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These little-known types of coins are being touted as crypto to watch for 2022

February 18, 2022, 12:33 AM UTC

Cryptocurrencies rallied in 2021 to become some of the year’s best performing investments. But this year, the story is a little different: Bitcoin, the most widely-owned crypto, is down 11% while runner up Ether has tumbled 19%. 

Besides waiting for the biggest cryptocurrencies to rebound, investors are looking for new opportunities. Metaverse tokens, used within virtual worlds to buy things like land or in-game items like avatar accessories, are considered by some to be among the top contenders for 2022.

“They have huge potential,” said Shehan Chandrasekera, an angel investor and head of tax strategy at CoinTracker.

Metaverse tokens include MANA, used within the metaverse platform Decentraland, and SAND, the coin of the land in the metaverse known as the Sandbox. You can use both of the cryptocurrencies to buy land and in-game items in their respective metaverse platforms. Both of them rallied in value in November after Facebook refocused its business on creating a metaverse—going so far as to rebrand as Meta—and a tsunami of new money poured into rival metaverse platforms. 

An investor who bought MANA in 2017 would today have a nearly 12,000% return, according to CoinMarketCap. Last year alone, it shot up nearly 4,000%, from about 8 cents to $3.27. Meanwhile, an investor who bought SAND at its launch would have a nearly 45,600% gain today. Last year, SAND skyrocketed 9,400%.

Since the start of the year, both metaverse tokens have declined in value, as has the broader crypto market. MANA is down about 7% compared to the beginning of the year while SAND is down more than 36% from its price in early January. 

But many still consider them to have potential. 

Chandrasekera specifically mentioned Decentraland’s MANA as having promise. Decentraland is among the most popular metaverses, with about 300,000 monthly users. Fortune 500 companies such as JPMorgan Chase and Samsung have set up shop inside the service. That includes building virtual structures—user avatars can walk inside them—and creating experiences like virtual casinos, art galleries, or concert halls

Establishing a presence in Decentraland requires buying a plot of land, the cheapest of which costs 2.88 Ether or about $8,500, as of Thursday, according to Parcel, which tracks metaverse land prices. Some of the most expensive plots have sold for millions of dollars.

In the Sandbox, another virtual metaverse, users can also buy land and create play-to-earn experiences. Celebrities like Snoop Dogg and brands such as The Walking Dead own space in the Sandbox. In November, the platform said it had 30,000 monthly active users. The minimum price for a plot in The Sandbox was 3.66 Ether or $10,559, according to MetaMetric Solutions, which tracks metaverse land prices.

Users of both The Sandbox and Decentraland can also buy property using MANA and SAND. 

John Dough, a crypto analyst for cryptocurrency exchange, said the key to a successful metaverse token is its utility. Giving people something to spend its tokens on gives those tokens more staying power.

Even more important to a token’s success is for people to be able to create play-to-earn games in these metaverse platforms, Dough said. In both Decentraland and the Sandbox, users can earn the native cryptocurrency while playing and then spend it or convert it into U.S. dollars or another currency.

Such games can attract masses of players to a specific crypto, said Dough.

“I think that’s going to be the next chapter in crypto. It’s going to be super popular coming up here within this next year,” he said. 

Overall, the gaming industry generates $300 billion in revenue globally, according to professional services company Accenture. For metaverses, capturing just a slice of that market would help create big crypto economies within them. 

More generally, Investment banks predict that metaverses will become huge cash cows. JPMorgan has predicted that the market opportunity in the metaverse could be worth a trillion dollars annually in the next couple of years. Morgan Stanley is even more optimistic, saying in a note to investors that the metaverse in the future could be worth $8 trillion dollars in China alone—even if adoption may take “a long time” because of technological and regulatory hurdles.

In either case, it could bode well for metaverse tokens like MANA and SAND, according to Dough and Chandrasekera.

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