Nearly $2bn has been spent on virtual land in the past 12 months, as people and companies race to get a foothold in the metaverse, research shows.
But we are years away from the metaverse emerging as a single immersive space online where people can live, work and play in virtual reality. So is the land grab one big gamble?
One of the most popular worlds is the cartoony Decentraland. Launched in 2020, parcels of land there are selling for thousands, sometimes millions of dollars. Samsung, UPS and Sotheby's are among those who have bought land and built shops and visitor centres there.
Luxury fashion brand Philipp Plein also owns a plot about the size of four football pitches, which it hopes will eventually contain a metaverse store and gallery.
In Sandbox, another of the crypto metaverses, Adidas, Atari, Ubisoft, Binance, Warner Music and Gucci are just some of the multinationals buying land, and building experiences to sell and promote their products and services.
Gucci has also built in Roblox, which alongside other big gaming platforms like Minecraft and Fortnite, is seen as the most mainstream of the fledgling metaverses.
These gaming corporations do not sell land and are run without the use of any blockchain technology. However, they already have some of the key ingredients that sci-fi writers say we need for a true metaverse:
- the ability to hang out and play
- their own in-world currencies
- the opportunity to make money on-platform
- huge thriving communities
Gucci Town has had more than 36 million visits in the year since it was launched, while Nike Land has recorded more than 25 million in 11 months. In Gucci Town, players can buy clothing for their avatars with real money. In Nike Land they can obtain T-shirts and shoes for avatars with points earned by playing games.
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