We are now at an inflection point, where it seems that not a day goes by without a company or celebrity announcing that they are building a presence in a virtual universe.
The concept of a metaverse is not a new one. In many ways this is a linear progression. Online, multi-player, role-playing worlds like The Sims or Second Life have been around for nearly 20 years, with players spending an average of 20 hours per week in these worlds.9 Modern equivalents like Minecraft, World of Warcraft and Fortnite have hundreds of millions of users, and huge supporting economies.
We are now at an inflection point, where it seems that not a day goes by
without a company or celebrity announcing that they are building a presence
in a virtual universe. While the buzz can partially be attributed to attention- grabbing headlines, there is a convergence of emerging trends. A number of new technologies have come together to enable this vision of the metaverse. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets have become cheaper and more powerful, improving the user experience. Blockchain has enabled digital currencies and NFTs. The new methods to transact and own digital goods are allowing creators to monetize their activities through tokens.
In addition to monetization, and as a means to exchange value, token-holders can also participate in the platform’s governance (e.g. vote on decisions). This democratic ownership economy coupled with the possibility of interoperability, could unlock immense economic opportunities, whereby digital goods and services are no longer captive to a singular gaming platform or brand.
From a social perspective, the development of more immersive virtual experiences is helping people to build communities based on shared values, and to express themselves in more authentic ways. Meanwhile, COVID-19 accelerated the digitization of our lives and normalized more persistent and multi-purpose online engagement and communication. It is this combination of technological, social and economic drivers that is resulting in the explosive interest in the metaverse.