Welcome to PYMNTS’ new weekly report on the metaverse, the biggest, hype-iest part of the crypto universe.
So, what’s a metaverse? The short answer is an immersive, 3D, shared virtual experience where people can create avatars that act much like first-person gaming characters in a world full of entertainment, marketing and commerce. Which isn’t a very short answer, really.
See also: What’s a Metaverse, and Why is One Having a Fashion Show?
But another answer is that it is very little at this point. Proponents of Web3, a hypothetical next-generation of the Web built on blockchain, see that technology as the perfect platform for virtual worlds free from corporate control — but not marketing or commerce.
Some metaverses have been developed, most notably Decentraland and The Sandbox, but they are still very much an early-stage work-in-progress. Dencentraland, for example, doesn’t have 3D virtual reality (VR) capabilities yet.
But a whole lot of people are dumping money into creating metaverses by the truckload, and brands ranging from Gucci to Wendy’s are scrambling to set up shop. Without further ado, here’s a look at what’s happening in the metaverse this week.
When he renamed Facebook to reflect his belief that the metaverse is the future of social media, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg became the biggest player in the scramble to build a working version. On Meta’s first-quarter earnings call last week, he announced the first baby steps in that direction with plans to launch an online version of its Horizon VR game world on the Internet.
The goal, he said, is to make “it easy for people to step into the metaverse experiences from a lot more platforms even without needing a headset.”
Read more: Meta to Launch Horizon Metaverse in 2022
But Zuckerberg also announced a program to build a next-generation headset that goes beyond providing a 360-degree visual experience, able to handle things like eye tracking and facial expressions — all ultimately vital if metaverses are to succeed in becoming places where people interact.
The metaverse’s three main functions will be social interaction, commerce and entertainment, and all of them will require a certain amount of storytelling, not just the latter. Disney knows all three, and it knows how to them work together.
And if you’ve ever tried to walk across the narrow lava bridge in the VR “Star Wars” attraction it opened in Disney World some five years ago, you know they’ll be very, very good at it.
Related: Disney Outlines Its Metaverse as ‘Next-Generation Storytelling’
Which is why Disney’s reported interest in the metaverse as a “third dimension of the canvas” for creatives building “next-generation storytelling” is a big deal. Depending on which project you’re discussing, true metaverses are largely at a stage somewhere between infancy and vaporware. Disney’s Imagineers will have a field day.
Meanwhile, Bored Ape Yacht Club developer Yuga Labs wasn’t very boring this week. A much-hyped and poorly handled sale of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that allow the owner to buy virtual plots of land in its just-announced Otherside metaverse raised $320 million — and showed that the Ethereum blockchain has some serious problems to solve beyond poor scalability as a payments channel.
The sale managed to slow Ethereum to a crawl, and it caused single transaction fees to spike as high $10,000. The 55,000 NFT sale cost $200 million in transaction fees, but it also showed just how much speculation there is going on when buying into the metaverse.
See also: Bored Apes NFT Rampage Spikes Transaction Fees to $200M for 55,000 Sales
But the Bored Ape avatars aren’t the only animals running amok in the land of metaverse development. Developers of the dog-faced shiba inu memecoin, a ripoff/better version of dogecoin, have announced their own virtual land sale for SHIB: The Metaverse — which is, like Otherside, just a twinkle in its developers’ (and marketers’) eyes.
Crypto entrepreneurs have been asking regulators around the world for innovation-friendly regulatory sandboxes in which to play for years now. As such, it seems appropriate that Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA) announced that it plans to build a virtual headquarters in The Sandbox, a leading blockchain-based metaverse.
The MetaHQ is a symbol of the country’s determination to become a leader in virtual assets, the country’s crown prince said in a May 3 interview.
“Dubai is creating a prototype Decentralised Regulator Model,” Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum told the United Arab Emirates’ official news agency, “inviting international thought leaders to participate, exchange knowledge, and problem-solve collectively.”
Read more: Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority Opens Sandbox-Based Metaverse HQ