Upland aims to be the first blockchain-based multiverse targeting the mass market.
If it wasn’t clear at first, it is now: whoever has not yet been introduced to Upland is missing something special. And while Upland may have been called “Monopoly on the blockchain” several times, you can definitely feel that there is something more there, if not only in their ever-growing community of unique users (now numbering more than 10,000 daily active users on a monthly basis).
Upland’s beta opened to the public in January 2020 and in approximately eight months has released features, fixes, and updates at lightning speed. But their most recent major addition was that of an air travel mechanic and an entirely new city to explore – New York City, to be exact!
What does this expansion mean? How does it affect the platform? And where will Upland go from here?
Mass Adoption of Blockchain (Finally)?
Upland aims to be the first blockchain-based, cross-platform (desktop and mobile) metaverse targeting the mass market. Taking part requires no knowledge of blockchain or cryptocurrency whatsoever and no need to open a digital wallet.
On the contrary, from the platform’s very active chat server it would seem that many Uplanders have joined with no prior experience in these spaces and have since developed an understanding of blockchain just through casual use, sometimes reaching intermediate and even advanced levels.
Logging into Upland transports you to an alternate reality: same geography, same streets, and addresses as Planet Earth, but the similarity ends there. Your existence in this new metaverse revolves around three pillars, also the tagline of their platform: “Play, Earn, Connect”.
“Playing” and “Connecting” refer to gamified experiences and social interactions, respectively. You can enjoy some of the former already in the shape of very frequent monthly events that entice users to participate in the platform’s social channels as well as the platform itself, usually to the tune of unique and engaging themes such as a San Francisco Art Walk, holiday celebrations and scavenger or treasure hunts. The latter refers to features that the Upland co-founders have discussed as coming later on, including in-game chat and the ability to build hubs such as cafes and art galleries on your properties where users can meet and interact.
New York, NY
But the original foundation on which Upland is based is “trade”, “commerce”, or as we in the blockchain space call it – Play to Earn. Users complete collections, buy/sell/trade virtual properties in the form of NFTs, compete in challenges to make more UPX (the in-game token), reinvest, make more again, and so on. To allow users to liquidate and enjoy earnings in the real world, Upland announced this past May that they will be the first third party to work with Tilia, the financial subsidiary of Linden Lab (creators of Second Life), through whom they will enable Uplanders to sell their virtual properties and in-game items directly for fiat if they so choose. Tilia holds money licenses in all 50 United States, ensuring compliance with US regulations, which Upland has repeatedly stated is a top priority for them.
Until recently, in the metaverse that is Upland, only San Francisco was available to explore. However last week the platform opened the lower east side of Manhattan to users for the first time in what they describe is a gradual expansion of the platform, and as a result, the in-game market.
Some might ask why such an in-game event might be such a big deal and would be covered by various media sources. The answer comes from multiple articles and AMAs conducted by the company. The in-game market is one of the most fascinating aspects of Upland. Eight months ago it was non-existent and you may have asked yourself why you would buy a virtual property there at all.
However today the internal market has such forces of supply and demand that its origins and how it came to be are far less important. What is important, is that those forces are real, based on decisions made in an environment involving real loss (or gain) of value thanks to the “true ownership” and Play-to-Earn model that blockchain provides. For interested users entering Upland for the first time, it doesn’t matter so much why someone would want a particularly shaped, sized, or numbered building in a particular area. It matters only that they do.
Therefore to expand to New York City, the platform operators at Upland had to think of a clever means by which to do so without collapsing the market. The result was by tying the opening of various areas of New York City to the progress of ownership in San Francisco. The more San Francisco is “bought out”, the more of NYC becomes available. And therein lies the importance of this expansion: Upland has reached a critical stage of growth. The expansion itself is a signal of the market’s sustainability and potential – and therefore also an invitation to many new interested parties.
Real Market, Real Feeling
Future developments in the Upland roadmap include being able to develop your property and build, own and operate actual businesses in the platform that provide value to users internally, but also potentially, externally.
In the meantime, though there are many reasons to “play the market” that already exists, there is also something enjoyable about just owning a piece of virtual property – and that’s twice as true and exciting when the property is a piece of the Big Apple. If anything, the expansion to New York City has further showcased how Upland can make you feel like you’re really touring a city and really owning parts of it, even though visually you are looking at a top-down map with no 3D structures yet.
To make sure that feeling stays, Upland introduced an air travel feature. Getting from San Francisco to New York City isn’t a one-click routine and that is intentional. You must send your ‘explorer’ (Upland’s version of an avatar) to the San Francisco International Airport (“SFO”) where you must board a flight that you pay for — which takes 42 minutes until it lands! Then depart and send your explorer into New York City.
This type of slow gameplay may seem unusual to new users, especially trying Upland on mobile for the first time, who are used to and expecting the fast clicking games of this generation. But, there is also something very endearing about it. It further ties into the experience, in the same way, that your property’s yield is calculated annually, just like in the real world. This changes your decision-making process as well as how you interact with the platform, its environment, and its inhabitants. All in a bid to simulate that feeling, though not precisely of course. Remember, it’s a metaverse mapped to the real world, not a scientific simulation.
A Metaverse We’d Live In
Upland has that certain X-Factor and if anything the launch of New York City certifies that. Having your little explorer roam around streets that may or may not be familiar to you, but that you have certainly seen a thousand times if you have ever watched a movie or TV show, you can’t help but feel like your mouth (and mind) waters for the day where those streets will also have skyscrapers, parks and big shiny billboards demonstrating the glamor — and opportunities — that the real New York City has to offer. Hopefully, other cities, features, businesses, and experiences will soon follow.