The idea of humans having deep experiences that engage our consciousness pre-dates the NFT era. Desired by some and feared by others, the concept of a parallel digital existence has been on the minds of many for decades, but how and when it would manifest would be another matter.
Computer-based virtual worlds have been built since the technology has allowed it and virtual worlds with their own economies are not a new concept, as the digital age matured so too have these worlds. In this age of decentralization secured by cryptography, new ecosystems of metaverses are evolving.
The development of the gaming world has always been closely tied to the development of virtual worlds and this symbiotic relationship has been intertwined since the 1970s when massively multiplayer online role-playing games (more commonly known as MMORPG) were born.
The internet offered connectivity never encountered before and early text-based online games that were originally known as Multi-User Dungeon (or MUD) thrived.
There are many virtual worlds (VRChat, Verbella, …), each with its own flavor and user base.
Verbella is centered around friendly spaces to attend conferences, meetings, and lectures, whereas in VRChat, you are more likely to attend a rave!
Since the revolving global lockdowns, interest in socializing in virtual spaces has increased. Virtual worlds and economies are not new.
For example, Second Life was launched in 2003 and is the largest virtual world built by thousands of creators from around the world. Millions of virtual items are being sold on its marketplace.
Even Second Life’s thriving economy has its limitations. Like all virtual economies, whether within a game or in a virtual world marketplace, finding a fair, transparent system that has verifiable traceable ownership still seems out of reach.
Digital LAND is at the core of any blockchain metaverse, making it possible to trade, loan, rent, develop and build on LAND which is verifiably yours, unique, and decentralized. LAND constitutes the fabric of blockchain worlds.
One of the first blockchain-based worlds was Decentraland. Their ICO ran at the end of 2017, raising over $26 Million. They held a digital land auction or ‘Terraform Event’ at that time where interested parties could purchase LAND with MANA, an ERC-20 utility token.
By the Summer of 2018, Voxels had issued their own LAND token representing a voxel-based digital world, where it was a priority to create an environment allowing anyone with any skill or ability level to easily participate and create.
Since then, other blockchain-based worlds have been created and issued LAND. Some are more VR-orientated worlds with gamified elements, others are a universe filled with different video games created by gamers…
LAND’s scarcity and uniqueness combine with its traceable and decentralized nature to create a valuable asset. Owning LAND goes beyond digital ownership: it also opens the door to a host of other opportunities, such as the ability to monetize LAND. For instance, creators and businesses can sell their own work from a gallery or store built on LAND they own, among many other possibilities akin to real-world ownership and opportunities.
LAND acts as any other ERC-721 token does since it can be traded on digital marketplaces such as OpenSea. Each piece of LAND represents a plot or area within a world. These plots can be grouped together to create larger estates and populated with a larger project, business, or game.
VR worlds that are not blockchain-based all face similar issues around the true ownership of digital goods and of the worlds themselves. Indeed, they are run by companies on centralized servers which have their own vulnerabilities and rules that are imposed from the top down.
One of the problems within both gaming and virtual world ecosystems has been to integrate real-world systems into virtual ones in a complementary way.
Monetization is just one aspect of this. There is also cross-platform interoperability to consider and that doesn’t just mean being able to sell your digital assets across all marketplaces but also, for example, the possibility to keep all your assets (digital avatar, wearables, NFTs, cryptos, in-game items…) across different worlds.
One of the biggest challenges for metaverses is interoperability with other NFT projects. Indeed, as each NFT has its own smart contract and standards, interactions between multiverses are not always easy to achieve. To our knowledge, there has yet to be an NFT that is interoperable between multiple blockchains.
While Decentraland continues work on its builder where you can now use NFT frames to display other NFTs publicly on LANDS, CryptoVoxels has been allowing free image uploading for a long time. This enables all artists to link their creations directly to the URL of the desired sales platform.