By Shrey Mishra
The metaverse has always had a strong gaming component. The open-world environment of the metaverse can be seen as a direct descendent of open world games, and most games have always had in-game economies to sustain games and add incentive for players. Let’s look at the gaming landscape: every year, Fortnite adds nearly 50 million users to its already heavy user base, and has a revenue of upwards of 5 billion annually. Minecraft has a user base of 141 million active players worldwide, and Roblox has 54.1 million active users worldwide. This tells us that gaming is both generating interest and making money.
As you can see, therefore, we are at a very exciting point for gaming and gaming applications in industry. There’s the prospect of widespread rollout of 5G, leading to the rise of web 3.0 and, eventually, much cheaper headsets and devices to access virtual reality. This comes at a point where we are staying home more amid pandemic-related restrictions, and where extended reality has been pushed to the forefront of all industries. We need new, immersive solutions to work, solving problems, and socialising. We need new ways to connect to each other that stretch beyond a small window on a phone or a laptop.
There are a lot of highly specific applications for 5G in gaming, where gamers will be able to stream games over the cloud and experience faster loading times, better graphics without the need for a graphic card, and advanced gameplay. In fact, there are advanced concepts currently under development in the dev and gaming community, like Web GPU, a map for a future system where Web GPU api will facilitate accelerated graphics and computing power.
A big catalyst in the development of the metaverse will be the further development and promotion of the blockchain which powers programmes like Decentraland. Simply put, the blockchain is a way to verify and store information in several places at once so that the probability of counterfeit, fraud, or deception becomes close to zero. Blockchain based currencies are called cryptocurrencies, and currencies like Ethereum and Bitcoin are among the most popular and reliable currencies currently used by the online community. NFTs are also supported by the blockchain, and NFT-based games like Cryptokitties and Axie Infinity develop robust in-game communities where players are even building guilds to train new players. In Axie Infinity, players collect monsters called Axies which they then train for battles. Players can choose to breed their monsters with other players’ Axies, trade them, and of course, engage in battles to win prizes. Many gamers are taking to gifting a starter team of Axies to their loved ones as a fun financial investment. As Axies exist as NFTs, they can be liquidated and converted into real-world assets.
There is cause for concern, in that the financial side of blockchain-based technologies isn’t regulated and could well form a bubble which doesn’t survive a market crash. There is a need for metaverse gaming companies to develop real-world accountability and usability into gameplay for it to have some longevity.
In any case, what we have at the moment are bits and pieces of a future metaverse which will slowly cohere together as we become able to sustain it through 5G and affordable headsets. Open-world multiplayer games are our closest approximations of the metaverse at the moment. And what was interesting about these games was a new way to earn money – play-to-earn. Users access a tokenised, performance based economic field where gameplay earns them money, sometimes so much money that they may even be able to buy a house. The invention of blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and the evolution of NFTs has radically reframed and decentralised all forms of online ownership. All this infrastructure is the base of a new metaverse economy, where decentralised ledgers decide and map ownership instead of entities like banks.
Of course, there are problems to be solved. Mining cryptocurrency consumes a lot of energy and isn’t good for our planet, but the collaborative nature of the nascent metaverse is going some way to providing solutions for these pressing problems. For instance, we now have the option to choose cryptocurrencies which are good for the environment, like Solarcoin and Bitgreen. The metaverse isn’t going anywhere. The global gaming industry is projected to grow at phenomenal pace, to USD 218.7 billion by 2024. In fact, gaming is seen to be a key use for 5G advancements. A metaverse game world that gives players the power to create and shape the world, i.e., is decentralised, has potential for liquidity, and possesses accountability and real-life utility will be a gamechanger in the creator and gaming economies.
The author is founder, XR Central