Blockchain-based metaverse-like apps like Axie Infinity, Decentraland, and SecondLive already exist. These are online games that allow users to play to win, buy and sell virtual land, for example.
Today, these games offer the closest metaverse experience, alongside other popular virtual world-based apps like Fortnite and Roblox.
For example, Roblox players don’t have to follow a fixed storyline. They can attend or organize meetings and other events. According to some reports, gamers spent nearly 10 billion hours playing Roblox in the first quarter of 2021, with more than 42 million users logged in every day.
The same goes for Fortnite. Instead of just playing the game, over 12.3 million gamers have attended Travis Scott’s music tour virtually in Fortnite.
However, experts say the metaverse view of any centralized entity – top-down control of its virtual spaces – is the opposite of what the metaverse should be.
Like Facebook, Fortnite is managed by the centralized entity Epic Games, while Roblox is managed by Roblox Corporation. And with companies like Microsoft and other centralized organizations also interested in the metaverse, it’s clear that the big tech giants are looking to lead the way.
Blockchain technology (and cryptocurrencies) enables the metaverse to provide interoperability, digital proof of ownership, digital asset collection (such as NFTs), crypto value transfer, governance, and more. For example, if players spend a lot of time in the Metaverse, they need reliable currency. Cryptocurrency on a blockchain is more secure than in-game currency which can be lost or stolen if the security of the company running the game is compromised.
In addition, the metaverse being a set of several projects, 3D worlds and virtual spaces, it requires custom blockchains that can interact with each other and provide interoperability.
For example, the creator of Epic Games and Fortnite, Tim Sweeney, is a big fan of blockchain and has spoken out in favor of the “decentralized computing technology behind cryptocurrency.”
In an interview with The New York Times, Sweeney said it would one day be possible to “tunnel” between Roblox, Fortnite and other games, to connect them all in a sort of futuristic world.
Facebook is also working to execute a plan built around a digital wallet dubbed Novi, which allows users to trade Diem – a stable currency pegged in value to the US dollar. This platform offers free person-to-person transfers, within the country and across borders.
“The metaverse has become the new macro lens for many tech giants around the world. This is the explicit goal of Epic Games, makers of the Unreal Engine and Fortnite. It is also the driving force behind Facebook’s purchase of Oculus VR and its recently announced virtual world / meeting space Horizon, among many other projects, such as AR glasses and brain-machine interfaces and communications ” , Matthew Ball, Managing Partner of EpyllionCo and Risk Partner of the Makers Fund.
However, decentralized games such as Axie Infinity, Decentraland, and SecondLive show that blockchain technology is essential for small players to truly participate in the metaverse.
Due to their open-world nature, metaverse-type platforms are turning into digital economies with various types of utility tokens and collectibles (NFTs).
Finally, any future iteration of the metaverse will need to combine these economies, digital identities and decentralized governance, which is only possible thanks to blockchain technology.