This article was written by Nancy Beaton, Vice-President of Strategy at Together Labs, the technology parent company behind the leading friend discovery Metaverse and social app IMVU and VCOIN, an ERC-20 token, built on Ethereum, the most widely adopted blockchain technology, that can be exchanged both inside the IMVU platform and for the first time, off of the platform.
As published in Gamasutra:
Before turning 21, the average American has spent upwards of 10,000 hours playing video games — that’s 3 times more than they’ve spent reading books.
This kind of exposure in these most formative and impressionable years is more than just a pastime, it is a total rewiring of the brain. It has not only altered cultural references and shared experiences, but also the feedback loop of personal identity and expectation. Identities and characteristics are often changed on the fly as users can quickly change a game’s avatar in a virtual experience and be anyone they want. This oftentimes leaves the real world more lacking and less satisfying when compared with the Metaverse.
New technologies and movements are starting to cater to this new culture of immersion, allowing for the kind of social, financial and personal controls that are native in virtual worlds — replacing the historical media, traditional banks, stuffy financiers and long-tenured jobs valued just a generation ago. The companies, games and experiences that embrace the technologies that enable this growing population will be the real social and economic winners.
The New Economy
Of all the 21st century experiences that cater to those gamified minds, perhaps none is more perfect than the Metaverse. Rooted in popular books like Snow Crash and Ready Player One, the Metaverse is the ultimate open world that plays by its own rules. As a means of escape, expression and consumption, the Metaverse is more popular than ever, especially after a pandemic year that gave us a taste of what a real dystopia looks and feels like. More than ever, people saw the value of diving deeper and deeper into greater, better worlds of their own making.
As this trend has taken hold among consumers and gamers, the companies behind the “infrastructure” of gaming are catering to this demand and expanding the Metaverse based upon it; therefore crafting worlds that are not simply for playing, but are for living and sharing the same experiences as you would in real life. In this emerging space, you don’t just “level up,” you make meaningful connections with others.
What is crucial to these experiences is the comprehensive economies that underpin them. While most are familiar with the purchase of digital goods — swords, clothes, pets — in virtual experiences, the new economy can now also serve those that provide digital services such as owning a nightclub, being a model or a personal shopper. In this way, the Metaverse models the real world, by mirroring pre-existing economic structures and building upon them to support this new generation of users looking for innovative ways of earning and interacting in a digital space.
Where previous generations were unaware of online money-making opportunities, 22% of Gen Z already makes money online. They are finding new “gigs,” controlling their earnings and creating wealth faster than ever before, ultimately building a new economy that can compete with almost anything the real world has to offer them.
The New Currency
It is often said that the individual is the new retailer. We clearly see this as we look at the goods and services markets in the Metaverse. But with this new individual-based economy, the ability to facilitate peer-to-peer payment in a safe, easy, and secure way becomes increasingly vital.
In the real world, we see the rise of technologies such as Venmo that makes it possible to pay one another with just a few clicks. In the Metaverse this will be done through digital currencies — cryptocurrency — such as VCOIN, which was recently launched in IMVU. Digital currencies like VCOIN make it possible for users to earn real value in the experience by selling their services to others and then converting that to real cash for the real world.
This type of easy and valuable exchange is the key to any healthy economy. Without it, the Metaverse economy would be stuck, providing digital goods for gameplay, but not capturing the most dynamic growth sector of any economy — services.
The New Creator
The recent NFT boom is another such technology that has changed the transactional paradigm on an individually creative level, opening up the possibilities for a new wave of creative young entrepreneurs. Rather than toiling away as graphic designers or web designers on an hourly wage, individuals can catch the meme wave and comfortably make a living.
In a sense, the NFT boom is the canary in the coalmine for a complete reorganization of value and earning. While it has been a life-changing phenomenon for the likes of internet artists like Beeple, the NFT boom has been more crucial in starting to create and shift value, especially in the Metaverse. NFTs linked to the Metaverse (e.g. digital wearables and real estate), are the fourth largest market in NFT sales, and are even outselling tokens linked to crypto-art.
Through the Metaverse, the earning power for young creatives won’t be limited to the top 1% of prodigies. There will be an entire new era of young entrepreneurs making a living in virtual worlds, earning real value and steady income as quickly and easily as one could put out a proverbial “shingle” to set up shop. And with blockchain technology this work and the perpetual earnings are protected for the life of the NFT, ensuring artists, editors, musicians and others have direct control and access to the value they deliver to users.
These new technologies don’t just empower end users, they also enable established companies to participate in the Metaverse economy and create real value.
While social media is the “traditional” set of channels for brand awareness, the Metaverse is something deeper. It engages in an immersive way and empowers brands to create one-to-one relationships with consumers through branded digital goods.
The Metaverse is where aspiration and self-expression thrive. And what’s more aspirational than being able to wear, own, and showcase the brands that reflect your current or altered self? Through blockchain technology, brands can add digital goods to their repertoire. They can sell them en masse and directly engage with users who get the looks, style and treasured logos they desire to show off in the Metaverse, while brands maintain ownership of both the brand and the revenue generated.
To be really successful, brands should immerse themselves in the world and the virtual economy by hiring the creators, marketers, models and influencers in the world to promote and sell their goods — just as they would hire a Tik Tok influencer in the real world.
The growth of Metaverse is inevitable and will continue to expand whether companies are prepared for it or not. Soon we will see this game-raised generation flock to platforms like IMVU, looking for more than just winning a level or a battle. They’ll be looking for real connections, ways to earn real value and a space that actively cultivates these things to the point that they’re integrated into the core platform, creating a whole new definition of the young entrepreneur.