Meta, Facebook’s parent company, recently invested $10 billion in “the metaverse,” which incorporates elements of mixed reality to let users “live” in a virtual world. But the social media giant faces considerable competition. Many other tech corporations, startups, and virtual communities are creating their own digital universes.
Facebook spent $10 billion on the metaverse this year alone, with plans to put even more money towards the project later on. While the company’s investors may not approve in the short term, interactive digital spaces represent the future of tech.
Thanks to the rising popularity of cryptocurrencies and other digital assets like NFTs, the metaverse might well pay off as a long-term investment. The pioneers who work their way into the game early could control the digital world later.
Not surprisingly, Facebook is already worried about the competition. “As we invest in the metaverse, we know that we face fierce competition from companies like Microsoft, Google, Apple, Snap, Sony, Roblox, Epic, and many others at every step of this journey,” the company said in a statement to Vox last week.
Microsoft, too, has taken advantage of the market’s momentum. The company is integrating a new mixed reality platform called Mesh into Microsoft Teams, a communication service with over 250 million active users per month. According to project developers, combining these platforms should make online meetings more interactive. The Microsoft metaverse will incorporate AI-generated avatars.
New community-focused digital worlds are also emerging to claim their rights to the metaverse. In early November, the Sandbox raised $93 million from Soft Bank’s Vision Fund 2 to build a “player-owned economy.” The company’s representative says these funds will help accelerate the growth of its open metaverse. In the Sandbox gaming ecosystem, users can create and monetize their virtual experiences.
Attempts to blend the physical and digital worlds aren’t just about innovative game design or the future of work. New players are also experimenting with collective ownership, group governance, and communal decision-making. The Presidents, a virtual community and NFT collection that recently launched on Binance, is taking these experiments to the next level.
The project aims to build an online ecosystem where participants vote and make “infrastructural” decisions, including approval of new features and upgrades to the system. Users would also be able to monetize their time whether or not they win, a model known as play-to-earn.
Currently, The Presidents is one of the largest digital portrait collections of prominent political figures, featuring more than 20,000 avatars. Its 50 global leaders include internationally recognized heads of the state alongside crypto pioneers, such as the founders of Ethereum, Binance, and TRON.
The collection was partially generated by AI, which enhanced the NFTs with 246 “traits” — bandanas, medical masks, cyborg arms, and zombie eyes. One avatar can be minted for 0.3 Binance Coin (BNB) using the Metamask wallet. An exclusive portrait of Satoshi Nakamoto, creator of the blockchain protocol, is also included in the collection.
As an extra incentive, project founders have promised a “refund” to anyone who joins early. Users who mint more than 50 Presidents will be placed in the ecosystem’s cashback pools, receiving anywhere from 180 BNB to 420 BNB, depending on the number of NFTs they own.
At the core of The Presidents’ metaverse is the governance token, which grants users access to the platform’s governance system. Once all 20,000 avatars are minted, users can join Cards, a GameFi app, where they have the chance to play using NFTs and receive the token as a reward.
With the increasing popularity of cryptocurrencies and NFTs, the metaverse is an obvious next step in the evolution of technology. And it might have implications beyond the way we work, communicate, or play games. The mass adoption of digital identities, ownership, and governance could lead to blockchain-based self-sovereign systems. Only the future will tell whether this brave new world will be community-run or controlled by a tech corporation.
By Victoria Zavyalova, co-founder, V Startup Agency
First published on Benzinga