The terms “metaverse”, “play-to-earn” and “web 3” have been thrown around on both crypto media and mainstream news sites with almost religious fervor during the crypto bull run at the end of 2021. Then, as crypto prices began to tank, so did the interest in this incoming revolution. With so much early hype behind these concepts, especially the mythical metaverse in which we are supposed to immerse ourselves in 24/7, what gives?
Although metaverse projects like Decentraland and Sandbox have been around for years, the term only became mainstream when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the strategic rebranding of his company to Meta in October of 2021. Since then, there’s been one big distinction in these metaverses: are they decentralized (therefore Web 3) or being built by the current generation of Web 2 gatekeepers? And does it even matter at this early stage?
In this article we’ll take a look at the state of the Metaverse in early 2022, and what to expect from these first generation virtual utopias this year.
What is the metaverse?
The novelist Neal Stephenson was the first to coin the term metaverse when he conceptualized a “computer-generated universe” in one of his novels back in 1992. Although the massively multiplayer online (MMO) games that have existed for decades can be categorized as embryonic metaverses, the term had been dormant in the wider culture until recently.
In a much-publicized move, Facebook tried to plant an early flag and claim the metaverse by rebranding itself to Meta. For anyone that’s used its flagship Quest 2 model, it will be very evident that mainstream VR adoption is not that far off anymore; it is more a question of pricing and continued refinement and development. As a company, Meta seems well-positioned to make the strategic leap to VR/AR Land despite current negative sentiment. It won’t be Ready Player One exactly, but that hasn’t stopped doomsayers from ringing the bells of dystopia ahead of time.
So what are their plans? The word “meta” comes from the Greek word for “beyond,” which conveys the idea of a universe outside of our own. Mark Zuckerberg describes it as an embodied internet, going beyond simple text, photos, and video to a more immersive experience.
In other words, Facebook’s Metaverse will be a 3D-rendered version of the internet. As virtual reality (VR) and other technologies develop, the new internet will begin to take shape and allow us to immerse ourselves in environments created and shared by users.
Metaverse participants can express themselves and interact with each other through their unique avatars. The virtual worlds and cities will be filled with schools, workplaces, stadiums, and shopping centers, where people will be able to socialize, learn, work, play, and trade in new and inventive ways.
Big Tech and Disney To Clash in Metaverse
Facebook is not the only tech and media giant showing interest in taking part in the projected $50 billion metaverse global market. Companies like Nvidia, Microsoft, IBM, and Walt Disney are following in Facebook’s footsteps, committing resources to the promising new space and bringing their own futuristic, commercially-minded visions to it.
When it comes to creating universes, one could argue that Walt Disney has already paved the way. The entertainment and media multinational has extensive experience giving life to hundreds of iconic characters and worlds.
For Disney, it would be a matter of incorporating the best of what the metaverse has to offer into existing properties to provide an even more immersive experience. A potential Disney World metaverse would allow anyone to join Buzz Lightyear, Luke Skywalker, Spiderman, or any of their favorite heroes on an adventure.
Can Crypto Save the Metaverse?
Much has been said of the responsibility that lies on the shoulders of the crypto and blockchain space to ensure that the latest iteration of the Internet does not follow the footsteps of Web 2.0, where personal data and privacy have been largely ignored.
Web3 touts itself to be the privacy-resistant and data-protecting decentralized version of the Internet. While blockchain-powered applications in the metaverse will only be a minor part of Web3, it’s important for these projects to reach the finish line before the likes of Meta and Microsoft, in order to gain the necessary mainstream traction to change hearts and minds.
And they’re off to a good start. As of now, Decentraland and Sandbox are widely considered to be the most successful metaverse projects in crypto, with celebrities and companies from Snoop Dogg to JP Morgan “aping in” and buying up digital land en masse in Crypto Minecraft Land.
There’s a lot more coming though. Let’s take a look at a few other projects that are likely to attract the attention of the public for their game-changing potential.
(Please note: This article does not dispense any financial advice, but is for educational purposes only. It is important to note that we are navigating a completely new industry. As customary when dealing with an early-stage industry, many projects will fail, while others will scam uninformed investors. We recommended doing your own due diligence before deciding to invest in any project.)
5 Hot New Crypto Metaverse Projects for 2022
For now, most crypto metaverses are focused on gaming or social interaction only, and offer NFT land, objects, and play-to-earn incentives in order to encourage adoption. Here are a few of the best alternatives to Sandbox and Decentraland, in no particular order.
Bloktopia is a decentralized virtual reality skyscraper made of 21 levels that pays homage to Bitcoin’s 21 million maximum supply. Powered by the Polygon network, the virtual skyscraper will act as a central hub where enthusiasts will go to learn, earn, play, and create in an engaging and innovative atmosphere.
The Bloktopia metaverse will consist of real estate “bloks” that are completely user governed. Once a participant purchases a block, they’ll be able to resell, lease, or monetize it through advertisement and sponsorships.
The project has its own non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace and native token, BLOK, which serves as the in-game currency of the Bloktopia metaverse. BLOK is a governance token that grants voting rights to its holders, and can also be used for staking or the rewards program.
The skyscraper will also feature a Shark Tank-like environment named BLOK-BIT, where projects looking to raise funds can pitch their ideas and potentially receive funding from BLOK token holders.
Somnium Space (Ethereum)
Somnium Space is an Ethereum-based virtual reality platform. Within Somnium Space’s metaverse, users can purchase digital land, interact with each other, and trade in-game digital assets.
Once users acquire their piece of virtual real estate, they can build a variety of structures, such as customized homes, towers, restaurants, shopping malls, theaters, stadiums, and hotels.
Essentially, these virtual cities serve as a medium for participants to socialize, learn, work, and trade goods. Imagine people watching a baseball game in a stadium you assembled, going to a club you created, or watching a movie in a theater you designed. The best part is that creators get paid every time a user visits their virtual world.
Somnium Cube (CUBE) is the native token of the Somnium Space platform. The token follows the ERC-20 standard and powers all in-game transactions. To avoid the infamous Ethereum network fees during busy hours, Somnium Space is developing a second layer on the Polygon blockchain. Through a few clicks and the use of some ETH, users will be able to make thousands of free transactions.
Somnium Space is available for all the major PC-based VR headsets (VALVE, Oculus, HP HTC VIVE), and all Windows Mixed Reality headsets.
Axie Infinity “Kingdom” (Ethereum)
Most people in the cryptosphere are likely to have heard of Axie Infinity. The project became the biggest crypto gaming hit of 2021 and is recognized as being the leader in NFT gaming.
Axie Infinity is an Ethereum-based game universe filled with Pokémon-like creatures called Axies. The gameplay revolves around collecting Axies as pets and breeding them, raising them, and using them in battles.
Recently, Jeffrey Zirlin, co-founder of Axie Infinity, announced an exciting metaverse upgrade called Project K for “Kingdom.” The upgrade promises to bring even more layers to the game by allowing players to purchase and rent virtual land within the universe. Players will be able to build structures in their Kingdoms through the integration of city-builder mechanics, as well as harvest resources and fight for control of territory.
The universe has a player-owned economy where users can trade resources they earn in the game. The economy is based on a dual-token model, both coins of which follow the ERC-20 standard. Axie Infinity Shards (AXS) is the governance token for the Axie Universe and can be used to play the game, vote in governance matters, and stake. The other token, Smooth Love Potion (SLP), is fundamental to the reward structure and is earned by playing the game in battle or adventure modes.
Memoverse (Binance Smart Chain)
Memoverse is a memorization gamified platform with its own NFT marketplace and decentralized finance (DeFi) instruments. The premise is straightforward – turning the activity of memorization into a game so it is more fun and efficient.
The game is based on one of the most powerful mnemonic techniques ever developed, the memory palace. Fans of Sherlock Holmes will recognize the technique, as he used his “mind palace” to remember virtually everything.
This memorization approach isn’t just used by fictional detectives though. Memory champions are significant representatives and advocates of the method. A 30-minute session in a decentralized memory palace will help people remember any type of information.
Memoverse is a vibrant and addictive play-to-earn open world with city builder and puzzle mechanics. Players earn $MEMO tokens by creating or owning decentralized memory palaces and by competing in memorization tournaments.
Each NFT represents a specific 3D asset inside of the Memoverse for in-game use, and there are four categories: Land, Palaces, Rooms, and Locis (objects and items). The NFTs and assets designed by the users can be traded or sold on the Memoverse native marketplace.
Wilder World (Ethereum)
Built on the Ethereum blockchain, Wilder World is a metaverse that features lifelike graphics, thanks to the Unreal Engine 5. It also leverages Zero’s peer-to-peer social network and operating system to ensure transparent data ownership, platform incentives, and governance.
The project is pioneering its own decentralized NFT marketplace coupled with a dynamic token model, enabling co-ownership of NFTs and offering artists zero-percent fees on creations. NFTs are more than just collectibles in Wilder Worlds; they have utility within the metaverse, allowing for the customization of your avatar or as items that interact with the environment.
The project is governed by a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO). $WILD is the native token of Wilder World, offering both utility and governance within the metaverse. Token holders can vote and effectively decide the direction of the development and how to improve the world.
Backed by a team of over 70 full-time members and a loyal community of over 1,000 independent artists and programmers, Wilder World has amassed much attention and hype in a short period. It stands out among competing projects for being a fully decentralized and community-owned metaverse.
Honorable Mention: Star Atlas (Solana)
Star Atlas is a massively ambitious crypto metaverse project currently in development. Backed by some huge investors and boasting deep pockets, this sci-fi RPG game sends players time-travelling to the year 2620 where they zip through distant galaxies and undertake epic adventures on a cosmic scale.
With a bright future ahead, the concept of the metaverse has the potential to encompass numerous aspects of our daily lives. However, despite its enormous potential as an industry, mass adoption is presumably still at least a good few years away.
Before we can dive deep into truly immersive virtual worlds, we will need to wait for the optimization and dissemination of new technologies, such as better VR headsets, improved haptic devices, and even perhaps one day brain interfaces like Neuralink.
While technology moves at exponential growth rates, it is fair to say that we are still far from a future such as the ones seen in movies like Ready Player One or The Matrix. It might be hard to wait for the more impatient among us, but at least we can be pretty confident we’re on the right path.