Three trillion US dollars: That’s the metaverse’s estimated contribution to the global economy in 2031, if adoption started today and growth after their first decade matched that of smartphone-related industries, according to a recent study by research firm Analysis Group, commissioned by Meta Platforms (META, US$195.65), parent company of Facebook. The metaverse, this technological vision of the future where consumers can one day buy, have fun, study and work in 3D virtual worlds, thanks in particular to virtual reality, could also contribute to 0.9% of Canada’s GDP after 10 years, according to the same analysis.
This explains why a company like Meta, to name just one, spent more than $10 billion in 2021 alone developing the technologies needed to make it happen.
Here are five ways the metaverse can go from red to black in just a few years.
1. Purchases of virtual goods
A fashionable hat to put on the head of his 3D avatar, an armchair to furnish his virtual home, a colorful weapon to use in shooting games: the digital objects obtained by users of the metaverse can exist from pixels, but the money spent on buy them will be very real.
“It’s something that already exists in video games,” notes Maude Bonenfant, a professor in the department of social and public communications at the University of Quebec in Montreal and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Big Data and Gaming Communities.
For each digital object purchased, the owners of the metaverse platforms (or metaverses, as some say to better reflect the fact that several of these universes are likely to be launched, and that they are not necessarily related) will receive a portion of keep the income.
Meta last April gave a glimpse of what this monetization could look like, opening the door to selling digital items in its Horizon Worlds software, a sort of precursor to the metaverse, accessible only through the Meta Quest 2 virtual for now. reality headset, but will eventually launch on other platforms such as the web.
Currently, 30% of revenue from items sold on Horizon Worlds is held by the hardware platform, Meta’s Quest Store. “Over time, as we expand Horizon Worlds to other platforms (Editor’s note: the web or game consoles, for example), other companies will charge their own platform fees and this portion will not necessarily be donated to Meta,” specifies a company spokesperson to Offers† After the hardware platform fee has been withheld, 25% of the remaining revenue will be retained by Horizon Worlds (17.5% of the original sales amount currently, after deducting the 30% from Quest Store, or 47.5% in total).
In short, both the hardware manufacturers and the companies that will create the software architecture of the metaverse or the developers that will sell digital objects will benefit from these sales. In some cases, all these stakeholders will be one company.
2. Metaverse Advertising
All experts interviewed by Offers agree on one thing: advertising will be present in the metaverse.
“If I can access Facebook for free, it’s because I’m giving them data and they’re showing ads.
It will be the same in the metaverse,” said Ben Skinazi, chief marketing officer at Sharethrough, one of the world’s largest independent ad exchange technology companies.
Since the beginning of 2022, about twenty employees of the company have been meeting periodically in virtual reality to plan the arrival of advertising in this area.
“It opens up several possibilities for advertisers,” says Ben Skinazi, such as creating 3D ad objects for users to interact with, as well as data about their attention. By analyzing the gaze of users, it is possible to find out how long, for example, an advertisement has been carefully looked at.
“It helps to measure engagement and attention, which is very interesting for advertisers,” explains Ben Skinazi. Developers will try their best to place their ads correctly to make them more efficient.
3. Equipment sales
The metaverse is associated with virtual reality, but other technologies must be able to provide access to it, such as augmented reality, computers and video game consoles.
Selling these devices is another way for manufacturers to take advantage of the metaverse, but it’s not the only one.
Connecting millions of people in a 3D universe simultaneously requires significant computing resources, especially if the rendering of these worlds is done on servers and not on users’ devices (which probably will be the case, because the virtual reality glasses are so small possible, for example).
It is mainly for this reason that graphics card manufacturers such as Nvidia (NVDA, US$189.20) are also interested in the metaverse.
4. Subscription Revenue
You probably don’t need a paid subscription to access the metaverse. “We don’t expect there to be barriers to entry,” said Martine Lapointe, general manager of the Montreal office of consulting firm Accenture. However, certain parts of these virtual universes could be accessed by subscription, as is currently the case on the web with media and video broadcasting services.
These subscriptions can also be optional, a concept that is widespread in video games, such as Fortnite (a title, incidentally, designed by Epic Games, a company that invests heavily in the metaverse). For example, with a subscription you can purchase more digital objects, or even a larger virtual house.
However, these subscriptions will not restrict users’ virtual movements. “We will be able to jump from one metaverse to another without realizing it. There has to be a certain fluidity,” says Martine Lapointe.
5. Virtual Rarity
Some tech companies associate the metaverse with blockchains and non-fungible tokens (better known by the acronym NFT) to impart scarcity to digital objects.
For example, a pair of shoes for his avatar could only exist in ten copies, which would increase their initial value and their resale value (and the platforms could keep a portion of each transaction, primary and secondary).
Scarcity can even be associated with virtual real estate. Some forerunners of the metaverse, such as Decentraland, limit the size of their virtual world in order to increase the selling price of “land”. Last year, a company also bought digital land in this universe for $2.4 million, built around a chain of blocks.
There is no indication that virtual real estate will become a source of income for big tech players, such as Meta or Epic Games, but NFT verified art could easily find a place in their virtual universes.