Metaverse Weekly: The Challenge of Interoperability

One of the key challenges to a fully functioning metaverse is that of interoperability. Within platforms such as Decentraland or The Sandbox, there is coherence between that of the virtual worlds, users, and external blockchain networks. This is internal interoperability.

However, the problem here is that external interoperability between world-hosting applications is less clear. For off-chain platforms and applications, this bridge is even less visible. There have slowly been partnerships and integrations between off and on-chain applications, such as Minecraft joining forces with blockchain applications.

This is only the first step towards true metaversal interoperability. There are some key barriers to achieving interoperability for the metaverse.

They are:

  • Technology – The precise applications and computer programming solutions necessary to unite on & off-chain platforms within a single, open metaverse. Exactly what computer engineering breakthroughs are needed.
  • Economics – Aligning the appropriate economic functions & incentives that attracts users to move across worlds through the metaverse rather than staying within base applications or platforms. 
  • Persistent Connectivity – Ensuring the metaverse is always open & accessible is vital to achieving a growing user base. The metaverse must have uptime like the internet today while remaining decentralized and open so that anyone in the world can participate.

Blockers in Technology & Infrastructure

There are a number of areas, including both hardware and software, that must-see technological improvements or adoption of existing technologies that have not yet experienced widespread use in the market.

Some examples of components needing interoperability are:

  • Avatars / User Wallets
  • Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) & Hardware Components
  • Storage & Database Solutions
  • Assets (currencies, securities, etc.)

Avatars / User Wallets

In a full metaverse, it would be extremely inefficient and troublesome if users had to create a new wallet or avatar for all the different worlds that they may want to participate in. For example, say a user wanted to buy land in Decentraland while maintaining a profile through an external P2E gaming title. Having two different identities could get confusing to maintain. Now consider having to create a new avatar for every single platform in a full metaverse.

Comparatively, the internet (web2) has suffered in part from this challenge. Users engaged on multiple websites and platforms must store login information for dozens of different accounts. Solutions like Facebook, Google, and email sign-ins have assisted users with this issue, but it isn’t perfect.

Cryptocurrencies have also had this issue in the past. Each user would have to store the information for various wallets compatible with each cryptocurrency each user wants to invest in. Now, solutions like Metamask have offered cryptocurrency users the ability to store many different cryptocurrencies in a single wallet – regardless of the number of different blockchain networks that user is engaged in.

The metaverse faces this issue as well, albeit it is more closely aligned with the adoption of cryptocurrency wallet technologies. A user should be able to create a single avatar linked to their wallet of choice to transverse the metaverse space.

APIs, CPUs, & Hardware

As platforms are developed, there are many different APIs powering different metaverse projects. External APIs can be utilized by different projects for different purposes and open source projects can work, learn, & build collaboratively.

Additionally, advances in computing power and ability are necessary to run a connected metaverse space. Advances in quantum computing have made headway in this area, helping to push forward major advances in rendering speeds & processing power. Modern computers simply are not sufficient enough to carry the load of such a demanding space.

Storage & Database Solutions

One of the most important parts of the metaverse is that of data storage. Centralized databases simply will not be appropriate for the metaverse as the freedom of data is extremely vital. Therefore, decentralized data storage solutions will be a major functioning part of a true metaverse.

Solutions to global file sharing and database storage have emerged in recent years. For instance, blockchain-powered storage solutions such as Filecoin or Storj have assisted the space in utilizing decentralized storage where users can exchange surplus storage space for a fee. 

IFPS File Sharing Functionality – ResearchGate

Interoperable Assets

This aspect of the metaverse is arguably the furthest along. Assets in this circumstance would refer to cryptocurrencies, collectables, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and other currencies or securities that would have value within a digital space like the metaverse. This is integral to the purchasing and trading of digital LAND within the metaverse.

NFTs and cryptocurrencies have been at the heart of decentralized virtual world hosts so far for on-chain applications. Additionally, the creation of bridges between on and off-chain assets like Germany’s breakthroughs assists in the future interoperability between blockchain applications & external platforms.

Aligning Economic Incentives

While technological interoperability is arguably the most difficult aspect of metaversal interoperability, proper meta-economics also requires a high degree of interoperability. This plays directly into the ability for digital assets to have bridging potential to external applications.

Tech giants such as Meta (Facebook) building out their own metaverse spaces could split on and off-chain users if there is no way for digital assets to be converted into usable assets for Meta. In a way, this is the barrier between blockchain and traditional financial markets today in terms of the cryptocurrency market. It is worth noting that many big tech companies are adopting principles of Web3 technology, but it is only a start.

Additionally, users are generally considered to be rational thinking and opportunistic. This is extractable from game theory. If there is no incentive to participate in external applications, then users will never migrate out of their home apps. This obviously creates competition within the market to fight for capital and user growth, but it is not all necessarily on projects.

Should users ever choose to transverse the metaverse space between projects, it must be:

  • Efficient to move between applications
  • Affordable to the user in terms of fees
  • Have an opportunity cost that incentives dynamic movement across the metaverse
Average Monthly Internet Prices by Network Technology – New America

These three points are also true for attracting actual users to the metaverse in the first place, including that of individuals and organizations. Within capitalist economies, entities are profit-seeking. If there is a reasonable expectation that those entities can join & transverse the metaverse in a monetarily productive way, they will.

Accessibility & Durability of the Metaverse

For the metaverse to work and interoperability to remain a feature, the metaverse’s base functionality must always remain accessible to all users and have unlimited uptime. These same qualities can be applied to the modern day internet.

If the internet itself was not accessible or had catastrophic issues with uptime, the digital space would never work. Neither institutions nor individuals would invest time, money, or resources into something that is unreliable or inaccessible. Problems with accessibility can and do plague the internet geographically. 

Map of global internet usage – Our World in Data

Some areas of the world – like parts of the United States – simply do not have the infrastructure required to have reliable internet access. This is something that the metaverse will also face, just at an elevated level due to the higher demand it requires in terms of infrastructure capabilities.

Map of broadband access in the US – Federal Communications Commission

Additionally, centralized ISPs provide a barrier to entry for users wishing to access the metaverse in authoritative parts of the world. Corporations, governments, and other centralized entities can’t have immediate control over access or durability of the metaverse for it to remain truly open to all. The fight for net neutrality was indicative of this for the internet despite it being repealed in 2018 and never re-implemented.

Interoperability would ensure that even when individual applications or protocols go down, users within the metaverse will still have access to all other applications, guaranteeing that the space will always have some form of functionality.

Final Analysis

A fully interoperable metaverse is still many years away. Advancements are needed in many different aspects of the metaverse, including:

  • Technology & Infrastructure
  • Economics
  • Accessibility

The largest barrier to the metaverse resides in the ability of the world to innovate and upgrade infrastructure, something that will be costly moving forward, especially for end-users. The crypto economy has helped to provide missing economic incentives, helping to fuel such a mass interest from external organizations surrounding the metaverse.

Market Analysis Report (Metaverse) – Grand View Research

In a perfect world, the metaverse will end up being an open-source, highly durable base layer of what would essentially be the three-dimensional internet. Websites and applications would come to life in a highly connected, interoperable space. 

According to Citi Financial, the metaverse economy may be worth up to $13 trillion by 2030. So, while a true metaverse is potentially years to decades away, there is a sizable amount of investment and interest happening right now to add to its progress.

Top 7 Most Popular Ethereum Metaverses

A swathe of platforms have sprung up in recent times to offer users the opportunity to play, interact and even own spaces within virtual worlds known as metaverses. With new metaverses appearing all the time, it’s useful to know which are garnering the most attention, which is why we’ve compiled a list of the biggest metaverses running on the Ethereum blockchain. We’ve ranked our choices based on all-time volume, using data from OpenSea’s virtual worlds category taken on 24 May 2022. With that out of the way, let’s take a closer look!

7. Arcade (17,931.15ETH)

We begin with a 2D metaverse, Arcade. Its stated purpose is to provide unique homes in the metaverse for existing NFT collections. The experience supports land ownership as well as using third-party NFTs as in-game avatars. The project is a spin-off from the developers of the Apes vs Mutants game, which let owners of the Bored Ape Yacht Club and Mutant Ape Yacht Club collections compete against each other using their avatars.

6. Worldwide Webb (24,338.63ETH)

Like Arcade Land before it, Worldwide Webb is a 2D experience. The platform describes itself as an interoperable MMORPG (massively-multiplayer online role-playing game) metaverse, claiming to have 80,000 users. The Worldwide Webb platform allows users to buy land as well as build and customise apartments upon that land. Unlike some other metaverses on this list, however, it also includes features of a play-to-earn game, with users earning NFT items and coins by playing minigames.

Thanks to its 2D nature, the experience also supports players using their NFTs as avatars via partnerships with a host of NFT collections – the most recent being The Doge Pound.

Screenshot of

5. Voxels (24,954.87ETH)

Voxels (formerly known as CryptoVoxels) is a metaverse accessible by browser that offers users the chance to explore a dense, interconnected city. New land parcels are sold on the platform’s primary market each week, with secondary sales on OpenSea. Unlike most other entries on this list, instead of just selling basic plots, Voxel parcels include buildings and are sold with street addresses like “Apartment at 3 Wright Street”.

4. Somnium Space (26,400.59ETH)

Despite the metaverse often being conceptualised as a virtual reality experience in the public imagination (just look at the likes of Ready Player One, for example), Somnium Space is the only VR metaverse on this list. That dearth of VR experiences might be because of the conflict that stems from proprietary ecosystems such as Meta’s offering rubbing up against the desire for decentralization that lies at the heart of metaverse platforms.

Nevertheless, Somnium Space achieves fourth position by enabling users to experience a virtual world much more tangibly than other entries on this list. Players are able to buy virtual land and populate it with objects they build or buy in the form of tokenised in-game items, or equally just explore land owned by others.

3. NFT Worlds (48,302.73ETH)

NFT Worlds is one of the hardest-to-grasp metaverse offerings. Describing itself as a multi-metaverse, the project actually consists of 10,000 virtual worlds, each of which is realised using Microsoft’s smash hit open-world building and survival game Minecraft. NFT Worlds is at pains to state that: “NFT Worlds is in no way associated with, endorsed by, or a partner of Minecraft, Mojang, Microsoft or any related parties”, however.

Each world can have different rules and objectives decided by the owner, from focusing on building worlds to play-to-earn games in a range of different genres. Popular worlds include the Meets Metaverse, which is focused on social networking, and first-person shooter battle arena The Mothership.

2. The Sandbox (151,630.28ETH)

Coming in second place (far ahead of the previous entries on this list in terms of sales volume) is The Sandbox. Known for its distinct voxel style, the Sandbox is potentially the most well known of the current range of metaverses, thanks to partnerships with celebrities such as Snoop Dogg, who has created an experience on The Sandbox known as the Snoopverse. The platform offers its own software for creating, rigging and animating voxel-based NFTs to be used in-world and sold on the Sandbox’s marketplace, which uses the platform’s native SAND token.

1. Decentraland (162,628.98ETH)

While The Sandbox is hot on its heels, Decentraland currently stands as the most popular metaverse by volume. Users of the platform are able to purchase plots of land on the open market, within which any kind of experience can be built. The versatility of the platform has resulted in many different approaches – from PwC buying a plot of land to act as a hub for its Web3 advisory offering to Millennium Hotels and Resorts launching a virtual hotel.

The native currency of the platform is MANA, with which you can also buy and sell land assets. The platform supports wearable NFTs which are dropped in limited-edition collections and are fully tradable by the community. And unlike some other examples, Decentraland lives up to its name by being fully decentralized and operated via a DAO – with members voting on the shape the metaverse will take going forwards.

Decentralized Metaverse The Sandbox Enters new Partnership to Safeguard its Community

There are a multitude of different metaverse platforms out there and one of the most prominent is The Sandbox claiming over 40 million global installs on mobile. Today, the decentralized social world has announced a new partnership with WebHelp, a specialist in customer experience and business solutions to help improve The Sandbox’s community engagement.

The Sandbox
Image credit: The Sandbox

Lime any metaverse platform The Sandbox is driven by its community of players and creators, ensuring everyone can have a safe, fun time. And should anything arise then there are the tools to help safeguard them and report malicious behaviour. WebHelp will aid in this process by providing The Sandbox community with in-game support services.

These will range from moderating in-game chat and new player support to conducting moderation, and social media activities. The partnership between the two companies initially began a couple of months back, over the coming months they’ll expand the number of Webhelp ambassadors to 150 in line with each Alpha Season release.

“With many complex interactions happening simultaneously in The Sandbox, it’s really important that our community see and feel the presence of our teams and ambassadors on the platform,” said Sebastien Borget, COO and Co-Founder of The Sandbox said. “Providing support to our players and creators is key to our offering, and we’re pleased Webhelp shares our vision for the metaverse as a safe space for users to connect with entertainment, gaming, and user-generated content. We are looking forward to working with Webhelp to scale up our dedicated support team, which is rapidly developing its skillset and becoming an extension of our team, as part of a long-lasting partnership.”

The Sandbox
Image credit: The Sandbox

“We’re excited to partner with one of the fastest-growing and most disruptive gaming platforms of a generation,” commented Olivier Duha, CEO and Co-founder of Webhelp. “Running on an open irrefutable blockchain network, The Sandbox puts community at its core, matching Webhelp’s business values. We will be using our extensive experience and expertise in content and community moderation to help The Sandbox grow and remain a safe and engaging platform for players, creators, and commercial partners.”

Ensuring a safe, comfortable environment is crucial for any upcoming metaverse but especially one that courts brands partnerships like The Sandbox does. Currently, the platform has over 200 partnerships with brands such as Gucci, HSBC, Warner Music Group, Snoop Dogg, Adidas, Care Bears, and Atari, all of which have invested in land. That looks like to increase as metaverse popularity soars, so keep up to date by reading gmw3.

Metaverse Weekly: Exploring the Infinite Metaverse with Deep Technologies

With the rise of metaverse protocols such as Decentraland and The Sandbox, the cryptoeconomy has seen a tremendous surge in demand for digital land, space, & access to the metaverse.

Much of this demand has been driven by digital scarcity – whether artificial or simply from a barrier to entry for everyday individuals not having the ability to build out their own plots and worlds within the metaverse.

Take The Sandbox for example – 

Heat Map of The Sandbox – CFTE

There has been a significant demand surge for the plots that exist within the protocol that fluctuates depending on the location of that land. Higher prices for land are being minted where more individuals, brands, & organizations are choosing to be concentrated.

The Limitations of Scarce, Digital Land

For many metaverse investors, the substantial rise in metaverse land prices creates a lucrative investment opportunity. After all, the metaverse land boom has rivalled that of the real-world economic housing boom. Both single-family housing AND digital land have morphed into investments rather than commodities.

With certain pieces of digital land going for hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars, even average cryptocurrency retail investors are already forever priced out.

Much of the demand for digital land is being led by companies, organizations, and brands. This leaves out the typical individual who may be interested in acquiring property in something like The Sandbox.

Not a Coder? Not a Metaverse Builder

The other side of this problem arises through the obvious barrier to entry for creating worlds, building out properties, or sometimes even having the ability to access the metaverse entirely. As Tom Casano, founder of Deep Technologies, puts it: “You can’t have a metaverse without worlds. And you can’t have worlds without an easy way to build them.”

Tom draws comparisons between the emerging metaverse today and the rise of the internet back in the 1990s. In the early days of the internet, there was a massive barrier to entry for most normal people from ever participating in the world wide web as publishing a website required intense, in-depth knowledge of coding & computer programming.

Image credit: Daily Mail – Source

This created a massive bottleneck in both available websites as well as overall adoption. The same problem exists today with the metaverse. Scarcity of worlds and digital land is preposterous when you consider the fact that, like the internet, the metaverse itself is infinite. This is especially true when considering the exponential growth of computing power.

Image credit: Research Gate – Source

To have a sprawling metaverse, everybody needs the ability to become a builder and it needs to be as easy as creating a website is today versus creating one in the late 90s.

Powering a World of Metaverse Builders

Tom Casano’s Deep Technologies has been developing a simple solution to the digital world scarcity problem. Their thesis is simple – building worlds in the metaverse should be simple, easy, and accessible for all.

Deep Technologies has produced a VR app that allows users to do exactly this – create worlds in an infinite metaverse that can even be played with communities and explored by others. Deep Technologies was initially founded in November 2021 and has since launched a usable VR application via Meta Quest (Oculus) in March 2022.

Since the initial launch of the Deep VR app, over 1,000 unique worlds have already been created by a spread out user base –  no matter the ability level, age, or knowledgebase of the user.

Startups like Deep Technologies are helping the metaverse get to that next step in global adoption –  just as website creation solutions did to fuel a boom of internet activity leading into the 2000s. As technologies like the Deep VR app improve accessibility to building worlds in the metaverse, further innovations could see the metaverse as an even more expansive digital space than the internet itself.

Learn more about how Deep Technologies is building for the future metaverse here

Women in the Metaverse: Marie Franville of NABIYA

After spending four years in the blockchain gaming space, you might consider Marie Franville a Web3 veteran of sorts. From curating events for major tech companies to helping launch an early blockchain gaming project, Marie’s focus is now on building premium metaverse experiences for brands and gamers alike.

Marie now leads indie game studio NABIYA — which she co-founded with Sebastien Borget, co-founder and COO of The Sandbox. With The Sandbox as their chosen metaverse platform, Marie and her team of creative experts are now at the forefront of Web3 entry — creating “tailor-made worlds with games or architectural projects” and “state-of-the-art NFTs” for clients in the gaming, music, art and fashion industries. They’ve also got their own unique metaverse game in the works.

After seeing Marie speak at a panel discussion held at London’s annual Pocket Gamer Connects conference, we recently connected with her to discuss what she’s witnessed in her years within the blockchain gaming space. We also enjoyed covering her foray into building immersive experiences for high-end clients, as well as what she sees for female leadership in the growing Web3 space.

How did things start?

Marie began her career in IT, working as a business developer with Big Tech brands (including Samsung and Dell). Along the way, she found herself curating video game conferencing events — effectively hunting for sponsors and organising game connections in major cities across the globe.

In 2018, Marie began organising events sponsored by Unisoft in Lyon, France, where she’s based — primarily the Blockchain Game Summit, which cropped up quite early in the Web3 space. “At the time, there weren’t so many conventions — the general consensus was that massive adoption of blockchain would happen through video games. This is because game players have an inherent understanding of the value of digital assets.” She further adds: “Of course, the story says otherwise — more mass adoption came through art, with NFTs.”

Marie marks this occasion as her main turning point, describing how she “met really brilliant, bright visionaries — these people really understood what [Web3] was about and how exciting it was. That’s how I fell into that rabbit hole.” She continues: “Nowadays, things have changed — but these people understood how exciting things were and were trying to educate people.”

Marie spent the next four years serving as COO of blockchain video game studio B2Expand before founding NABIYA with longtime friend Sebastien Borget, co-founder and COO of The Sandbox (a popular decentralised metaverse gaming platform that has partnered with a growing list of brands and artists — including Snoop Dogg, Adidas and Deadmau5). 

When Borget caught wind of her idea, he offered his full support to set up the business. “He’s an industry friend and he’s always been very supportive,” she explains. He now serves as the publisher and developer of NABIYA. Amongst their team is also a creative director who has worked extensively in the Paris fashion industry, having previously collaborated with high-end labels such as Christian Dior and John Galliano.

Marie also comments on the power of friendship and community in Web3, describing how: “Many friends in the industry and people work together — that’s what’s so wonderful.”

What does NABIYA’s “all-in-one service” entail?

Today, NABIYA focuses on two missions: one, to conceive and develop their own video game ELEMENTS — and two, to build video games and architectural projects for landowners in The Sandbox.

Now backed by a team of seven experts in art, fashion and blockchain gaming, Marie has helped turn NABIYA into a uniquely creative and innovative collective. While some clients require their help with building artistic or architectural projects in the metaverse, “some people need really cool game mechanics and gameplay. So we are also architects and game builders — we do both.”

On building their client base, Marie claims that “many brands came to look for us”. Some of their most notable clients include popular rock band Avenged Sevenfold (who they’ve collaborated with to create a series of signature NFTs), mobile blockchain gaming pioneer Spells of Genesis and rising NFT project Cyberkongz (with whom they’ve recently formed a co-partnership with).

NABIYA’s wide range of services and approaches also means that their team aims “for high, premium quality — because there are many, many types of businesses and their positioning is different,” Marie explains. “People who have a very strong idea and very strong communities — they come to us and say ‘could you build something for us?’ There is a learning curve with The Sandbox, but we know the process really well.”

She elaborates: “We come up with the concept art, of course working with their director, to really reflect their universe and where they want to go. Then we create, from scratch, their own unique experience — and it’s very unique to their own brand.”

ELEMENTS and next steps

ELEMENTS is an exploration game based on the Chinese cosmogony. In the game’s overall storyline, the player’s mission is to restore equilibrium to a metaverse world using the five elements: Earth, Wood, Metal, Fire and Water. Through a series of 12 chapters, the player embarks on an in-depth and immersive journey through a colourful and historical universe.

On why they chose this theme for their flagship game, Marie simply states her belief that, due to climate change and other environmental issues, our current world is out of balance. In turn, “[the concept] is very modern — because the 5 elements — they are very complimentary and we need all of them to be in balance.”

Each asset created within ELEMENTS is an ERC-1155 token minted on The Sandbox — a fungibility-agnostic and gas-efficient token contract. “Of course, the big, big dream is the utility — we are really doing some research and trying to work with other chains so we can bring our assets that are native to The Sandbox.”

“Maybe it’s a bit naive,” Marie also remarks, “[but] my ambition is to make a game that is fun, enticing and compelling — and then the economy will follow.”

Frictions and next frontiers in blockchain gaming

It’s an issue we seem to keep raising — but gaming communities are still averse to the idea of NFTs and blockchain (an estimated 70% of them consider them to be a negative trend). We’ve already discussed it in previous pieces — and so have other thought leaders we’ve spoken with in the past. It’s become an unavoidable subject when speaking about the advancement of blockchain gaming — but like many others in the space, Marie sees ways for players to see greater incentives with blockchain technology.

“I can see the barriers to adoption — I can see why some people can be bitter or why they misunderstand the intention. At the moment, it’s a bit rough. Everything is still in the process of being built — nothing is laid down or perfectly clear,” she says.

“I think that the conventional games are more and more interested in integrating tokenomics based on Web3. But it’s not because [you] add NFTs.” Rather, she insists that the tension is on hiring: “I’ve observed that traditional video games are trying to input the Web3 component and it’s not done, in my humble opinion, by adding some NFTs.”

Moreover, Marie emphasises the need for more tokenomics experts to join the gaming space and apply a play-to-earn model to more projects and concepts. “We need more people in a new line of career for tokenomics — people who are completely into tokenomics and who understand what’s going on. But these people — they are really scarce.”

With that being said, however, she still notes that we have a long way to go before we see changes start to materialise. “In mobile games, you have free-to-play [models] and you have the economic model to understand how it works. But at the moment, we are still creating — everybody’s trying.”

A window of opportunity for women

Marie also describes the rise of female leadership she’s seen in her four years of working in the blockchain world, noting how the time has never been more optimal for women to find both footing and equal treatment in the space. “I think there is a very big window of opportunity right now and many new jobs are being created, which needs to be defined as we are working on [Web3].”

She continues: “Whatever your speciality is as a woman — whether you’re working as a CMO somewhere or a designer, or whatever your vertical is — there are many ways of connecting the dots at this Web3 layer — so it’s really the right timing now.”

Her advice for other women entering the space? “Whatever you do, whatever your expertise is — you learn by doing. And there are always, always possible connections to Web3, whatever you are doing. So it’s a good time.” She also adds that throughout her trajectory in the space, she’s been very glad “to see so many women taking leadership positions. I think it’s only the beginning.”

What’s next for NABIYA?

Along with wanting a more equitable space, Marie envisions a more interoperable and cross-functional metaverse. She mentions how certain experts “are a bit wary of interoperability, but it’s one big dream for me. It’s very, very hard technology and I don’t know how it’s going to unravel — but it’s a big dream for interoperability, where you [can] hold a piece of history through your NFT and have utility on different platforms.”

She looks forward to seeing a future where users can create [their] story within all the different metaverses. “It’s a new form of content creation,” she says.

NABIYA is also excited to launch what Marie refers to as “full experiences” this upcoming June, where they’ll be releasing part of ELEMENTS. “Of course, not all of it,” Marie clarifies. “We want to launch the game by degrees, so we can get feedback and build a community. That way, we can build the game with the community. This is how things are done nowadays.”

To stay updated on ELEMENTS and NABIYA’s upcoming projects and releases, be sure to follow their Twitter and Medium pages.

Metaverse Weekly: An Overview of the Digital Real Estate Boom

The metaverse is firing on all cylinders so far in 2022, with numerous global corporations flocking to the space. A particularly valuable part of this new emerging digital economy is none other than real estate.

Land ownership inside the metaverse is becoming exceptionally popular, with some virtual land plots selling for millions of dollars. Land plots in Axie Infinity (AXS), The Sandbox (SAND), and Decentraland (MANA) have been appreciating in value considerably over the course of 2021 and 2022.

Daily Average Prices for Metaverse Land Sales – CFTE

Some organizations such as the World Economic Forum have speculated that land in the metaverse could become worthless in the future, so what virtual and what is driving high prices?

What is Virtual Land?

Virtual land is bought and traded as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The NFT records precisely who owns the land directly on the blockchain, minting ownership for everyone to be able to verify publicly.

Each piece of virtual land within a protocol like The Sandbox is a small section of the protocol represented by the NFT. This land can then be traded or sold on secondary markets.  In fact, virtual properties are highly transactable with an average of 8,000 properties changing hands every month at an average price of 3.5 ETH (~$10,000).

Virtual, purchasable land is broken down into parcels of which the number available varies between platforms. The Sandbox, for example, has just over 166,000 parcels of land presently available. Each parcel is a 96×96 meter plot.

Current Map of The Sandbox (SAND)

These parcels of land can be developed to create buildings, gaming experiences, advertisements, and other use cases that mimic real-world activities.

How Land in the Metaverse is Driving Passive Income

Purchasing and building out land in the metaverse is becoming increasingly more popular. While risky, this is comparable to developers buying and developing land in places that are speculated to have substantial future growth. The metaverse is no different.

Since the onset of the real estate boom in the metaverse, properties have gone for hundreds of thousands of dollars. As of January 2022 per the Centre for Finance, Technology, and Entrepreneurship (CFTE), virtual land sales represent $100 million of the $2 billion per month spent within the NFT market.

All Time Value Spend on Metaverse Sales – Grayscale

Individuals and companies alike are investing in metaverse land – and generating income. The valuations vary depending on location and use case. There are a few different use cases that metaverse landowners can explore.

Examples include: 

  • Becoming a landlord
  • Developing infrastructure
  • Hosting virtual events
  • Integrating advertisements
Heat Map of The Sandbox – CFTE

Land ownership gives the user the ability to explore multiple revenue streams, the most obvious being as a landlord that rents the land out to developers or other users. The idea of hosting digital events inside the metaverse is also an arising concept, just like the Travis Scott concert held entirely on Fortnite that saw 27 million users attend.


The metaverse real estate boom has showcased the increasing demand for both users and companies to secure their own parts of the arising metaverse space. While individual land parcels are still highly speculative in relation to their prices, the overall trend of institutional investment into metaverse real estate shows that the trend is real.

Metaverse Weekly: How Did Top Projects Do During Q1 2022?

The first quarter of the 2022 year has served largely as a cool off following the substantial expansion the cryptocurrency market saw since 2020. Many assets, including that of Decentraland (MANA), Axie Infinity (AXS), and Sandbox (SAND), declined or consolidated for much of Q1 2022.

What hasn’t stopped since the beginning of the year is development within the metaverse space. Nearly every major play-to-earn (P2E) project has seen tremendous development, expansion, or fresh investment from both in and outside the cryptoeconomy.

Here is a wrap up of what the top three leading P2E projects did over the course of Q1 2022. 

Decentraland (MANA)

The use case and ability of Decentraland has continued expanding throughout Q1 2022 with the project adding a number of new features and incentives. Decentraland’s native cryptocurrency token MANA had an overall rocky Q1 in terms of price action.

The MANA token reached an all time high of ~$5.90 USD in November 2021. Since then, MANA has declined in price over 50%. Despite the decline, MANA will begin Q2 2022 up ~175% from its price at the end of Q1 last year in 2021.

MANA Circulating Marketcap
Image credit: Messari

MANA remains a top asset within the cryptoeconomy, ending Q1 2022 as the 32nd largest project by market capitalization. In addition, MANA is the leading project for both metaverse & NFT coins.

Decentraland has announced or integrated all of the following features so far in 2022:

  • Royalties – Decentraland kicked off the 2022 new year with a major announcement that royalty payments were going to be integrated into the protocol. This implementation into the Decentraland marketplace will allow creators to substantially increase their potential earnings, incentivizing further adoption.
  • My Store – Decentraland integrated a new feature to its marketplace called My Store. This upgrade allows creators to more easily manage assets, view data, and build personal branding.
  • Transparency OS – In February 2022, Decentraland announced the arrival of a new operating software geared towards improving community decision-making called Transparency OS.. In short, this serves to provide further transparency of data between the community and DAO.

Axie Infinity (AXS)

Following the market peak in November 2021, Axie Infinity’s had continued its decline for much of Q1 2022. Since the end of February, AXS has consolidated largely around a market capitalization of $2.8 billion USD.

AXS remains down over 50% from the all time high it hit in 2021 after the cryptocurrency market entered a consistent decline in Q4 of 2021. Despite this, Axie Infinity is up a staggering ~1,200% since the end of Q1 2022. That makes Axie Infinity one of the fastest-growing projects within the cryptoeconomy overall.

AXS Circulating Marketcap
Image credit: Messari

AXS isn’t far behind MANA, ending Q1 2022 within the top 40 largest cryptocurrencies by market cap. AXS also enjoys being the leading project in the subcategory of gaming as well as the second largest metaverse project only behind Decentraland.

Axie Infinity has benefited tremendously from the impressive (and growing) list of partnerships they have, including all of the following partners:

  • Samsung
  • Ubisoft
  • HTC
  • Binance

The Sandbox (SAND)

As far as virtual worlds go, The Sandbox remains one of the most popular projects within the sector. Pretty consistently trailing just behind both Axie Infinity and Decentraland, The Sandbox’s native token SAND is still holding an impressive $4 billion USD market cap.

The SAND token peaked like much of the cryptocurrency market in Q4 2021, down a comparable ~50% off the token’s all time high. The expansion of SAND over the past year has also been impressive, outperforming Decentraland and rising nearly 400% since Q1 2021.

SAND Circulating Marketcap
Image credit: Messari

With enthusiasm for the metaverse and Web3 growing, SAND has also minted some truly impressive partnerships. Some of the most impressive partners to join with The Sandbox include the following examples:

  • Snoop Dogg
  • Adidas
  • Atari
  • The Walking Dead
  • The Smurfs
  • Hell’s Kitchen
Snoop Dogg avatars. Image credit The SandBox

A recent Q1 2022 example is the partnership between The Sandbox and SM Brand Marketing which will be utilized to construct a Play-to-Create model. This will be centred around building within the metaverse and minting collectables like NFTs.

With a growing arsenal of opportunities for users to earn income, The Sandbox continues to see an adoption rate that rivals all other projects within the metaverse space. Address growth is continuing to increase which correlates with a higher number of daily transactions within Sandbox.


GameFi and P2E projects took a massive step forward in 2021. In spite of price action declining much of the past five months, there has been zero slow down in the development and expansion of many projects. Brands are moving into the metaverse and blockchain space with every passing week. 

Outside of the big three, a watchful eye should be kept on other gaming, metaverse, and NFT projects in the sector as the sector market cap grows. Other notable projects include:

Studies have already been released in Q1 2022 that demonstrate the potential growth of the metaverse overall, with estimates suggesting that by 2026 a quarter of people will spend at least one hour within the metaverse for work, shopping, education, and so on.

JP Morgan Chase even released a detailed study on the metaverse in Q1 2022 that outlines how their organization is expecting the space to develop and expand. They even went as far to say that the metaverse will reach “$1 trillion [USD] in yearly revenues” in the coming years.

As off-chain organizations move more towards the cryptoeconomy and attempt to integrate the metaverse – like Facebook rebranding to Meta – the legitimacy of projects like Decentraland, Axie Infinity, or Sandbox should continue to grow in 2022 and seemingly beyond.

The Rising Costs of the Metaverse

In Neal Stephenson’s seminal sci-fi work, Snow Crash (1992), we are shown a snapshot of a future where corporations rule all, currencies across the world are worthless (there’s even a crypto-style currency called kongbucks) and everyone is seemingly ‘goggled’ into virtual reality to exist within the metaverse. In Stephenson’s future we see that the class divide still exists, even within the metaverse, a digital space which should, in theory, level the playing field.

In several sections of the book, Stephenson shows us how stark that line still is. We see Hiro Protagonist, the novel’s central character, entering the metaverse, his avatar replicated in the highest fidelity; while those with little to no money live in storage units, using public terminals to enter the metaverse as fuzzy, black and white images, like an old photocopy.

The metaverse, in our reality, is loaded with potential and possibility. It is harnessed through revolutionary technologies, guided by pioneers in their fields. However, what many seem to forget, when holding up our current metaverse ideals, is that the metaverse as seen in fictions like Snow Crash and Neuromancer, is a dystopia where capitalism, greed and exclusion run rife. It’s a place where money and power are everything, and those without either are left behind.

On the Verge

At the moment, it feels like every mention of the metaverse comes with a price; NFTs are either exorbitantly pricey or the gas fees accompanying them are; blockchain games require expensive buy-in purchases before we can even try the gameplay; and owning digital land within a metaverse platform rivals most people’s yearly rent. Then there’s the possibility of needing to buy high end equipment, like VR headsets.

Where we stand currently, is on a precipice, where brands, publishers and advertisers want as many people as possible to embrace this advent of the internet, and yet it currently feels as if working class consumers are thought of last, shrinking the next digital population greatly.

There’s nothing to say that these more expensive entry points are inherently wrong, after all, people are welcome to use their money however they choose, and creators can charge what they feel is just for their work. This predates Web3 by hundreds of years, but where money pools together, so do classes. 

Rising prices in the cost of living added to the poor job markets means that many are living on a shoestring budget already and will struggle to move on seamlessly. In the UK, inflation is currently at 5.5% and an article from BBC highlights that the cost of living is rising at the fastest rate for thirty years. And, according to a recent article on The Drum, the number of those with careers within creative industries from working class backgrounds is falling rapidly, decreasing from 30% in 2017, to only 12% today.

For most, our hobbies and past-times are our escape. We can open Netflix to watch a film or boot up a console to play a game – even doom-scrolling Twitter can get us out of our own lives – it gives us the chance to forget, for a while at least, the chaos of life. The metaverse, as it is currently marketed, is the definition of escapism; it’s an adjacent reality where we can feel free to express ourselves, or live a totally different life. But, will it be a future open to all?

Standing on this edge gives us a unique viewpoint; we must do all we can to ensure that the metaverse, and to some extent the whole Web3 ecosystem, is open to everyone. Not only the working classes, but those in developing countries and younger users through education programs. To see large adoption rates, we need businesses to support their staff with technology upgrades and make the metaverse feel welcoming to all.

Technology, the Barrier

While technology defines our lives, it can often be seen as a barrier for many; families of children who can’t afford a laptop for education; those who so badly want to be like their peers but who cannot afford the latest phone, tablet or console; centres of learning without the budget to expand their computer suites.

Given the metaverse will be built on emerging technologies, it’s imperative that the technology is accessible to all. This can be achieved by manufacturers and technology leaders reducing the prices of equipment faster than in previous tech cycles.


We’ve seen it time and again throughout technology commerce, but particularly with items like televisions, computers, phones and VR headsets – all items needed for the possible metaverse. Upon launch, all of these items were expensive. They carried a premium for being new; LCD, Hi-Def, 4K, 3G through to 5G networks, faster processing power and optical video screens. Over time the prices drop, more people adopt the technology.

But the metaverse requires people. It needs bodies. Unlike the market for TVs, it didn’t matter as much if a couple of people in your friendship circle didn’t own an HD TV but what if your friends can’t join you in the metaverse for that must-see concert? What use is it if advertisers all speed into the future of the internet if many are left behind? Who will see the adverts or attend the experiences?

The Class Divide

A lack of capital is a hindrance in the metaverse currently. I recently loaded up Decentraland to explore; I’ve found some great experiences across their vast map of the metaverse. I thought I’d spend some time playing a little poker to see how well it works, possibly for a future article. 

I loaded my avatar into one of the poker areas and was informed I needed to buy an item of clothing, which acts like a membership card to play. A quick click of the mouse took me to OpenSea where I found a pair of glasses to fit the bill. The current price for these glasses, as I’m writing, is 1.948ETH. This currently equates to $5,588.19. Not an affordable requirement for a seat at the table of Play-to-Earn poker.

This has to be seen as a roadblock to new users. To stick with gaming; it’s clear that blockchain games need funding just as every other type of game does, which is often why they use their own tokens or ask you to ‘buy-in’ to play. It’s their way of paying the developers, covering costs of servers and purchasing advertising space. However, it shrinks the possible audience, unless the game can offer a level of service for all via a free-to-play option or a lower one-off purchase, like Blankos Block Party or Splinterlands.

Away from games, the price points of NFTs are currently a steep hill to climb. Because of the 2021 NFT hype train, many collections now are opening with high level floor prices (A floor price is set by  the lowest price in the collection) because they’re more seen as an investment, rather than art you enjoy, an item of cool clothing or a music track by an artist you love.

Sure, we can load into these metaverse platforms and wander around for free. We can explore as our basic avatars, while others stroll the digital avenues with the latest RTFKT sneakers or NFT designs, and it just feels like reality all over again. Those with low capital aren’t able to mint new NFTs on launch as they tend to see floor prices that are simply out of reach. Those with larger sums of capital will lead the way, while others will feel forever as if they’re missing out and being left behind. 

Our Digital Future

The metaverse is already here. There’s no denying that, there are plenty of platforms which offer a metaverse experience. The metaverse, as a picture painted by tech companies, is a place where we can define our experience and take control of everything from our outward appearance, to personal online presence. Until now, our web presence has been defined by Web2 preference, through social media: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok. 

Now, metaverse platforms such as Decentraland or Somnium Space are the new social networks and we can own LAND to represent ourselves to anyone and everyone. According to Fortune, the metaverse platforms Sandbox and Decentraland, are selling the smallest chunks of land for 3.7 ether and 3.46 eth, respectively, which roughly translates to $11,717 and $10,957.

Throughout Web2, we never needed to pay for our online persona, unless we wanted to set up a website through a third party company and pay hosting fees. Few people will have enough capital to pay for LAND within a metaverse if this trend continues. This is where companies such as Nifty Islands can benefit all, by offering no LAND scarcity and giving every user their own island to build on.

If a plot of digital land costs us more than our yearly rent, are we not heading in a similar direction to Web2? Where the rich get richer and where several wealthy companies ended up with a monopoly of projects? Surely if we can’t all own a patch of LAND, these platforms will essentially be advertisers and celebrities talking to themselves? Of course, some companies can offer free entry, or give away some NFTs, but this would likely only be limited to the tech giants we already have, removing any ideas of decentralisation. 

Questions Without Answers

At this point, I look back over what I’ve written and wonder what the solution is. Nobody wants the metaverse to become a niche side project of the internet because the potential is too great, and it’s quite obvious from the news that many believe it is the future of communication and personalisation. Personally, I believe in the future of the metaverse, just not how it is currently playing out, as there are too many roadblocks. 

As with all advancement, as I explored above, it will take time for costing to even out. However, I believe that someone has to act soon, or else we lose the point of mass inception. Tech leaders need to examine free entry into more programs, pilot hardware upgrades for those who need it and embrace variety in blockchain technology which opens up lower pricing of NFTs and gas fees, and look at new options for owning LAND.

Photo by © Mundissima –

Some companies are now emerging where they facilitate the lending of NFTs and LAND, also offering building services so that LAND can be personalised to your needs and tastes. Others offer consortium purchasing giving options to buy with friends and family. Ultimately, eventuality dictates that the hype dies down, crypto prices stabilise and these reduce prices of entry, so is metaverse accessibility a waiting game?

FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is real for many, plenty of people want to embrace new things early and be on the ground floor. Will we miss out on marking out our boundaries, or even grabbing our usernames? Can those from lower classes, poorer backgrounds and developing areas find their entry point? The final question I’m posing is, while we can’t afford to join, can we afford to wait?

Should the Metaverse be Gamified?

When discussing the metaverse it’s clear big brands and tech giants have a conundrum on their hands – exactly how do they get the public to engage with something which seems so fantastical? Some of the aspects of the metaverse being discussed currently are pulled directly from sci-fi novels and movies. 

How do the big corporations help the public visualise a decentralised digital space? Where ownership is everything and our physical lives merge with our online selves seamlessly? A place where we can replicate our homes in cyberspace, or live an entirely new life built around blockchain.

These ideas almost feel unbelievable in the same way that our smartphones once did when mobile phones could only log on to the internet using WAP and charged by the minute. Even the idea of paying for a coffee by tapping a watch on a card device seemed far-fetched until a few years ago.

The answer may lay within the industry which has been embracing metaverse concepts for years – videogames. Gaming already allows for virtual selves, digital currency, utilises both virtual and augmented reality, forms cooperation and instant messaging between individuals or within a large group. So, if gaming is leading the way to the metaverse, does the metaverse need to be initially gamified?

It’s clear that most instances of what we would call the metaverse are stemming from videogames. Not only do so many games feature aspects of an active metaverse, but they also steer the technologies, such as processing power and graphical interfacing. It’s no wonder that younger generations, the ones who dive headlong into games such as Fortnite, Minecraft and Roblox, are embracing new experiences like Somnium Space, The Sandbox and Decentraland after seeing many familiarities.

VR Headset
Image credit: Shutterstock

Internal or External

Perhaps we need to veer away from the metaverse for a moment and look at intrinsic and extrinsic ideals. To put it simply, to act intrinsically can be reading a book for pleasure, whereas extrinsically would be reading a book in order to study for a test. It can be seen as internal and external goals or drives.

If the big tech players were to gamify the metaverse, they would be extrinsically affecting the audience, giving them a reason to be there. It’s an outside influence, similar to adding a ‘like’ system to social media. Users then seek out likes, or in this example, points, achievements or challenges overcome. Rather than interacting with the ‘product’ in a more organic way through discovery because discovery can be scary for some users.

An example of this is Roblox. Do users venture onto the Roblox platform to interact with other users within an experience, or do they come for the gaming aspects? One could argue that it works in stages; the player comes for the games, then interacts with various experiences and possibly makes friends, or discovers creativity, turning them into a user who splits their time differently.

This is a tactic used often within gaming; implementing goals to drive interaction. The launch of the Xbox 360 in 2005 introduced an Achievement system, which used points to reward players for exploring or meeting targets. This was then implemented for PlayStation 3, then on Steam for PC users. Players began chasing achievements and trophies, which urged them to explore areas or take on tougher challenges. It was partly pavlovian, realising serotonin when the message of a new trophy was displayed, but it also fed into our natural human need to explore and be rewarded.

Social Farming

To see how tech companies have incentivised users, let’s examine Farmville, a game that swept across Facebook for several years. A game that required little more effort than signing into the social website to grow some crops. Facebook didn’t program the game, nor did they design any aspect of it – that goes to Zynga – but they allowed its placement on their platform. They allowed it knowing that it would bring more people to their social space. There’s no way of knowing how impactful the game was on growing Facebook’s user base, but at the time seemingly everyone knew about Farmville.

Six months after release, when Farmville was hitting its stride, the game had 72.9 million active players, that was 20% of Facebook’s users at the time. These numbers only grew as the popularity of social media exploded. Between April 2009 and July 2011, Facebook’s user base grew from 200 million to 750 million, and Farmville was asking each player to message their friends and ask them to come and play.

At the time, it was an extension to social interactions – something to do with your mother or sibling while online. Mark Pincus, who was chief executive of Zynga at the time, remarked to the New York Times: “we thought of it as this new dimension in your social, not just a way to get games to people.”

The Farmville example shows how a game can guide users towards a new experience or technology. Many of the players who swarmed to Facebook back then were older demographics and while they were there after they’d harvested their crops, they could check in on the family, share a photo or do some shopping. As time passed, the games faded into the background but Facebook was still a place where users checked in every day. Now they weren’t being incentivised, they were simply engaging with a new technology – social media.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Digital connections

What could be a possible first step for consumers? Much like Farmville in our above example, users need to be given an entertaining reason to log in. In a recent interview, co-founder of The Sandbox, Sebastien Borget referred to the mega-corporations such as Google, Microsoft and Meta and their intentions for the metaverse. He said: “We don’t think those companies can build something truly fun that’s catered to the users because they’ve been so focused on their key business model and how to satisfy shareholders.”

Discovering a new technology should be fun. It’s the reason most of us downloaded a game on our first smartphone – so we could pinch, stretch, swipe, flick and really get to grips with the technology. Now those actions are used when browsing a web page or editing a photo. There needs to be a reason – something to cause excitement.

The ‘reasons’ don’t need to be games, they could be experiences like concerts, celebrity meet and greets, album listening parties or fashion shows. These events and practices are already occurring throughout metaverse aspiring videogames and as long as the activity rewards the player or features interactivity, it is likely users will attend. The question then becomes ‘how does the metaverse retain visitors?’ Through ownership.

That doesn’t necessarily mean purchasing NFTs or owning land where you build a mansion or storefront; but by guiding users through how they can own their metaverse existence and how it relates to those around them. The reason people stayed with Facebook after finishing their last game of Farmville was connection. They were connecting with family or friends, or perhaps a different game. They came for a reason and stayed because of connection. This is what the metaverse – whichever version we embrace – needs to achieve.