How to make money in the Metaverse
The metaverse is primed to offer a vast number of different financial opportunities, as it represents a much wider shift in our interactions over the web. The exponential technologies, particularly in spatial and 3D computing, are enabling new kinds of shared experiences through virtual worlds, virtual reality and augmented environments. These experiences offer much more beyond simply online gaming or socialising, but a completely new way of interacting with people and data over the internet.
But how exactly will these different technologies converge? What will the end result look like? Before exploring financial opportunity, let me give a quick explanation of just what the metaverse is. To make sense of it, a good way to think about it is imagining the stack of tech that is building it and what each part contributes.
At the top level, we have the question of application and how people will interact with the metaverse. Certainly VR, AR and wearables like glasses will play a role in immersion, but metaverse experiences won’t be exclusive to them. Ultimately not everyone will have access to these kinds of technologies, so ensuring metaverse experiences are device agnostic will enable access for as many people as possible, so expect computers and mobiles to still play a pivotal role.
Going one layer deeper, we have a question of how the data coding the metaverse will be stored and shared. The major change from the past here is the role of blockchain, where it’s providing a decentralised method of data storage well suited to decentralised virtual worlds. As interactions over the web become more spatial and 3D, the data itself will be different, primarily in the form of being much larger datasets that require more computing power.
These data hungry applications are therefore changing the foundational layer of computation that we will use to power the metaverse. Centralised cloud computing was key to previous web applications, but now distributed cloud, edge and 5G are enabling greater access to scalable compute power. With this in reach for more people and organisations, creating metaverse worlds has never been easier.
And we’re beginning to see this with the plethora of companies building the metaverse. This is perhaps one of the most exciting things about the metaverse. While social media is dominated by Facebook and Twitter, the metaverse remains an untapped behemoth that companies can compete for. So just who are they, what are they building and how are they making money?
In the same way that the internet brought e-commerce, the metaverse will be the new platform on which all kinds of transactions take place. Virtual concerts have already gained traction with millions of attendees - though it should be noted they remain in ‘sharded’/split up worlds with only around 100 in each one. Famously, Epic Games held the Travis Scott concert in Fortnite as a major milestone in the metaverse.
Virtual workspaces is another exciting prospect, given the recent onset of remote/hybrid work. As we work at home, becoming siloed from team members mentally and in the physical sense can be damaging for both work satisfaction and the quality produced. These online offices in the metaverse offer an immersive way of connecting with work mates. We’re seeing a number of platforms offer these experiences such as Virbela, who offer a range of virtual spaces for any occasion. Platforms like Virbela provide support for VR, but understand the need for technology agnostic worlds as they will be more accessible if people can enter them through a range of devices.
Covid also created a need for virtual events and conferences, some of which I attended with my company. Most of these events were done through video calling features, but virtual worlds are giving us the ability to gain the sense of walking around and being immersed within an event. Xsolla Game Carnival achieved this where they created a world in which attendees could do far more than just on go on calls together, including social games and activities. Given the right setup, these events hold many advantages over physical ones when you consider the environmental cost of people traveling all over the world. While some occasions call for a physical presence, advanced web 3.0 and metaverse technology is allowing these virtual events to have a greater sense of realism and connectivity that was previously limited, due to the higher level of detail and scale that this tech brings to virtual worlds.
Crypto and NFTs have of course been another significant force in the metaverse. The growth of blockchain has been timed well in providing a reliable method of verification so that assets can be truly owned in the metaverse. Furthermore, transfer of funds or tokens across distributed online worlds traditionally would have been difficult, as a central party would be needed to permit a transaction. Essentially, before blockchain, it would have been tricky truly ‘owning’ something in the metaverse. If you can copy digital things so easily, how would you ever know you had the original? NFTs provide a secure way of verifying the true ownership of a virtual asset, so those wanting to own things in the metaverse can be assured that their ownership is recognised. Web 3.0's decentralised nature has its security concerns alleviated through blockchain, forming a key connection and mutual growth for all associated technologies. To explain this, consider the fact that gaming engines and cloud computing are enabling us to build bigger metaverse worlds. I might be interested in trying out these worlds, but what if I wanted to own something? Well then blockchain can plug that gap. These technologies compliment each other in the sense they’re building a new web together.
Gaming tech has been at the forefront of the metaverse with games like Fornite and Roblox becoming host to social activities rather than just playing. MMOs were arguably the first example of the metaverse, as people used gameworlds to socialise in. The difference between this and other metaverse experiences might be that there doesn’t have to be a game behind it, just a virtual world.We’re seeing more and more companies take advantage of this opportunity by introducing more of this social element that is flourishing. In my view, the ideal endgame here would be enabling people to move through these various game hubs and lobbies without having to change portals each time.
The challenge to achieve this is essentially two fold: computational power and networking. For the former, delivering the worlds to the users’ devices without gaps requires the server side to have enough computational power to simulate them and their ‘events’ fast enough to deliver a seamless experience. Legacy tech simply can’t manage this, but the scalability available over distributed cloud and edge computing offers the path. Scaling dynamically across cloud environments means compute power is delivered as needed. Similarly, there’s a question of how you sufficiently network these continuous worlds. In simpler terms, if you have thousands of people from across the globe going between these worlds, it’s extremely difficult to communicate each of their actions to each other in time. But once again web 3.0 tech is reimaging how we can solve this, opening a pathway to the metaverse becoming what it was envisaged to be.