What exactly is the Metaverse? The term refers to virtual parallel worlds that make the Internet interactive and experienceable together with others. Such a virtual world can be accessed either via laptop or computer, smartphone, a game console such as Xbox, or with a VR headset. As a rule, an avatar, an individually produced and computer-generated 3D figure, is used for entry.
The actual metaverse that should exist in the future is interoperable, meaning that virtual goods can be moved across platforms. Furthermore, it should be unlimited, with no cap on the number of concurrent users, as well as open to all. Other features that are often mentioned: Decentralized, three-dimensional, synchronous (consistent for all and in real time) and persistent (it runs continuously).
As of today, a distinction can be made between centralized, decentralized and customized metaverses:
Central metaverses: These are operated and further developed by individual companies; data sovereignty remains with the operator.
? Best-known example: Horizon Worlds by Meta (formerly Facebook).
Decentralized metaverses: These are based on the blockchain, run distributed on various servers, and are usually operated and further developed by communities. The blockchain enables digital ownership and even digital income via a token economy. Users do not have to register and accordingly do not have to disclose any personal data. Data sovereignty remains with the user.
? Best-known example: Decentraland.
Hybrid forms of centralized and decentralized metaverses: Hybrid forms exist when centralized metaverses begin to decentralize or when decentralized elements such as NFTs, avatars, or tokens are integrated into the centralized platforms.
? Best-known example: Spatial.
Customized Metaverses: With the appropriate knowledge, custom metaverses can also be built, customized and further developed.
We introduce you to the most popular metaverse concepts:
Minecraft: The most popular
Minecraft is the best-selling computer game in the world, with more than 238 million copies. Players are placed in a world that consists of plains, mountains, forests or deserts - these are to be explored and discovered. The 3D landscape consists of cube-shaped blocks.
It is an open system that users can help shape and develop. You can travel as a single player or in a team and explore the different worlds. Unlike other platforms, brands or companies are not to be found here.
Active users: More than 140 million per month (end 2021)
Access: laptop, smartphone, game console, VR headset.
Special Note: Minecraft announced in July 2022 that they are blocking the use of NFTs and blockchain technology on their servers.
Fortnite: Off to the island
Fortnite is a computer game that takes place on a deserted island. The objective of the game is to prevail against 99 opponents and thus stay alive until the end.
You can change the appearance of your avatar or buy dances with your own currency "V-Bucks". Some Fortnite dances have even found their way into everyday life, thanks in part to the cheering poses of famous soccer players. Fortnite has also been the venue for concerts by artists like Travis Scott or Ariane Grande. The game is especially popular with teenagers and young adults.
Active users: More than 80 million per month (June 2022)
Access: laptop, smartphone, game console.
Special: On December 1, 2020, 15 million people played the game simultaneously. A record.
The Sandbox: Venture into new territory
The Sandbox is a decentralized game and has been based on the Ethereum blockchain since 2017. This blockchain is considered to be particularly robust and secure. Users can acquire a plot of land on the platform, create, buy and sell items, and gain access to games. The number of plots that can be purchased is limited to 166,464, and it is not yet possible to farm the plots.
The NFTs are paid for with the company's own currency SAND. The log-in takes place via crypto wallet. SAND transactions incur small fees that have to be paid in Ethereum. With the "Game Maker", it is possible to create your own game, and with the "Vox Editor", 3D models can be created.
Release: 2012 (New release: 2021)
Active users: More than 300,000 per month (April 2022)
Access: laptop, smartphone.
Special: "The Sandbox" was able to win over rapper Snoop Dogg or the fashion house Gucci, among others, as partners.
Horizon World by Meta: The New World of Facebook
Horizon World is the virtual platform from Meta, formerly Facebook. The condition for entry into Horizon Worlds is the Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality goggles. People can play, talk or even create new things together in the virtual spaces.
To register, you have to be at least 18 years old. Since recently, registration with Meta has been sufficient - a Facebook account is no longer required. In the future, it will also be possible to sell virtual items on the platform as a creator.
Active users: More than 300,000 per month (May 2022)
Access: Microsoft Windows, VR headset (Oculus Quest), smartphone (end of 2022)
Special: Meta will invest a lot of money in Horizon World and the Metaverse and further develop the product. In October 2021, for example, it announced its intention to create 10,000 new jobs within Europe.
Second Life: Ahead of its time
The focus of this virtual world is on social interaction between users as well as content creation. Thus, the platform was also used by people and institutions in the environment of culture, education, research or religion.
The Archbishop's Office for Pastoral Care in Freiburg, for example, was present with a virtual church in Second Life from 2008 to 2010 and regularly offered events. The number of active users has declined sharply in recent years. Today, Second Life no longer plays a major role in the metaverse.
Active users: Around 200,000 per day.*
Special: At the peak of success in 2013, Second Life counted more than 1 million players per month. Today, this figure is much lower.
*In a first version, we wrote that Second Life had less than 100,000 active users per month. This number was much too low. Many thanks to our reader for pointing this out.
Roblox: Virtual world for children
Roblox currently appeals mainly to children under 13. The presentation is suitable for children, the visuals are colorful and happy, and virtual worlds can be created in the style of Lego or Minecraft. Small computer games can also be created with the "Roblox Studio".
In addition, there are functions such as friend lists and the possibility to chat. The game currency "Robux" can be used to buy equipment and clothes for the avatars or to unlock new content and functions.
Active users: 200 million per month (June 2022)
Access: laptop, smartphone, game console.
Special: Roblox is also becoming increasingly interesting for older people, for example thanks to Gucci Town. The fashion brand's digital space offers the opportunity to learn more about the house and its heritage, as well as to re-dress.
Decentraland: Club of visionaries
Decentraland is based on the Ethereum blockchain and calls its own coin MANA. The 3D platform consists of 90,601 plots. The possibilities at Decentraland are similar to those of The Sandbox. Buying, selling and commercial trading of virtual land is possible, as well as wearables and collectables.
The focus at Decentraland, however, is on community experiences and events. The occasions vary, from language courses, art exhibitions to karaoke parties and search games, there is something for everyone. The scripting language used allows for 3D models and dynamic scenes. In contrast to The Sandbox, the graphics look more realistic. Unfortunately, access via VR glasses is currently not possible.
Active users: Around 200,000 per month (April 2022)
Special: Decentraland is managed by a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO).
Spatial: The up-and-comer
Spatial is a VR platform in which people can talk to each other as avatars and work together. In contrast to many other platforms, the avatars here already look very mature - for example, you can take selfies, travel to other rooms via portal or talk to each other with facial expressions and gestures. Meetings, live events and exhibitions with NFT objects are possible, as is the upload of 3D files. You can also create and expand your own rooms.
Especially during the Corona pandemic, Spatial experienced enormous growth, the producers say. There were more than 130,000 daily active users per day. A look at the social media figures shows that the platform is continuously growing in popularity and interest. However, there are no current user figures from 2022. The Metaverse Academy also has its own space on Spatial.
Active users: no data.
Access: laptop, smartphone, VR headset.
Special: Currently there is still a technical limitation of a maximum of 50 people per room.
In this VR game you become a digital land owner. Properties and stores can be built, cars can be manufactured, and UPX coins can be earned while playing. Upland thrives on the freedom and independence it offers its players. One can network with other users to develop neighborhoods or learn game strategies.
The game has received millions of dollars in funding over the years and is valued at $300 million.
This visually impressive gaming platform is based on the Ethereum blockchain. As of today, the platform is barely decentralized. There are around 600,000 daily active users.
Adventure mode takes players on a journey of exploration and resource gathering, while arena battles can also be fought for real prizes.
This decentralized platform is based on the Solana blockchain. It is currently a closed beta version. Solice allows users to gamify, create, and socialize their own experiences. These experiences can be sold or traded with other users on the platform.
According to the manufacturers, it is the first Metaverse to be designed from the ground up as a truly open, decentralized environment.
This decentralized platform is also based on the Solana blockchain. The VR game is set in the year 2620 and offers an immersive gaming experience. In the Star Atlas metaverse, players can team up with others and explore the universe to conquer unknown territories.
Each user has their own spaceship, which they must maintain and supply with fuel, ammo, and food. Again, the in-game assets are structured as NFTs, which means that users can trade them on the secondary market. ATLAS is the platform's own token, which serves as the native currency for the in-game market.
This decentralized platform is based on the novel Polkadot blockchain. The platform is very new, there is currently an Early Access waiting list. The key feature of Bit.Country is that users can build their own virtual worlds, complete with a crypto-based economy that rewards anyone who visits and spends time in its metaverse.
In addition to individuals, brands can also build their own metaverse or launch decentralized applications in a third-party metaverse where they can showcase their own products and services.
This decentralized platform is based on the Ethereum blockchain. Voxels (formerly Cryptovoxels) offers a virtual game world that supports both VR experiences and PC use, and where the community regularly organizes events for users. Real estate can also be created and offered for sale on the platform, including both empty lots and prefabricated buildings such as ports, roads or art galleries.
In addition to virtual land, the platform also offers a large marketplace for buying and selling digital collectibles as NFTs, from wearables and gaming props to artwork and clothing.
The first platform based on the Cardano blockchain. The metaverse consists of different geographies, including land, sand, sea, deep sea, mountains, and forest areas. Pavia hosts thousands of land parcels owned by community members. Each parcel is sold as an NFT, with owners having full digital ownership of their assets.
Although Pavia is still in its infancy, there are already more than 17,000 landowners. The name Pavia is actually borrowed from the northern Italian city of the same name. This is because the well-known mathematician Gerolamo Cardano, the namesake of the Cardano Blockchain, was born in Pavia in 1501.
Based on the Ethereum and Solana blockchain protocols and has its own asset marketplace. Somnium Space has several unique features: For example, users can choose to "live forever." Even if users can no longer access the platform, artificial intelligence will bring their avatars to life.
Somnium is also a fully scriptable world that allows users to program their own experiences and develop monetizable assets.
This is a virtual reality online video game with an integrated game development system. A central room (called the "Rec Center") resembles the lobby of a recreation center with doors leading to various games and user-generated rooms.
According to the company, there are currently more rooms in Rec Room than apps in the iOS App Store. Rec Room reaches more than 29 million active users. Since 2016, the platform has received $294 million in funding and was valued at $3.5 billion at the end of last year.
A platform for virtual live events and social interactions. It consists largely of user-generated spaces called "worlds" that can be visited by other users. The platform hosts regular events, from VR churches and LGBTQI+ gatherings to large concerts, business conferences, and magic shows.
In addition to these events, AltspaceVR is a social platform where individuals in small to large groups can meet, talk, collaborate, and present together.
The platform offers an endless collection of social VR experiences by giving its community the power of creation. You can interact with people around the world (even without a VR headset) and experiment with your identity by trying out new avatars.
There are already more than 25,000 worlds created by users.
Glue is a social VR platform developed by a company based in Helsinki, Finland. It is another example from the category: "Remote Teamwork VR App."
Glue features include 3D avatars, spatial audio, post-it notes, whiteboards, and freehand drawings, as well as the ability to export work created in the world to various supported file formats via the web interface.
This is only a selection. Currently there are more than 160 different metaverses.