Dec 27 2022
Who Owns the Metaverse?
Let’s start by clarifying one thing. There isn’t really “a” Metaverse. Just a range of different
metaverse platformsviewed collectively as one. As we’ll outline below, that could change. Similar to the original internet, the Metaverse can be created and influenced by whoever takes the time to. However, unlike the original internet, most of those players are large corporations and wealthy individuals.
Nobody owns the Metaverse but in many respects, it’s open to all. So instead of asking “who owns the Metaverse?” let’s determine who holds the most influence within it.
The centralized players
Before the Metaverse found its way into Mark Zuckerberg’s gun sights, there were private companies offering metaverse-style experiences. From Second Life to Minecraft, online worlds have been around for roughly 20 years.
These worlds have typically been gaming platforms, and whilst users have been able to fashion their environment within them as they see fit, these worlds are 100% controlled by whichever corporation created them. If platforms like these are all that’s available in ten years, (even if they foster influential users within them) their claim to “owning” the Metaverse would be much stronger than it is now. Below are some of today’s most notable centralized metaverses.
Built by Epic Games, what started as a battle royale-style shooter is now embracing its metaverse side. Sony Group and KIRKBI - parent company to Lego -
have both investedin order to boost metaverse development. Seems like
Travis Scott’s Fortnite concertwas just the start of this gaming platform leaning into the Metaverse.
Another big player in the gaming space, Roblox, is fueling the creator economy by offering us what is essentially YouTube but for games. Creators make games. People play them. Popular games earn money for the creators. Similar to YouTube, these games are owned and controlled by the Roblox Corporation and their team of moderators.
Like Fortnite, Roblox is also moving closer to being a general metaverse-style experience platform by
putting on concertsand other
Moving away from entertainment, Microsoft is creating something called Mesh. This is being touted as a “mixed-reality platform that allows people in different physical locations to join collaborative and shared holographic experiences on many kinds of devices.”
To begin with, it’ll be a more immersive way to use things like Microsoft Teams and other popular Windows Office applications. But if the whole planet starts spending the bulk of their workdays in there - i.e. a large chunk of their waking life - then who knows what frontiers Mesh could conquer?
The one we’ve all read about. Some view it as “Zuckerberg Land.” And if this ends up dominating and being the only metaverse - just like how Facebook was sort of the only social network for a period - then Zuckerberg could become the Metaverse king. Or rather, a 13% owner, given his current shareholdings.
Horizon Worlds, the name of Meta’s metaverse, is essentially trying to be Facebook but in 3D virtual space. Zuckerberg wants us to socialize, interact, and generally love it as we all did with Facebook back in the late 2000s. That said, Meta has indicated it’s not looking to be the metaverse monopoly that many worry it’ll become.
“Meta is not going to build, own,
or run the Metaverse on its own.”
Statement from Meta executives Andrew Bosworth and Nick Clegg.
The decentralized players
Having assets within the above platforms is a bit like having an Instagram page or a YouTube channel: the content/assets are still controlled by the platform. Owning a section of the metaverses below and creating assets within them is somewhat closer to having your own website. With your own website, you are reliant on a hosting provider and registrar. But both website content and anything you create in the below metaverses is yours since it’s recorded as an NFT.
Now, should the metaverse in question go bankrupt then your land and any assets built within that metaverse will also go too. Although we’ll discuss ways in which that may not be the case.
Here you, the user, are very much in charge. You contractually own the land and assets you create/buy. And as an owner of Decentraland’s cryptocurrency MANA, you can even vote on the direction that the platform takes as a whole.
Decentraland allows you to import 3D assets that you’ve created using third-party 3D modeling programs. This means that, in theory, even if Decentraland were to go under, any 3D assets created outside the platform could be replicated in another metaverse that supports imports. This is a bit like having a backup of your website content that you can spin up on another hosting provider.
On The Sandbox
The Sandbox is a similar sort of affair. It’s decentralized, in that users can buy land and 3D in-world assets that are recorded as NFTs on the blockchain. I.e. The Sandbox doesn’t control these assets the same way Meta would in their metaverse.
Owners of The Sandbox’s native currency SAND also have voting rights. However, the developers behind The Sandbox have much more control over the platform than Decentraland’s creators have over Decentraland. Decentraland’s hierarchy is much more DAO-like in structure.
For this reason, The Sandbox isn’t as decentralized as Decentraland and it could be said that its land and asset owners are further away from true metaverse “ownership”. Plus you can’t import any 3D asset into The Sandbox. Your assets can only exist in The Sandbox. At least for now anyway.
Don’t forget the private metaverses
These can be built and owned by anyone with the need for their own private world. A brand might want to talk to a specific audience without constraints imposed by another metaverse platform. Brands - or even wealthy individuals - might want to create something highly exclusive. Whatever the reason, using technology like
UnrealEngine, bespoke virtual worlds can be made for brands, businesses and individuals. We can show you how at email@example.com
Who owns land in the Metaverse?
As far as the centralized platforms go, any virtual land would be owned by the platform. In decentralized metaverses though, land is recorded as an NFT and contractually owned by whoever bought it. The following organizations are prominent metaverse landowners. So if we’re still wedded to the “who owns the Metaverse” question, here’s an idea of the closest thing the Metaverse has to formal land owners.
PricewaterhouseCoopers: their Hong Kong branch owns land in The Sandbox.
Samsung: owns land in Decentraland where they have a virtual store.
Everyrealm: these market leaders in metaverse real estate investment and development own land in The Sandbox.
Our blog on
the six most expensive metaverse land salesoffers a look at the Metaverse’s quasi-land barons.
The prospect of interoperability
We’ll only have true ownership of the Metaverse once there is some degree of asset sharing and easy transition between platforms. Right now, on the whole, any assets you own on one metaverse, regardless of whether they’re recorded as an NFT, can’t be transferred or easily replicated on another metaverse. So in some ways, the metaverse platform you’re on owns your assets.
This should change though. Decentraland, The Sandbox, and others are
dipping their toes into interoperability. Plus, several big names in the space such as Meta, Nvidia, Microsoft, and Sony have collectively started the Metaverse Standards Forum to increase interoperability.
So who owns the Metaverse? Right now, nobody truly owns it in much the same way that no one owns the internet. That said, like the internet, we already have several players that hold considerable sway over certain areas. Meta, The Sandbox, etc. are all nudging its future along from the top down. Meanwhile, those purchasing and developing metaverse real estate are influencing things from the ground up.
This picture could (and probably will) be very different in ten years. Interoperability should give more power to the individual user. And Apple’s plans to dominate with their VR gear could change the game in much the same way that the iPhone did.
Whichever turn the Metaverse takes, VerseProp will be there. Our marketplace - launching in beta in December/early January - will be your portal to the next big opportunity in digital assets. Whilst our advisory service can help you make optimal investment decisions and help you make the most of any land you purchase.
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