Discovering the Metaverse Economy: 6 Virtual Realities

by Diana Drake

As the world dances and weaves to figure out the mysterious metaverse, most high school students – self-proclaimed digital natives and gamers for life – have already been there and back many times. Fortnite, Unity, Roblox, Pokemon Go, the list goes on of metaverse experiences that mimic lifestyles and environments inside the digital domain.

The Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, describes the metaverse as “a unified and interoperable virtual space where users can interact with each other and the 3D digital environment through technology.” Rather than a flat-screen, two-dimensional experience, the metaverse is three-dimensional and multisensory, and therefore more immersive.

$13 Trillion by 2030

These days, the metaverse is evolving into an entire economy, a new digital age of business that is giving life to startups and driving opportunities for companies to create immersive experiences for customers, employees and other stakeholders. Citi analysts estimate that the metaverse will have a total market of up to $13 trillion by 2030, with 5 billion users.

“Building the metaverse using blockchain technology is a chance to get right what the internet got wrong, such as user privacy, data protection, trustless transactions, and unchangeable record keeping.” – Rhett Rumery, Blockchains, Inc.

In 2022, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania launched “Business in the Metaverse,” the Ivy League’s first executive certification program in the metaverse (Wharton uses its own metaverse for the program, with help from Metaverse Enterprise Research Association).

Kevin Werbach, chair of Wharton’s Department of Legal Studies and Business Ethics and an expert in blockchain technology, is the program’s academic director. He describes the metaverse as a broad concept that is unfolding in many different ways, telling Penn Today, “Manufacturers are already using augmented reality (AR) to improve process efficiency; remote workers are using virtual reality (VR) to conduct meetings and collaborate; brands are using virtual worlds and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to reach consumers and build communities. These use cases represent the tip of the iceberg for what metaverse technologies could enable over the coming years.”

‘Everything We Know About Life Is About to Change’

Wharton Global Youth is continually exploring this brave new world of business, like how established companies can use the metaverse to enhance their brand and reach new audiences. Meanwhile, we sought out the practitioner perspective, connecting with Wharton alumnus Scott “Art” Bobrow (W’86), co-founder at FutureTechLive!, a metaverse platform that was acquired in March by Blockchains, Inc., to kick off our conversation about the metaverse economy.

Bobrow put us in touch with his new colleague Rhett Rumery, senior vice president of business strategy for Blockchains, Inc., which helps companies make safe and secure entry into Web3. Rumery says, “Everything we know about life is about to change: how we work, shop, game, and socialize, because instead of being “on” the internet, we begin to be “in” the internet.” He shared 6 important truths about life inside the metaverse economy:

1️⃣ The metaverse represents the next iteration of the internet (Web3!) where participants will engage and interact online in entirely different and immersive ways, says Rumery. He describes it as “an expansive network of digital spaces and marketplaces comprised of users who utilize augmented reality, virtual reality, and other screens to interact with other participants — a network that supports the continuity of identity, objects, reputations, payments, and entitlements and can be experienced synchronously by an unlimited number of users, each with an individual sense of presence and experience.”

2️⃣ COVID-19 accelerated the move to metaverse. “We were forced to find new ways to interact socially, professionally, and personally, which [amplified] the physical convergence with the digital world,” observes Rumery. “We placed more value on what we saw digitally and found in-game economies to earn money while being on lockdown. The metaverse acts as an additional layer on top of where we are today, with no limitations of the real world.”

3️⃣ The metaverse is very young, and the economic activity inside this space will take it to the next level. “The metaverse economy could be defined as the economic activities resulting from connections, interactions, transactions, and data generated within these virtual world experiences between people, entities, and devices,” notes Rumery. “The metaverse remains in its infancy; however, the metaverse economy will make it easier to quickly move value, even at a small scale, and enable new methods of generating value based on better use of the data and assets its participants create and control.” In other words, the metaverse economy will grow to bridge virtual and real-life data and drive innovation that can generate value in new and unexpected ways.

4️⃣ Blockchain will likely form the foundation of the metaverse, supported by a culture of openness and computers and systems exchanging and making use of information. Many see the growing economic landscape as a decentralized metaverse. “A blockchain-based metaverse fundamentally builds on the values blockchain technology was founded on, including permissionless access, censorship resistance, security and decentralization,” says Rumery.

5️⃣ Tech giants are pouring billions of dollars into the metaverse as they position themselves for double-digit growth and profits in the next three-to-five years. “Whether we like it or not, major corporations will play a significant role in how the metaverse will evolve,” suggests Rumery. “Companies like Meta want to provide the ‘building blocks’ to enter the metaverse to maintain centralized control and monetization over their users’ identities and data.”

6️⃣ Prepare for a more personalized internet. “Building the metaverse using blockchain technology is a chance to get right what the internet got wrong, such as user privacy, data protection, trustless transactions, and unchangeable record keeping,” notes Rumery. “If digital identity is designed in such a way that it’s owned by the individual, and all the layers built around it are interoperable, that identity can move and be trusted in each of these new platforms that are being created on top of that identity. The individual can create their own world within the metaverse, and they can customize the experience others have with it and with them because they are in control of their information, assets and data.”

Conversation Starters

What is the metaverse economy? Use examples from the article to explain how it is changing the way people do business.

Do you believe that the metaverse will ultimately become decentralized, giving you, the individual, more control over your information, assets and data? What are the opportunities? The challenges?

How do you interact with the metaverse economy? Give some examples of your experience in Web3 and how you see this as revolutionary. Share your story in the comment section of this article.

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