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Virtual Worlds: The next frontier for businesses

Posted by
Robert Hoogendoorn

Virtual worlds are becoming a valuable platform in times of social distancing and isolation

Thanks to the Coronavirus we’re all adjusting to a life inside our homes. This has become a problem for many businesses, while it’s an opportunity for others.

Bound to our homes it’s technology that keeps us entertained and connected, while it’s also the best way to keep doing business. Even though many will rely solely on video conferences and e-mail, I also see an opportunity for virtual worlds to rise to the occasion and become a valuable platform in times of social distancing and isolation. 

Virtual worlds are among the most popular projects in the blockchain gaming space. With its third land sale, The Sandbox sold 12.384 land parcels within 24 hours. This got them approximately 3400 ETH, which is almost half a million dollars at the current exchange rate.

Keep in mind, this is not an incident. Virtual land for Somnium Space and Cryptovoxels is selling at an average price of 1.7 ETH, while Decentraland has a bottom at 5.4 ETH. Virtual land is wanted, not only as speculation, but also for its utility.   

At the moment virtual worlds are attractive because they don’t require physical contact. Forced by the spread of COVID-19 working from home has become a new standard. Companies are finding new ways to communicate, and blockchain-powered virtual worlds like Cryptovoxels, Decentraland and Somnium Space could provide an interesting opportunity.

Physical labor isn’t possible within a virtual environment, but a world full of avatars is perfect for all kinds of social interactions and creative collaborations. In addition, a virtual world could become a new market for existing businesses. Virtual worlds are the next frontier. Before we dive deeper into this, let me first explain why virtual reality fits well with the current generation.

Source: Twitter.com/urben

A generation used to digital coins

If you’re in your early thirties or younger, you’ve grown up playing video games. You’re part of the first generation that’s accustomed to the value of digital data. Collecting coins in Super Mario Bros was just an introduction to digital money.

With the rise of online and mobile gaming, these younger generations started paying money for digital gold, candies or tokens in online games like Candy Crush and Farmville. They pay for digital clothes in games like Fortnite or spend money on card packs in Hearthstone.

This generation collects digital points for a free coffee, pays their bills on their phone and is able to communicate through emojis. This is a generation that understands and attaches actual value to the digital realm.  

Last year Sony already announced in a quarterly revenue report that the sales of its digital games have overtaken physical sales. In addition companies like Epic Games and Google with its Stadia streaming service are tapping into this demand for digitally distributed games.

According to research firm SuperData, 80 percent of all game revenue in 2019 came from games that were downloadable and free-to-play. That’s 100 billion dollars, and they expect an increase of 4 percent in 2020. 

These gamers are used to buying a digital product or item. No wonder bitcoin makes sense. They understand the value of something digital, and are therefore far more likely to venture into virtual reality.

Mainstream Virtual Reality adoption

As a generation, we’ve gotten used to digital interactions, as the world of bits and bytes has become a big part of our own reality. To some extent, you could say that movies like The Matrix and books like Ready Player One have been preparing us mentally for this.

We already talk about the internet as an actual location, and smartphones offer digital solutions for interactions that used to be physical. This move towards digital connections is happening all around us. 

It’s not without reason that many stores are forced to close, or rely mostly on their online revenue. Even museums are looking at new ways to attract tourists. For example, The Louvre in Paris, the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican and the Guggenheim Museum in New York have virtual tours ready for everybody who’s forced to stay at home. While they are hoping website visitors will want to see the real deal in the near future.  

The increased hype surrounding virtual reality is also visible in the gaming sector. Immersion has been a word in games marketing for over a decade. Over the past few years, we’ve seen the games industry embrace alternate and virtual reality.

For example, game studio Niantic scored a hit with the mainstream thanks to their location-based smartphone game Pokémon Go. This game introduced young and old to an alternate digital reality and gathered over one billion downloads since its launch in 2016. 

At the same time, VR headsets like the HTC Vive, Oculus Quest and PlayStation VR are trying to appeal to a mainstream audience. Last year 5.7 million VR headsets were sold, according to SuperData. Even though true adoption for these headsets is mostly held back by their price, there’s clearly a deep-rooted technological interest in bringing people into virtual worlds.

Source: Twitter.com/dankvr

The opportunity for blockchain-powered virtual worlds

We’ve had this urge to move into virtual worlds for decades. In the nineties, the early adopters dived into Multi-User Dungeons or MUDs. The concept of virtual worlds became more popular in the early 2000s with Habbo Hotel and Second Life. Players had no ownership in these virtual worlds, and participated merely as consumers. 

A virtual world should not be about economic control, but about user empowerment. The network running it should not be centralized. The limitations and rules of the world should not be governed by a single entity. Blockchain technology solves this.

Even though virtual worlds on the blockchain are initiated by a development team, blockchain technology allows a virtual world to be run by a community. We’ve recently seen this with Decentraland, which is now run by a foundation. Far down the line, The Sandbox has similar plans

In a blockchain-powered world, users own virtual land which they can use the way they want. Smart contracts and development kits allow for the integrations of third-party software. As long as the governing authority or community police agrees, all kinds of systems can be built inside Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, Somnium Space or The Sandbox.

This freedom is crucial for true adoption of virtual worlds by individuals and businesses alike.

Business in virtual worlds

Social distancing and working from home because of COVID-19 could create a new paradigm for corporate or educational communication. For example, teachers are now giving classes from home, and business meetings happen through videoconferencing. Virtual worlds are suddenly not that far fetched anymore. These computer-generated digital worlds can provide a solution for businesses hurt by the Coronavirus. 

Events like Apple’s WWDC, the Game Developers Conference and Google’s I/O Conference have all been canceled. As a result, many startups will miss out on the opportunity to find funding for their ideas. However, instead of hosting several events in Europe and the United States, Coinfest is now taking place from March 30th until April 4th within the virtual world of Decentraland. Virtual worlds can offer a solution to our current problems. 

Communities within Decentraland and Cryptovoxels are already using these platforms for social gatherings, virtual tours, and public speeches. From this point forward utility for virtual worlds will only increase. 
Ben Nolan, the developer behind Cryptovoxels, vowed to add new functionalities to his blockchain-powered virtual world. A future update would implement more tools to organize conventions or business meetings. He wants to add the following to his virtual reality world:

  • Live video streaming
  • Presentations using PDF
  • Private chat channels
  • Shared whiteboards for collaborative work 
Source: Twitter.com/ConnieDigital

Businesses of the future

We’re still in the early days of these blockchain-powered virtual worlds. Imagine that in the near future only users with the corresponding NFT in their wallet are allowed to enter a certain room. This would allow users to work together in private on the design of a new website or the formulation of a business plan. Blockchain technology could provide or deny access to virtual classrooms, convention centers, and meeting rooms.

At the same time, the interactive functions of the virtual worlds built on that blockchain would allow people to collaborate on all kinds of creative processes. That’s why DappRadar will be building its own office within The Sandbox. 

In addition, virtual environments can be extensions of physical businesses. For example, food delivery services could allow users to place their orders within a virtual world, and have their pizza delivered at their doorstep.

In addition, a webshop could use a virtual world as its frontend. We’re already seeing something along those lines with Metafactory, which is a company creating physical and digital versions of clothing.

6 Ways Blockchain-powered Virtual Worlds Can Help Businesses

  • A virtual representation of a real-world scenario gives users a better sense of structure compared with a chaotic video call.  
  • In addition a VR world allows for communication and interaction with a sense of physical presence
  • Potentially only users with the right key or invitation code can gain access.
  • Just like a Powerpoint presentation, websites, videos, text, and audio can be integrated into the virtual world. 
  • Through interactivity, users can collaborate on a project within a virtual environment
  • Virtual worlds extend the reach of existing businesses into a new frontier.

Even without a virus threatening our very existence, virtual worlds can provide excellent solutions for situations that would normally require lots of time or resources. When virtual worlds empower people and become locations with fun, social, educational and creative opportunities, there will also be a virtual space for actual business and commerce.

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