralized nature allows your NFTs to be used in an open ecosystem, with proven ownership on the blockchain.
For example, if you purchased items for your avatar in a video game today, you can’t transfer those items to another video game, meaning you don’t truly own them outright. The items are encompassed only in that one universe. If that game shut down, you would lose your avatar and all those items. But in a singular metaverse, you own your NFT. You’re also able to sell it, trade it, and do what you want with it.
Massive video game companies are working on their own layers of the metaverse, with the budget and experience to skyrocket their version into a reality. Epic Games — the creators of Fortnite and Gears of War — just received a $1 billion investment for their version of the metaverse, and Activision is working on their own.
Major Metaverse Games in 2021
Currently, there is no one singular metaverse. There are many metaverse platforms trying to bring in users. Each of them has their own unique qualities, some focused more on gaming than others.
Some of these players are Decentraland, The Sandbox Game, Cryptovoxels, and Somniuum Space — and each of them are unique. Many have partnered with popular NFTs, promising 3D utility and camaraderie in their corner of the metaverse.
These platforms also offer virtual land offerings, which are rapidly rising in popularity amongst the NFT crowd. One estate in Decentraland recently sold for $913,808 worth of MANA — the game’s Ethereum-backed token.
Here is a quick rundown of these unique layers within the metaverse, which are all operated on the Ethereum blockchain. To access them, you need decent processing power, a web browser like Chrome, and a cryptocurrency wallet like MetaMask.
Founded in 2017, Decentraland is one of the largest virtual worlds. There is no central server, meaning it is truly decentralized. Its content is run from its users’ computers, all around the world. Its native cryptocurrency is MANA, which users can spend to buy land or access experiences.
Decentraland focuses on gaming, but land owners can do a lot with their virtual property. Some options are to build games, casinos, shopping centers, art galleries, or music venues — but the possibilities are endless.
Many “real-world” experiences can take place within Decentraland, like Art Week, block parties, and even concerts. These can be found on their events calendar. Big-name brands like Atari own property in Decentraland, where users can play together in a virtual arcade.
Horse-racing NFT game Zed Run also purchased a large plot of land in Decentraland, which may have eventual augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications. Zed co-founder Chris Laurent said: “You could put a headset on and see some horses run up the Las Vegas strip, or pull your phone out and simulate them running through the actual environment in front of you.”
Bored Ape Yacht Club recently partnered with Decentraland to give each ape-holder a free wearable hoodie. Soon after, the community came together in Decentraland to celebrate and show off their hoodies. Other wearables to customize your avatar are available on OpenSea or on Decentraland’s own marketplace.
The Sandbox Game
The Sandbox Game is one of the newest and fastest-growing virtual worlds, where gaming is the main use case. Players, curators, creators, and landowners use SAND (their native cryptocurrency) to buy assets and experiences on the platform.
The Sandbox Game offers asset and game-making tools with no coding experience needed, and these artists can sell their offerings in the Sandbox marketplace.
One of the main reasons that The Sandbox Game has become so popular is that they have been partnering with many of the hottest NFTs around. They also have a large presence from big-name brands like Atari, Care Bears, Smurfs, and Rollercoaster Tycoon — all of which have bought large parcels of land in the game.
Some of the biggest NFTs to do a Sandbox game land grab are Bored Ape Yacht Club, Zed Run, VoxoDeus, RTFKT Studios, Cryptokitties, Blankos, Hashmasks, Metakey, and many more. NFT community members are drawn to the Sandbox Game because they want to own land near their community. The latest Sandbox LAND sale sold out 1,080 LANDs in seconds, with many Zed Run owners claiming parcels near the Zed Run HQ in Sandbox.
There are still weeks to go in the Sandbox Summer Jam LAND sale, with a drop every week through the month of July. The Sandbox Game LANDs are touted as being larger than some other virtual worlds, with more than enough room to build out whatever you like on your land.
Cryptovoxels is a virtual world that is currently much smaller than some of the others listed here. However, anyone can access the Cryptovoxels world as a guest, without signing up, making it one of the easiest to get started in and navigate.
Similarly, building assets and land is simple with their Minecraft-like builder, and its virtual land is amongst the most affordable.
Their small-but-mighty development team has also been praised for pushing updates to the metaverse almost daily. The team says the game is only “one-fifth” what they want it to be — so there’s surely much more to come.
Somnium Space is a virtual world focused on VR asset creation and monetization. Using Somnium Cubes (their native cryptocurrency), users can buy and sell properties for use cases like gaming, conferencing, e-commerce, and other events. You can see these upcoming events on their events page.
Somnium Space supports 3D headsets like Oculus out of the box, which makes for some really cool experiences.
NFT project Hashmasks recently teamed up with Somnium Space to create their own gallery and introduce Hashmasks wearables.
The Museum of Crypto Art (MOCA) also just premiered within Somnium Space.
What’s Next for the Metaverse
With all of these choices, how do you know which metaverse game to spend your time in?
The founder of Metakey offered up some interesting ways to analyze the potential. If the community is growing, or if the game is serving its community well, this could be good for its momentum. Also, it’s a good sign if the metaverse has a unique offering for their user base — like Somnium Space and VR. Another thing to look for is if they have the funding to last three to five years.
Players, artists, and investors alike can all benefit from the various aspects of these platforms. There are endless resources available in the form of Medium posts, YouTube videos, and Twitch streams where you can learn how to build and monetize — it’s just a matter of digging in and getting started.
It’s no question that not all of these players will last. But teaming up with the biggest NFTs in the space may be the smartest way for any platform to tap into the passion of the NFT community.
After all, nobody wants to be the only Bored Ape without a land to call their own.
Follow Corporate Trash on Twitter: @corporatetrash1.
Disclosure: Corporate Trash owns two Sandbox Game LANDs, three Sandbox Game Assets, and two Decentraland wearables at the time of this post.