“They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea”, said Francis Bacon. And while many look at crypto and see nothing but sea, some see land. And bought it.
The metaverse is currently a term so blurry it’s as if you have mental cataracts. On a recent Blockchain Insider podcast episode, Cathy Hackl, known as the “Godmother of the Metaverse”, couldn’t narrow down a definition for the hosts. While the term “metaverse” dates back to the early 90s at the pen of Neal Stephenson, the beginning of its instantiation in modern society is has scarcely taken form.
As a result, we have a wealth of different applications of the term and, rather confusingly, they are often being attributed to wildly different projects. Some are awkwardly gluing the word onto a basic dapp for SEO purposes, others are knee-deep in a Ready Player One vision. Whatever definition emerges, we’re seeing unparalleled financial movement around it, but in particular, digital land.
Are There Already Metaverse Land Barons?
The concept of “prime real estate” is so familiar that it is in common vernacular as that very phrase. Owning property or land in desirable areas is lucrative beyond comprehension, particularly if you venture away from the residential. Commercial buildings in the centers of major cities around the globe border on priceless. Imagine if those buildings had the benefits of locations without the drawback of limited accessibility. That is, the requirement of travel to visit it.
With the metaverse taking shape around us, we are seeing — at last — a viable bridge between the digital and the physical worlds. True ownership and traceable provenance of digital items required blockchain, and now that is readily available, everything we hold dear in the physical world is hurriedly having digital counterparts of it created. Therefore, it follows that land ownership would be a focus for both those who build and those who acquire.
The difficulty is, we don’t know what the metaverse is yet. We also don’t know which digital locations will act as enduring hubs for our avatars. However, fortune favors the bold, or rather those wealthy enough to throw their financial weight around. By the time one digital world becomes the buzzing metropolis of the metaverse, few will be able to afford a sliver of the grid. The money that will be able to be commanded for advertising in these central hubs will be akin to the billboards of Times Square, perhaps more. For many of the onlookers, the investment in lands of games such as The Sandbox and Decentraland is an enormous risk, but for major companies who want — or even need — to be front and center of the metaverse, it’s a risk not to invest in them.
If you thought Bored Apes were selling for inordinate sums, just wait until you see what metaverse land goes for over the next 12 months. If you’re not convinced, I implore you to leaf through this report by Grayscale Research. As you can see in DappRadar’s above graph (source article here), we’re already seeing $100 million change hands in just 7 days for metaverse land alone. It seems inconceivable, but many of the companies investing likely see the problem the opposite way around to ordinary people. That is, it’s better to own digital plots that have never risen in price, than to not own any plots and find they are now crucial and worth fortunes. It’s less gambling, more hedging bets.
2021 has been a fast-paced and exciting year for crypto, NFTs, and the metaverse, but I suspect 2022 is going to dwarf it in significance.