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Following increased interest in big tech companies like Microsoft, Meta (formerly Facebook), and Nvidia, expect the metaverse to grab more headlines in 2022. Leaders across diverse industries — including blockchain, gaming, arts, retail, fashion, healthcare, and more — are digging deep to understand the immersive world of the metaverse and how to position themselves as key players in an emerging ecosystem.
Last month, Gartner listed the metaverse as one of the five impactful technologies from the list of 23 emerging trends and technologies in its Emerging Technologies and Trends Impact Radar for 2022. As these technologies evolve and become increasingly adopted, global total spending on VR/AR, two technologies the metaverse relies on, is estimated to reach $72.8 billion in 2024 — up from $12 billion in 2020.
The metaverse concept has wide-sweeping potential, according to Gary Grossman, senior VP of the technology practice at Edelman and global lead of the Edelman AI Center of Excellence. Grossman noted that AI, VR, AR, 5G, and blockchain may converge to power the metaverse — adding that the sum will be far greater than the parts in that convergence. Companies continue to delve into the metaverse to leverage what’s been termed the next version of the internet or the next best thing to a working teleportation device, in the words of Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. What will the metaverse ecosystem look like this year? Let’s take a closer look.
The metaverse is buzzing
First, let’s talk about the buzz. The metaverse became a buzzword last year, especially on the heels of Meta’s announcement to create 3D social environments linked to its Oculus headsets as a major company direction. But what really is the metaverse? While there have been numerous conversations around metaverses and the future of Web 3.0, more discussions are certain to spring up this year as we see more events like the upcoming Metaverse Summit 2022.
Andrew White, Gartner’s chief of research, data, and analytics in an article published on Gartner titled “Really, What is the metaverse?” said the metaverse will effectively be a digital twin of the universe.
White described the video game Warcraft — a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) — as a good example of a metaverse, citing its persistent nature, independent instance, freedom, and interoperability as evidence. Expanding on White’s explanation, Gartner defines metaverse as “a persistent and immersive digital environment of independent, yet interconnected networks that will use yet-to-be-determined protocols for communications. It enables persistent, decentralized, collaborative, interoperable digital content that intersects with the physical world’s real-time, spatially oriented and indexed content.”
The metaverse will provide the opportunity to see our virtual presence supplement the physical one. In the metaverse, instead of attending conferences physically, you could be there in the virtual world. Rather than learning history from a book, you could be right there witnessing it as though you were a part of the events in real-time.
The decentralized vs. centralized battle
The decentralized vs. centralized battle is heating up as organizations race for leadership in the metaverse. Several decentralized projects claim that big tech giants like Meta will pose a threat to the open/decentralized metaverse, where users have a say in how platforms are run. While the increased interest of big tech companies has skyrocketed the metaverse hype, many decentralized metaverses like The Sandbox, Decentraland, Wilder World, Starlink, and others had been building different metaverse projects long before now.
Blockchain analytics firm, IntoTheBlock, noted in a report that closed/centralized metaverses are subject to some inherent limitations of the web 2.0 mode. Additionally, they are expected to result in an opaque and less secure network where the value created does not accrue to its users, as would be the case with a platform built on a decentralized blockchain like Ethereum.
However, other experts say multiple metaverse platforms will come together to form a converged environment regarded as “the true metaverse” in the future.
Top metaverses to watch in 2022
While there are several metaverse projects out there — including Treeverse, CryptoTanks, Metahero, and others — investors are watching these three metaverses based on their market caps, exciting innovations, and founders.
1. The Sandbox
The Sandbox is a decentralized metaverse reminiscent of Minecraft built on Ethereum, where users can buy Land as nonfungible tokens (NFTs) that they can customize and monetize. Multiple Lands can be purchased to form estates and even districts.
Some big names have already started building on The Sandbox, including Atari and Bored Ape Yacht Club. American rapper Snoop Dogg recently built a replica of his mansion in The Sandbox and plans to host live performances in the digital mansion.
The token associated with The Sandbox is SAND, and with a market cap of $4.5 billion, as well as recently launching their limited time, play-to-earn alpha on November 29th, this metaverse is one that investors can watch out for in 2022.
Decentraland is a metaverse also built on Ethereum, and it is reminiscent of The Sims or Second Life. The token associated with Decentraland is MANA, and is used to facilitate in-game purchases.
According to Decentraland, users can purchase NFT plots called LAND, which are 33×33 virtual feet. Merging plots of land will form an estate, and multiple conjoining LAND-owners with similar interests can form a district. LAND-owners can also rent out their space for special events and concerts. Until now, the most expensive LAND estate sold for $2.3 million.
With a market cap of approximately $5.6 billion, Decentraland will remain in the center of metaverse discussions in 2022.
3. Wilder World
Wilder World is a newer metaverse than The Sandbox and Decentraland. Built on Ethereum, Unreal Engine 5, and its sister company ZERO.tech, Wilder World is a metaverse based on photorealism. Wilder World’s team consists of experienced 5D artists — including founder Frank Wilder and Chad Knight who was previously at Nike — that help to create exquisite in-game graphics for Wilder World’s metaverse.
The first city built in the Wilder World metaverse is #Wiami, a 1 to 1 replica of the city Miami. Like Miami in real life, Wilder World says #Wiami is poised to become the crypto hub of the metaverse. Wilder World is powered by the token $WILD, which can be used to purchase NFTs such as wilder.kicks, wilder.wheels, and wilder.cribs. The NFTs’ value doesn’t just stop at aesthetics. NFT owners can use their items in-game or stake their NFTs to earn more rewards.
Several big names across various industries have already started setting up shop in #Wiami, including former NBA player Baron Davis, entrepreneur Anthony “Pomp” Pompliano, and VaynerNFT.
Wilder World currently has a fraction of the market caps of The Sandbox and Decentraland, which makes it an excellent investment opportunity for investors, according to Wilder.
Other top metaverses to watch out for include Axie Infinity, Enjin, and Meta — all of which offer exciting futuristic projections for the metaverse.
What’s next for the metaverse?
In a Forbes article, Vlad Panchenko, the CEO and founder of DMarket, said that the metaverse of the future will include the following:
- Ubiquitous networking
- Blockchain with NFTs
- Extended Reality (XR) with VR and AR
- Other newer technologies
Pachenko also added that the metaverse will grow into the omniverse with multiple cross-chain possibilities. Semiconductor chip manufacturing company Intel notes the metaverse will require 1,000 times more computing power than what is currently available.
“Truly persistent and immersive computing, at scale and accessible by billions of humans in real time, will require even more: a 1,000 times increase in computational efficiency from today’s state of the art,” wrote Intel senior vice president Raja Koduri.
Although it’s still in the early days, the metaverse conversation will grow stronger in 2022 as organizations continue on the path to embracing an inevitably digital future. While 2022 may not exactly be the year when the metaverse booms massively, it’s positioned to be a solid beginning for the impending boom. As Grossman said in his article, “whether it takes three years or 10, there is huge momentum behind the metaverse, with seemingly unlimited funding.”
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