Edited by Christian Thompson
Seeing the word “metaverse” everywhere but still not sure what it means for you and your company? The metaverse is more than an abstract buzzword stolen from science fiction; it’s a reality - though that “reality” differs in many ways. From global conglomerates to small NFT startups, many leaders have recognized the importance (and monetary value) of investing in the space early on. Curious about concrete applications of the metaverse and the exponential trends we spotted first? Slip on your VR headset (not really) and jump into the metaverse discussion as we explore the topics we’ll be watching in 2022.
Big brands bring metaverse to reality
While virtual worlds and headsets may dominate the current metaverse conversation, the metaverse, as defined initially in the 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, is a combination of the physical and the metaphysical. Both Nike and H&M have embraced collaborations with NFT startups as a way of combining physical products with virtual equivalents.
Announced in December, Nike acquired NFT startup RTFKT for an undisclosed amount, which is when our AI first spotted the inflection point and the signal shot up more than 168,000%. Before the acquisition, RTFKT sold over 600 pairs of NFT shoes, along with 600 pairs of the real sneakers, in under 6 min back in February 2021 for $3.1 million under a collaboration with NFT artist Fewocious. Most recently, RTFKT announced a collaboration with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami to produce digital avatars. However, the sentiment surrounding the RTFKT collaboration hasn’t been all positive, with rumors of insider trading and criticism of the “Dutch Auction” style release. Many have compared Nike’s acquisition of the startup to Adidas’ recent collaboration with Bored Ape Yacht Club, PUNKS Comic, and gmoney to sell limited-edition customizable NFTs, in line with its mission to support NFT startups rather than acquire them.
Global clothing brand giant H&M tried a different approach when they created a physical store installation with CEEK, with the ability to walk through a virtual store to view clothes displayed on giant screens and pay with CEEK coin. CEEK is a decentralized platform that promises to connect music artists, athletes, and other digital content creators directly to their fans in virtual worlds. H&M approached the metaverse as an aesthetic, hopping on the evolving idea of how the metaverse should look. For now, working with metaverse and NFT startups is a winning strategy for companies with brand recognition, and virtual products are proving to be just as lucrative as their physical counterparts.
Tools of the metaverse
While the “metaverse” might still be an abstract concept for many, several companies are leading its development by creating successful tools for designing VR worlds and minting unique NFTs. The biggest and current industry standard for game development is Unity Software, recently named a stock to watch for 2022. While the actual software is much slower and a bit clunkier than WebGL and Unreal Engine, Unity has the whole package for developing across platforms and complex gameplay design, which explains the spike in its signal in the context of the metaverse.
It’s a good bet that Unity will continue to set the standard for metaverse game engines, but keep an eye out for newer companies like VoxEdit, that target more specific use cases such as minting unique NFTs. Unity still utilizes the notorious C# coding language, while newer tools such as VoxEdit are aimed at those less technically skilled, with an entirely non-coding, visual editing platform and an emphasis on accessibility.
Metaverse land grab - the new frontier
You may have heard about the value of metaverse “property,” but where is it exactly? A common confusion is that all of the metaverse exists on one platform, and while this may be the end goal in philosophical conversations about the future of the metaverse, in reality, there are several platforms that are taking up their own share of the metaverse experience. The biggest ones - Decentraland, The Sandbox, and Meta’s own Horizon Worlds - offer unique benefits and experiences and have seen exponential growth in interest and investments as a result.
The hype has the numbers to back it up: over $100 million has already been spent on metaverse land plots, which are little more than coordinates (think x, y, and z) that point to a location in the metaverse that someone owns. This money, however, is an investment, not a throwaway into the void of the metaverse - owners can set up shops, games, and experiences on metaverse land, accessing a whole new customer base clad in avatars looking for fun in a virtual setting.
Closely tied to the different metaverse “platforms” are the tokens used with them to do everything from buying land, playing games, and customizing your avatar. These tokens are altcoins, often backed by Ethereum, that are tradable on common crypto platforms and have rising values of their own, corresponding to the exponential signals spotted by our AI. These tokens are the backbones of their ecosystems, allowing the transactions that keep the platforms going, and as a result, have utility and intrinsic value. Decentraland (MANA), The Sandbox (SAND), and Immutable X, in particular, are ones to watch, with stock prices rising exponentially in recent months. While metaverse platforms find their footing, the price will likely remain volatile, but the trend analysis indicates that these signals are only rising and definitely something to watch in 2022.
Bonus signal: Gamestop, NFTs and Loopring
Unless you run in very specific circles (i.e., crypto subreddits), the Gamestop and Loopring rumors are easy to miss but rising exponentially. Gamestop of the hedge funds trading war fame has gained significant brand recognition and an extremely loyal follower base ever since it lined the pockets of those lucky enough to jump on the trend at the right time, and they’re taking advantage of the momentum with the launch of a mysterious NFT platform and a call for creators. The hype is real, and the rumors are reflected in the spike and exponential growth of conversations surrounding Gamestop and its rumored partnership with Loopring. A few important clues point to Gamestop’s potential collaboration with Loopring, a highly efficient decentralized exchange utilizing zkRollups, which recently released a counterfactual wallet that Gamestop reportedly has its eye on. Eagle-eyed redditors spotted clues such as “Gamestop” tags appearing in the development branch of Loopring’s GitHub, leading to a price bump for Loopring. Gamestop is making a strong entrance into the industry that will likely pay off, and we’ll be keeping an eye on Loopring in the coming months.
Whether you’re excited about the metaverse or mega averse (yes, I went there), the space offers unique opportunities that will only continue to grow as large companies step into the ring and startups continue the rapid development of tools and platforms. While the conversation may seem like a buzzword soup at times (NFTs, altcoins, VR, oh my!), it’s definitely a conversation to keep an eye on. Don’t worry, we got your back - throughout this year, we’ll keep you posted on the trends you need to know about and the ones we spot first because, at the end of the day, the metaverse isn’t going away; it’s only enveloping us further.
NWO.ai's predictive platform enables leading Fortune 500 companies and government agencies to anticipate and track global cultural shifts by aggregating, analyzing, and producing actionable reports on human-generated data. We are leveraging petabytes of external, noisy, and unstructured data from various sources –including search, social media, blogs, news, patent databases, SEC filings and we are continuously adding more sources. Our mission is to answer the what, when, and most importantly, 'why' behind a consumer trend and enable our customers to detect these shifts as early as possible.
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