The metaverse: how blockchain is going to become mainstream
4 min read
Blockchain is everywhere nowadays. Web3 and decentralization have become part of our vocabulary. But blockchain often seems to go hand-in-hand with crypto and DeFi, without talking about any use cases outside of this.
Crypto has become a stock. Join any blockchain Discord and you'll be met with 'wen moon' and people trying to predict the future of the coin. It's turned into this exclusive fad with r/wallstreetbets crypto fanboys taking over the entire technology.
But it's more than that, I swear. And today I want to talk about the biggest and most awesome use case of blockchain: the metaverse.
What is the metaverse?
Unless you're living under a rock (...or have a life outside of the internet...), you'll have heard the word metaverse. You'll get a different definition depending on who you talk to, ranging from 'an online world like SecondLife' to 'Facebook's new business model'.
Recently, web3 enthusiasts have taken the word metaverse to mean a decentralized world where we can all connect on the blockchain. And that's what I'll be talking about here.
There are two industries that always pioneer new technology: gaming and sex. With the kind of people who are currently working in blockchain, it probably makes more sense to be focussing on gaming. Decipher this dig how you wish.
Currently, the global gaming market is valued just under $200B. Almost every big tech company has ventured into this industry - Apple created Apple Arcade, Amazon bought Twitch, and Facebook bought Oculus (and let's not forget the infamous FarmVille). It's clear to see that gaming is the past, present, and future of the internet.
Within the web3 world, Crypto Kitties, a game about breeding virtual cats, went so viral it almost broke the Ethereum blockchain back in 2017. Other games like Decentraland, Axie Infinity, and Gods Unchained have traded over 190,000 ETH accumulatively. For reference, that's almost $1B USD. Even without much mainstream attention, gaming on the blockchain is still massively successful and gaining traction exponentially.
What do these games have in common? A little something called 'play to earn.'
Tired of hearing about NFTs? Yeah, me too. But they make up the centre of the metaverse, and are how 'play to earn' works.
Gaming in the web2 world is based around one core loop - the gamer completes tasks to earn something in-game. This is true of Minecraft, where the more you do, the more items you get, the more you can build, and the more you can do. Or Club Penguin, where you complete games to win in-game money and exchange it for clothing or items. Or even Duolingo, where completing a lesson gives you gems you can exchange for more specialized lessons. This loop echoes life, and it's absolutely addictive.
Gaming in web3 works the exact same way, but instead of just getting an in-game item, you get an NFT. You actually own this NFT. Even if you delete your account on the game, you will still have this NFT. It is yours, and is completely separate from the game. This means you can do whatever you want with it - you can use it in-game, sell it to other gamers, or even collect them to show to your grandkids.
Selling an NFT in-game works similarly to selling items in games like RuneScape, where you're paid back with in-game money. Except this time it's crypto, and again, no matter what happens to your account in this game, it's yours to keep. You can use it to buy other NFTs, sell it for fiat currency, or exchange it for currencies in other games. How cool is that? You can even stake it, which means you'll just be making more crypto by doing nothing.
Actually owning the tokens that you earn is key to the metaverse. You are separate from the game you are playing, existing in a world where you can exchange items from game to game. It's part of your actual life, your real-life ownership. The centralized creators of the game never own these items - it is all the players. Power to the players, amirite GameStop?
Taking a step back
You may be envisioning a Red Dead Redemption-style life, where everyone's always plugged in to this game, exploring and killing things to make NFTs. But this doesn't have to be the case.
There already exists other use cases of online worlds, like VRChat and Facebook's Workplace experiment. These are not on the blockchain, but they show that there is demand for the metaverse outside of gaming. The metaverse is the future of social media and even business meetings, all tied in together just like our life outside of the web is. Gaming is only the beginning.
Take this article with a pinch of salt. There are other experts believing that DeFi is the future of blockchain, and that we should focus on making it more accessible rather than venturing into other applications of crypto. In my opinion though, I think relying on financial applications to make blockchain mainstream is delusional. It's difficult for people to put their own fiat currency into a crypto without first understanding how it works, preferably through using it themselves. There is a reason so many cryptocurrencies have reached an all-time-high after NFTs got picked up by the mainstream media. It's the future. The metaverse is coming.