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The Metaverse Land Grab Is Here—Should You Move In?

More than $100 million was spent on virtual land this week. The metaverse is coming, whether you want to go there or not.

3 min read
Ethereum metaverse game The Sandbox. Image: The Sandbox

On Friday, someone spent $450,000 for a plot of virtual land next door to Snoop Dogg's mansion in the "Snoopverse," a section of the metaverse world The Sandbox. Snoop tweeted out our story on the price tag and said, "That's a bargain."

He might prove to be right.

Metaverse land sales topped $100 million this week alone. That included $2.43 million for a parcel of land in Decentraland, and a record $4.3 million for real estate in The Sandbox.

It might be tempting to dismiss all this metaverse madness as the latest internet spending bubble, but the data points are adding up. The metaverse is growing, it's a real thing, and many, many people are going to spend many, many hours there in the future.

The Sandbox isn't even fully live yet; it launched an alpha test this week. No matter: Its token SAND is up 82% in the past month, while Decentraland's token MANA is up 35% in a month. The irony of Facebook's rebrand to Meta is that while crypto people mocked the company—and its stock suffered—its embrace of the metaverse boosted metaverse tokens.

Why all the hype? The metaverse is not new as a buzzword or a concept, despite Mark Zuckerberg's effort to brand it as his own. Neal Stephenson coined the term in his seminal 1992 novel Snow Crash, and even before that, William Gibson's Neuromancer was set in the virtual realm, just like Ready Player One. Iconic computer games from the early 2000s like The Sims, Second Life, and Animal Crossing were all metaverse games.

But now things are getting serious as individuals spend real money for virtual homes, and big brands rush in to stake their claim. (Snoopverse, meet the Budverse and Tinderverse.) And lest you think the metaverse is just for playing games, NFT artists can prove otherwise. Eddie Gangland, whose skull-themed NFTs were on display at a party thrown by Gary Vaynerchuk at Art Basel in Miami this week, recounted in June how a stranger struck up a chat with him while he was setting up a virtual gallery inside the Ethereum-hosted metaverse space Crypto Voxels, and then bought one of his NFTs.

Real human connections are happening in the metaverse, and they're leading to investments of real money.

Of course, many people buying tokens tied to the digital realm aren't actually spending any time there, which suggests they're using metaverse tokens as workaround investment for buying actual virtual property, much like buying Coinbase stock or a Bitcoin futures ETF as a way to gain exposure to Bitcoin.

For now, the tokens are surging, the land sales are multiplying, and it all suggests a future in which the metaverse becomes a thriving parallel to the physical... meataverse.

This is Roberts on Crypto, a weekend column from Decrypt Editor-in-Chief Daniel Roberts and Decrypt Executive Editor Jeff John Roberts. Sign up for the Decrypt email newsletter to receive it in your inbox. And read last weekend's column: Wall Street Beat the Crypto Kids for the Constitution—But This Was Only Round 1.

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