Inside the metaverse economy, this is what will be for real in 2022

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen fencing in the “Metaverse” with an Olympic gold medal fencer during a live-streamed virtual and augmented reality conference to announce the rebrand of Facebook as Meta, in this screen grab taken from a video released October 28, 2021.

Facebook | via Reuters

If 2021’s word of the year was “NFT,” Avery Akkineni says 2022’s will be “Web 3.0.”

As president of VaynerNFT, Akkineni spends much of her time consulting with brands looking to get a piece of the metaverse action. The notion of a “corporate metaverse strategy” is new — VaynerNFT itself was founded less than 6 months ago — but it’s building momentum. The company’s first client was Budweiser, and Akkineni foresees plenty of other major brands following its lead. 

In fact, the baseline, widely agreed-upon prediction for 2022: more major brands will get involved in Web3 projects. 

“2022 will be the year major brands embrace NFTs in a big way,” says Lin Dai, CEO of music NFT platform OneOf. The Quincy Jones-backed start-up is behind the near $1 million auction for an NFT of a never-before-heard Whitney Houston song, and has collaborated with The Recording Academy for an exclusive Grammy Awards partnership. 

But this year, digital assets built on the blockchain will likely continue to expand well beyond the music and art industries.

Luxury fashion brand Balenciaga has already teamed up with Fortnite to deliver to users designer “skins” to wear inside the game. Gucci has done the same with Roblox, and Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren have launched their own Roblox experiences. Brian Trunzo, metaverse Lead at Polygon Studios, which focuses on gaming, NFTs and Web3 efforts linked to the polygon digital currency and ethereum blockchain network, says nimble, smart streetwear brands are already in the space as well. “The players have finally taken the field, and the game is about to truly start,” Trunzo said. 

Akkineni says that the focus for brands, at least at this point, isn’t to win but simply to get involved. So far, brand engagement with blockchain projects has been about building community and staying relevant. The Nike and Adidas NFT drops, for example, generated more buzz than cash, but they lent legitimacy to a still-nascent space. 

More direct commercialization strategies could be coming. Cathy Hackl, CEO and chief metaverse officer for the Futures Intelligence Group, a metaverse consultant, points out that for luxury brands in particular, the metaverse could be an access point for a secondary market. “When someone sells their Birkin bag on The RealReal, Hermes does not see a cut of that. But through blockchain and NFTs, they are eventually going to get a cut of the secondary market,” Hackl said. 

There will be more jobs in the metaverse

Gaming and metaverse crossover investments grow

There has been controversy within the gaming world about virtual monetization, but the math that supports more investments linking the metaverse to gaming is simple, according to Spencer.

Gaming is the biggest segment of the entertainment industry, with nearly 3 billion regular participants. Sky Mavis, Axie Infinity’s developer, was the first to monetize NFTs in a gaming environment, but it won’t be the last. Investors are recognizing the potential in crypto-gaming crossover. In October, Sky Mavis raised $152 million from the likes of Andreessen Horowitz and Mark Cuban. Developers looking to do the same are likely to be successful, although for Spencer, the most upside is for developers making AAA-quality games that can be played on PC, like Take-Two Interactive‘s Grand Theft Auto and EA‘s FIFA. Roblox, though, and even Minecraft, have found substantial success despite not being AAA games.

GameStop is making the same bet, announcing plans to launch its own NFT marketplace. It’s likely that GME will need to make a slew of Web3 hires to execute the plan. 

Brands are likely to tap into the gaming revenue streams, too.

“There’s a direct commercialization opportunity in the gaming space. … People are very used to paying $20, $50, $100 per skin,” Akkineni said.

And gamers are indeed willing to shell out for their virtual avatars: the digital version of Gucci’s Dionysus bag sold on Roblox for more than the bag’s IRL retail price. 

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