The 21st century has proven to be quite interesting in terms of technological innovations; people are now exploring virtual worlds, also dubbed ‘the metaverse’. This futuristic concept borrows heavily from modern-day technologies, including augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and blockchain. Ideally, the metaverse introduces a digital ecosystem where users can experience alternate realities through personalized avatars.
That said, not everyone seems to believe in the potential of this emerging virtual world; a take that might as well be valid, given that we are still in the early stages of development. According to critics, the existing metaverse ecosystems are based on speculation narratives instead of the fundamental utility. So far, only a small percentage of virtual land parcels on Decentraland and the Sandbox have changed hands since the first purchase.
While holding these digital assets might pay off in the long -term, it beats the logic of metaverse ecosystems; the whole idea is to increase value by developing on the property. That said, investors are not to fully blame for this shortcoming, the current metaverse worlds have major software limitations. In their current state, innovators can barely integrate high resolution games or other on-chain activities.
Meta’s debut of Horizon World has also attracted negative sentiments about the metaverse, with some stakeholders terming the product as an ‘old idea’. Phil Libin, the CEO of Mmhmm, is one of the tech veterans that have expressed disappointment in Horizon World. According to Libin, Meta’s ‘Web 3.0’ digital world is underwhelming,
"I had a very, very strong feeling that it would suck, but I went into it with as much hope as possible that I would be pleasantly surprised. It was only tolerable for a few minutes," noted Libin during an interview with Business Insider.
On the Brighter Side
Like any other new innovation, the metaverse was bound to have some challenges. Therefore, it makes no sense to dismiss this nascent tech based on a few failed experiments. According to projections by JP Morgan, there is a trillion-dollar opportunity in the metaverse. The bank has also invested in a piece of virtual property on the Decentraland metaverse. More importantly, we are seeing a new generation of hyper-realistic objects with a better value proposition.
The upcoming crop of innovations in this niche is more utility-oriented. For instance, the Looking Glass Labs (LGL) metaverse world Project Origin features an advanced digital ecosystem where users can play mini-games, swap NFTs, earn rewards and engage with other creator communities. Additionally, LGL’s leading brand House of Kibaa provides customized NFT solutions to businesses and individuals.
Looking at such developments, one can get a gist of where the metaverse is headed; value will gradually shift towards practical innovations. This is probably the reason why even big tech like Microsoft have been making strategic moves to get a piece of the metaverse pie. The firm had earlier on proposed to acquire gaming publisher Activision Blizzard to advance its footprint in the metaverse economy.
“When we talk about the metaverse, we’re describing both a new platform and a new application type, similar to how we talked about the web and websites in the early ’90s. It’s no longer just playing a game with friends. You can be in the game with them.” said Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella in a keynote address.
As far as innovation cycles are concerned, the metaverse is still in the first stage. Most of the adoption is within the crypto and gaming communities. However, it is notable that there has been a growing interest from other prospects, including Wall Street and giant tech companies. This trend will likely continue given the potential for growth and the ongoing paradigm shift to digital ecosystems.
The big question, however, is whether people will adopt centralized or decentralized metaverse ecosystems? While it may be too early to predict, the latter enjoys more favourable odds but there is also the possibility of an integration. After all, the metaverse will be built by different players according to Meta’s founder Mark Zuckerberg,
“The metaverse will not be created by one company. It will be built by creators and developers making new experiences and digital items that are interoperable and unlock a massively larger creative economy than the one constrained by today’s platforms and their policies.”