What Will the Metaverse Economy Look Like?
Where will the metaverse go in the near future and beyond? It’s hard to know. We can compare this situation to the internet bubble of the late ‘90s: a lot of people hoped for the medium to usher in exciting new types of e-commerce yet generally lacked the technology to bring them to fruition.
For instance, numerous clothing businesses suggested that customers would be able to try items on in a virtual changing room, yet didn’t have the technology to make that a reality. A lot of those companies have vanished in the time since.
Amazingly, some naysayers actually believed that consumers would never purchase clothing from websites. Today, we know that’s simply not true, and it’s never been easier for entrepreneurs to launch their own online clothing stores. People, their perspectives, and the tools available have changed significantly.
Additionally, we can compare the metaverse’s emergence to the arrival of the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) in the 2000s, a third-generation mobile cellular system. 3G promised innovative services worth huge amounts of money, yet some of them failed to materialize or capture buyers’ imaginations. Still, 3G has gone on to be successful with the growth of social media, ever-present mobile advertising, and the flourishing mobile app market.
At the Point of Change
With the metaverse’s imminent explosion, it appears that we’re teetering on the edge of a huge technological upheaval.
Soon, people will discover fresh uses without being aware of the tech driving the changes in their behavior. So many of us depend on our smartphones today, and tomorrow, we’re sure to have access to other devices allowing us to enter the metaverse through virtual reality or augmented reality. They will be more user-friendly over time and ready for the mass market, bringing in a wealth of new services and — ultimately — a digital revolution.
We’ve had digital revolutions before, beginning with the first computers facilitating access to the Internet via browsers and search engines. Still, there were two drawbacks to consider then: the need for a wired internet connection and to be at home, school, or the office.
Another revolution began with the arrival of the touchscreen smartphone: users accessed the Internet on mobiles through applications rather than browsers. It transformed the way in which we use our mobile devices, as well as our approach to socializing, consuming media, and more.
However, forecasting can still be an incredibly challenging process. After the smartphone’s explosion, the next revolution was expected to be voice-centric due to the popularity of connected speakers. But the lack of innovative uses meant that never quite emerged.
It’s possible that the metaverse will be the next revolution instead, empowering consumers with a way to become immersed in virtual worlds without relying on screens (even touchscreens). The physical aspect will become less important and eventually vanish.
Exploring the Existing Market
Certain sectors are already at the cutting edge of the metaverse field: the gaming industry, for example, has had a foothold in virtual realities for some time. For nearly two decades, video game companies have delivered experiences that immerse players in virtual worlds, something that will become more realistic than ever with the metaverse.
The porn industry is also known to have embraced digital innovation over the years, such as launching subscription-focused services for consuming content before other sectors. And with great success.
Still, in the world of commerce, the biggest hurdle created by the metaverse will be its virtual stores and malls. These realistic environments will see consumer platforms, different types of entertainment services, and likely lots of other users become aggregated. Even with or without being irrigated by blockchain, NFTs, or cryptocurrencies.
However, the commerce sector still primarily relies on proximity and logistics, two key physical limitations. Before the Internet took off and became so mainstream, shopping in-store and proximity were inherently linked. While distance is less restrictive today, it hasn’t vanished altogether, despite what we may assume initially.
This sector’s top platforms have, for the most part, stayed national too. Trading sites can differ from country to country, with local specificities playing a major role in success. But even with different approaches to consumption, global platforms can still tailor to international expectations and preferences. Netflix, for example, can be changed to suit each country in which it’s available.
The Metaverse and Current Platforms
It’s fair to predict that the metaverse will become a natural point of entry into the same ecosystem, whether that belongs to Apple, Meta, or Amazon. There has been a significant struggle between the GAFAMs and some huge Chinese brands (including Alibaba) to emerge as the leader in the imminent revolution.
European players aren’t positioned properly to fully unlock the potential of these technologies when faced with the U.S. and Asia. France, for instance, has highly successful businesses in both cybersecurity and cryptography, but that appears too little to come out on top in the emerging market.
However, we can say that there will be more than just one metaverse: we can expect to see a metaverse originating in China, for instance, with local users prevented from entering uncensored virtual environments. State rules and regulations will establish limits even within metaverses.
There will also need to be measures to safeguard consumers, arrange relations between Internet platforms and their users, and more. It won’t all be done on the metaverse exclusively — it may involve a combination of virtual spaces, smartphones, and brick-and-mortar stores. After all, online shopping hasn’t removed stores from our streets completely, and other types of commerce allow us to move from online to in-store shopping fluidly.
Ultimately, devising ways to ensure fair, balanced accessibility to metaverse technologies is paramount. Harnessing and distributing this technology must be done wisely to avoid digital divides. For example, could one job candidate with little understanding of the metaverse be less successful in a virtual job interview than another who knows the technology in profound detail? Possibly. And those driving the metaverse to becoming the next digital revolution must have a clear answer before it can achieve its full potential.
For example, it’s believed that around one quarter of people worldwide will utilize the metaverse for everything from work to shopping by 2026. Most people will likely wear their VR headset for an hour or more each day, and the virtual world economy will be driven by cryptocurrencies and NFTs. According to McKinsey, by 2030, the metaverse could accrue a value of as much as $5 billion.