What is Metaverse?
For decades, the grand potential of virtual worlds existed only in the pages of science fiction novels. Today, “metaverse” is one of the buzziest words in tech, and is being enthusiastically embraced by software and game developers across industries ranging from crypto and gaming — to social media. The metaverse has become a very real phenomenon featuring a number of thriving platforms with increasingly extensive crypto integrations.
A metaverse is a shared, immersive virtual world in which players, usually represented by avatars, can interact with each other, construct experiences, and create in-world objects and landscapes. Metaverses typically have their own intrinsic economies and currencies, with which users can buy, sell, and trade digital real estate, items, avatar accessories, and more. You can experience the metaverse via a computer, virtual reality (VR) headset, or smartphone.
What is Crypto Metaverse?
Specifically, a crypto metaverse is a metaverse that incorporates blockchain into its underlying technology and crypto assets, such as metaverse tokens, into its economy. Examples of crypto metaverses and protocols that incorporate metaverse elements include Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, Alien Worlds, Axie Infinity, and The Sandbox. While metaverse-like environments have existed in massive-multiplayer online games for some time now, the incorporation of blockchain, crypto, and VR into the sector is not just drastically altering who can participate and what they can do, but also demonstrating the real-world market value of assets, interactions, and experiences earned in the digital realms of blockchain games. Metaverse crypto assets and items — such as digital land and objects, for example — are typically represented by different types of metaverse tokens. Their ownership is recorded on blockchain and can even be exchanged for digital assets like bitcoin (BTC) and ether (ETH) on a number of decentralized exchanges (DEXs).
Key Features of Crypto Metaverses
Designers of crypto metaverses have generally sought to distinguish their worlds from earlier iterations of metaverses in several key ways:
While early virtual worlds were owned and controlled by companies, crypto metaverses are typically decentralized, with some or all components of metaverse games built on blockchain technology. This means that blockchain metaverses themselves tend to diverge from the mainstream business structures and value extraction models of today’s gaming industry. The unique structure of blockchain games can open up more equitable engagement opportunities for participants. It also means that ownership of the metaverse itself is shared amongst its participants. Even if the original creators of the metaverse blockchain were to walk away, the game itself could continue to exist in perpetuity.
Crypto metaverses like Decentraland make use of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and governance tokens to help put their users in control of the game’s future, allowing them to drive changes and updates through voting. In this way, metaverses can be more than just crypto games — they can grow into entire societies with economies and democratic leadership.
In-world items in crypto metaverses take the form of crypto tokens, such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Achievements and acquisitions in gaming environments can represent huge value to gamers. NFTs update the standards of in-game items with much needed transparency and access to asset markets. Because every NFT is unique, metaverse tokens and items can be coded to easily help prove the provenance of in-game user-generated content as well as NFT gaming assets.
Real-world economic value
Because crypto metaverses use crypto tokens and blockchain infrastructure, their economies are directly connected to the wider crypto economy. This allows holders of metaverse tokens, avatar skins, and digital real estate to trade them on DEXs and NFT marketplaces, commanding real-world value for their in-world investments.
Why are crypto and blockchain important for the metaverse?
The metaverse is a connected, online universe explorable via 3D avatars. Users can work, socialize, create, and learn all in one place. Think of it as the next evolution of the internet experience.
While the web has PayPal and card payments, the metaverse has crypto to help create a digital economy.
Crypto Projects in Metaverse
The Sandbox (SAND)
The Sandbox is a blockchain game where users explore a virtual world containing NFTs (non-fungible tokens), user-created environments, and other content. Founded as a mobile game in 2011, The Sandbox has developed into a complex game on Ethereum using Ether (ETH), and the token SAND to power its in-game economy.
Players create their own avatar and digital identity, a key concept for the metaverse. An avatar can be associated with a crypto wallet to manage a player's NFTs, SAND tokens, and other blockchain assets. A player can even create games and virtual items using the VoxEdit and Game Maker tools. These powerful programs can create complex and professional video game assets, which you can then turn into NFTs. As users can trade these items, this has developed a play-to-earn model where users can make extra income by playing The Sandbox.
Decentraland is a 3D universe where players develop their plots of land, host events, create content, and engage in other social activities. The core economy of Decentraland is based on blockchain to establish digital identities, ownership, and rarity for unique items. It's one of the most famous and well-known projects predating the big metaverse craze in late 2021.
Founded in 2016, Estaban Ordano and Ari Meilich took a basic 2D game and grew it into a large world with NFTs worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The project also has its own ERC-20 utility token MANA.
So how does Decentraland slot into the metaverse? Well, it ticks a lot of the metaverse boxes: a 3D interface, a digital economy, social elements, and in-game events. With more projects connecting to Decentraland, it also has the aspect of a metaverse hub. Decentraland is also particularly famous for its virtual real estate NFT called LAND. Along with providing voting power in Decentraland's decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), LAND has seen a huge rise in its price, making it popular among traders and investors.
decentral.games is a metaverse casino governed through a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) that also runs 3D virtual events with NFTs. The casino's ecosystem is powered by its utility token (DG). Players can earn DG tokens by playing games, providing liquidity to liquidity pools, and participating in governance votes over the platform's house funds treasury.
The dgTreasury is the source of the casino's bankroll for payouts. It also collects MANA and DAI transaction fees that users spend playing games like Blackjack and Roulette. Users can generate passive income and play simultaneously, bringing together two of the key elements of a metaverse. The idea of running, owning, and playing in your own casino is a concept that blockchain can easily facilitate.
Alien Worlds is a blockchain NFT game available on the Binance Smart Chain, Ethereum blockchain, and WAX. Players own land, battle, and collect NFTs in a sci-fi galaxy competing to earn Trilium (TLM) cryptocurrency. There are four main aspects to the platform:
- Planet DAOs: Users can participate in on-chain elections and governance mechanisms on how to run the planet they're a part of. This could include decisions on how to spend funds in the planet's treasury.
- Collecting NFTs: Alien Worlds players can use NFTs to mine TLM, complete quests, and fight other players. A deck of NFTs can be created that fits the player's strategy.
- Staking: Trilium holders can stake their tokens behind planets to vote to increase their reward pool and influence elections.
- Cross-chain bridge: Users can bridge their TLM between BSC, WAX, and Ethereum.
Metaverse games are a social and investment opportunity. While crypto metaverses (and NFT games in general) are still in the early stages of development, these new worlds present intriguing social and financial opportunities for the future. Crypto metaverses can offer users new ways to play, invest, gather, and interact — and to earn from it all. Further, while development on the myriad singular metaverse platforms is highly noteworthy, it’s the potential for the various metaverse games to interact and interoperate with one another that could drive the budding blockchain gaming ecosystem into a pillar of the global economy. By incorporating the immersive environments of VR, the addictive playability of video games, the interactivity of social media, and the value propositions of crypto, metaverse games are poised to become a central element in the next phase of the internet.