About the author
Shreyansh Singh leads Polygon’s NFT and gaming arm, Polygon Studios, an NFT-centric gaming hub that helps web 2.0 game developers integrate web 3.0 elements and NFTs into their platforms. The views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily represent those of Decrypt.
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For many, the term conjures images of digital artworks and collectibles tied to what seems like inordinate sums of money. But the digital art frenzy reflects a compelling use case, it is hardly the only thing going for the NFT sector. The road ahead is full of opportunities for hobbyists, enterprises, and investors that will hasten NFT adoption and usage. And chief among them is NFT-controlled access—particularly to the metaverse.
The metaverse represents the sum of all the processes and protocols that power the internet and the emerging Web3, and are coalescing into a central and interoperable space. In this future realm, communications, finances, game worlds, personal profiles, NFTs, and more are all part of a larger online experience.
While the metaverse parallels the real world, it is also an extension of it. Things like augmented reality can bridge the gap between everyday life and the happenings of the internet, and all of this comes under the umbrella of the metaverse.
How do you enter the metaverse? NFTs, of course
The metaverse and NFTs have become almost analogous. One of the reasons for this is the explosion of NFTs in blockchain gaming. For many, the metaverse will materialize through virtual worlds, and interoperable games are an obvious vehicle for this. Real-life identities tied to digital avatars are just one way that the NFTs provide access to the metaverse.
Did you know?
NFTs are a special type of blockchain-based tokens that can be used to demonstrate proof of ownership over digital items, such as art, music, or playable video game items.
One of the first instances of NFT-controlled access was in 2019 at the inaugural NFT.NYC conference. The event allowed entry using an NFT-based ticket, along with a VIP dinner, and even an opportunity to display a custom message on the Times Square billboard—because, why not? While a crypto conference in New York could hardly be called the "metaverse," a precedent was set.
With the genie out of the bottle, various projects and games are rushing to capitalize on the intersection between the metaverse and NFTs—and they’re promising to transform the way we interact online. One example is Decentraland with its limited number of LAND tokens that denote ownership of metaverse real estate.
In a similar vein, NFTs may come to serve as the deed to a ‘virtual’ property as well as the key—allowing the owner exclusive access to enter that location in the metaverse and the ability to grant access to others. The smart contract features of the deed/key NFT make it easy to sell the house to another denizen of the metaverse, conferring ownership of the property and all the access rights that come along with it.
Taking this notion even further, NFT-controlled access could span a range of use cases, including VIP access to real-life events such as conventions and festivals as well as those occurring within the metaverse. They could even be used for airdropping branded merchandise or allowing special access to fan-only content—opening up an entirely new avenue for fan engagement.
By bringing interoperability beyond the metaverse and into the meatspace, builders can create the infrastructure that supports essential features of augmented reality and location-based engagement, services, and marketing.
All kinds of experiences, including massively multiplayer online video games and augmented reality spaces, can be assigned NFTs and imbued with the many awe-inspiring qualities of the blockchain. These experiences can be made radically personal while turning them into marketable commodities with liquid, exchangeable value in the blockchain ecosystem.
The path to the NFT future
A few weeks ago, while on an earnings call with investors, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly uttered the term “metaverse” a full 16 times while describing the company’s roadmap. Already Facebook is attempting to bridge the physical and digital spaces with products like “Portal,” while the long-awaited Diem stablecoin was initiated by Facebook and will be designed to integrate on to its platform.
Given how the tech world is preparing for a metaverse-based future, NFT-based augmented experiences are likely to become a cornerstone of social media experience. Meanwhile, the potential for blockchain-based ID systems will accelerate the adoption of financial services in the metaverse.
In time, the metaverse may even develop an independent state of its own, presided over by various DAOs. The DeFi sector, peer-to-peer lending and trading, could take on the role of a virtual financial system while NFTs represent our keys, ID cards, and passports. The puzzle pieces already exist, now it’s time to put them together.
Did you know?
A DAO is a type of formalized community in crypto in which members have their incentives aligned through mutually agreed upon governance mechanisms and, often, through the use of a specific cryptocurrency or token.
The possibilities are only limited by the imaginations of the developers and the demands of users. The growing metaverse will open up the door to not only new experiences but new levels of visibility and control for users. While the metaverse already technically exist, it’s NFTs that stand to bring it to life in our real, physical world.
To unlock this potential and help cultivate the metaverse, the Web3 sector needs to look outside itself and foster blockchain participation from established and time-tested creators. NFTs represent the metaphorical—and literal—keys to do so.