The metaverse is many things to many people. But one thing that’s clear is the amount of attention it has received in the past year.
From a niche term limited to hard-core believers, the metaverse, loosely referring to a variety of virtual world platforms, has now become part of the business world’s vernacular. Companies including Samsung, Miller Lite, and J.P. Morgan have created their own spaces on metaverse platforms, with others like McDonald’s and Nike making plans to incorporate it into their businesses.
In Fortune’s video series N3w Lands: An Exploration of the Metaverse, experts from many areas of the metaverse talk about the potential of the emerging sector, in their own words.
In terms of potential revenue, analysts disagree on a concrete number, but it is said to be in the trillions of dollars. J.P. Morgan wrote in a report last month that the metaverse represents a $1 trillion yearly revenue opportunity in the coming years, as individuals buy and sell ever more valuable virtual land, items for their virtual avatars, or physical products from virtual stores. But Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley think potential revenues from the emerging sector could be even higher. Goldman said in January that the metaverse could be more like an $8 trillion opportunity. Morgan Stanley followed up in February by saying the metaverse could be worth $8 trillion in China alone.
Facebook brought increased attention to the metaverse in October when it changed its name to Meta and promised to refocus on the metaverse as a business. Since then, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg pledged $10 billion in spending to develop its metaverse arm, Reality Labs. He also rolled out a metaverse platform, Horizon Worlds, accessible through the company’s Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset.
There are two main camps when it comes to what the metaverse should be. It’s still unclear which one, if any, will prevail or whether they both will.
One camp, whose members include Meta, along with Roblox, Minecraft, and Fortnite, is focused on creating a centralized metaverse, where all aspects of the virtual world are controlled by one company.
The other camp, including platforms like the Sandbox, Decentraland, Somnium Space, and Cryptovoxels, is pursuing a decentralized metaverse.
They are creating virtual worlds that incorporate NFTs and cryptocurrencies as building blocks. NFTs refers to digital items whose ownership is recorded on a transparent ledger called the blockchain. These NFTs can be things like an image, audio file, or, in metaverse platforms, items like digital land or avatar outfits.
In short, these types of platforms have a “more distributed, maybe more democratized kind of ownership model,” Kirk Finkel, an artist and resident architect at the Museum of Crypto Art (MOCA), told Fortune.
Some of the platforms like the Sandbox and Decentraland have their own cryptocurrencies that players can use to buy things within the virtual worlds. Much as in the real world, markets and communities are already developing inside them, encouraged and facilitated by each platform’s creators.
“Our objective is to re-create most of the activities and experiences from the real world,” said Sébastien Borget, the chief operations officer of the metaverse world the Sandbox.
It’s yet to be seen whether the metaverse will live up to the outsize attention users and businesses have placed on it. Although the metaverse is still in its early stages, it has no shortage of believers.
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