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For those of you who are only loosely familiar with the concept of the metaverse, either because you have seen in the news the re-branding of Facebook to Meta, or you have a teenager that has mentioned his Sandbox account, metaverse is a term for a rapidly expanding digital space that is looking to change the way we view gaming, in-game economies and their respective communities.
The formal definition you’ll find via a Google search is “the metaverse is a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users”. So lets break that down. Does that not sound like every PvP or co-op game that has been created since the advent of the LAN party? Nearly every game fits that description but we don’t call them metaverses. Nor should we. I mean, whats all the hype as the metaverse is supposed to be this new concept? All you’ve probably seen so far is games you load into with limited actual gameplay, graphics that look like a PSOne title, and people shelling out thousands of dollars to put up a house to shill their latest NFT artwork. Frankly, it seems like a joke to anyone that is either a hardcore gamer or isn’t in the NFT space paying hundreds of thousands for Bored Apes and hopping on their social media bragging about how they own “property” next to Snoop Dogg.
Picture of The Sandbox, a long-standing metaverse project.
At the basic level, this is all the metaverse really is or has been….so far. However, there are projects in development that are changing the face of the metaverse. The projects I am going to highlight are pulling the metaverse forward in both graphics and gameplay. Akin to the “Oasis” in the popular movie and preceding novel “Ready Player One” a universe around gaming is being constructed and we are in its primordial ooze infancy.
Before getting into ranking Metaverse projects I will lay out some criteria at which I am evaluating them on:
- 1.Gameplay. There has to be more to it than just walking around and exhibiting NFTs.
- 2.Community/Staying power. Modern games, even blockbusters like Elden Ring, are having steep fall off rates for concurrent players. With games needing server support to keep going, its important that the community has a healthy baseline of support.
- 3.Balancing Immersion vs. creative license. Yeah, so do you want magic spells in your FPS game or do you want a sniper rifle in a your WoW raid? At the same time, does the game offer some creative license to make ownership uniquely yours.
- 4.Price. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to have to pay $5,000 for an NFT to test out a game and find out if I like it or not!
If you are an original OG of the NFT space this is likely the metaverse project for you. This metaverse is being developed by Yuga Labs which is owned by the ApeCoin DAO / Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) and is in partnerships with other well-known NFT projects and while some areas are exclusive to BAYC and the partnered NFT holders and project developers, 55% of the metaverse is open to the public via payment through Ape Coin. As with many metaverse projects they have multiple thematic areas to purchase plots of land to explore. The areas are “the Biogenic Swamp”, “The Chemical Goo”, “Rainbow Atmos”, “Cosmic Dream”, and “Infinite Expanse”. Currently, the floor price for property on Open Sea for Otherside is 1.8 Eth (at the time of this article, roughly $2,800 US) with 100,000 plots currently minted and another 100,000 mints and biomes pending at a later release date.
Gameplay: 3 out of 5. The graphics are clean, crisp, and has all the appearance of a modern game. While still in early development, the game mechanics are largely unknown with the gameplay centered around the “Kodas”, creatures that their true function and storyline for the game have yet to be revealed. A second trailer just dropped on September 2 by Bored Ape Yacht Club featuring one of the characters. Check out BAYC’s trailer here. While early group testing with multiple thousands participating have been successful, still much is unknown about eventual gameplay other that it will be styled as an RPG. While I have not personally played this one due to its high floor cost, Yuga Labs seems well funded and given the BAYC is behind the project, you are likely to see some decent development come out of this title.
Community: 5 out 5. As I stated, BAYC and the other NFT partners (CryptoPunks, Meebits) are some of the OG communities with well established, solid communities and they are building out this metaverse primarily for their holders. It speaks volumes that the first 100,000 plots are sold out with over 34,000 unique owners and the price floor is holding strong at 1.8 Eth.
Immersion/Creative License: Creative > Immersive. From what has been published so far it seems that the project will be largely open to creators to not only design their own gear, buildings and the like but also contribute gaming aspects to the environment. While this may not ultimately offer an immersive experience centered around the core game, for people interested in creating their own space this project is for you. For gaming purists that want a game to stay consistent with an overarching theme, this may be one to pass on.
Price: 1 out of 5. Easily the most expensive title on this list. Part of BAYC is the exclusivity of their community and this holds strong for their metaverse. At nearly $3,000 floor entry it is well beyond the typical casual or even the hardcore gamer’s price range. If you are a high society type or value being a part of the BAYC social circle then go for it but most of us will have a hard time justifying this high a price tag.
Big Time is a game that is a class-based RPG that falls into the metaverse category by offering players an in-built game economy and personal “spaces” that are used for your in-game storage and can be curated by the owner. Unlike other projects on this list, spaces can drop as in-game NFT rewards through regular gameplay. Big Time has a distinguished development team with nearly all top tier game developers accounted for including Epic, Blizzard, Riot, Rockstar and Activision.
Gameplay: 3.5 out of 5. Understand that most of these ratings are going to be based on expectations on the final product as none of these projects are fully flushed out and either in alpha or beta stages. Currently, Big Time is only offering in-game access to Ruby Pass holders but this project wanted to make a top tier game and have aspects of the metaverse as secondary feature. The thought being, if the game is fun, the desire for metaverse ownership and community will follow. The all-star cast of developers have a high probability to make an engaging game and early teasers and walk-throughs show a co-op experience of battling creatures across the environment with a pleasing game aesthetic that has a lot of potential.
Community: 2 out of 5. The community has experienced some setbacks as schedule milestones have slipped and like any game in early development, game design can take different directions and promises early on may not come to fruition. Spending time observing community discords and social media, there have been a few setbacks that have disappointed early adopters including some backtracking by the development team on potential PvP availability and slippage on full release dates. Meanwhile, some early access players have had a jump start grinding for the limited and highly sought Epic and Legendary NFTs while others are still waiting on the sidelines. While it should be expected that many aspects of the game are in flux especially if you get involved in the very early stages, it doesn’t stop some participants from vocalizing their frustrations. Even games like Fortnite, originally released as a cartoon-like zombie survival horror game, existed in obscurity until it adopted a battle royale game mode to produce the right formula for mass adoption. For now, there is a wait and see approach to validate to the existing community if their early purchases have been worthwhile.
Immersion/Creative License: Immersive > Creative. As the game is focused on itself and not necessarily open to a wider metaverse eco-system, expect most of the customization of owned assets to be from within Big Time itself where your ‘space’ can showcase other NFTs collected from within the game but not necessarily from outside projects. Likely too, with the game’s highly stylized visuals, there will be limits on what can be customized between players. This project solidly stands on the immersive side and is a gamer first environment.
Price: 5 out of 5. You can’t beat free. This title is explicit about ensuring there is no pay-to-win aspects of the game and all NFTs are obtainable in-game if you are willing to do the grind. Most of the items listed either on Open Sea or available in the game marketplace are on the order of a few bucks for uncommon items with most rare and epic items below $50. Some Legendary items are upwards of a few hundred dollars and the ‘spaces’, based on size, range from roughly $140 to over $3,500.
TCG World is a metaverse featuring 4 unique zones and multiple games that will initially be on offer. The zones are Forest, Asia, East, and North. The game is separated into quadrants with each quadrant offering unique game perks with the core game revolving around a creature capture, train and battle arena PvP game. While gameplay is stylized in a fashion to Pokemon, early creature design looks like it has a more adult feel with the creatures having more menacing attributes than the Pokemon counterparts. In addition to the core game, there is an assortment of other games and activities with partnerships with crypto gaming companies, NFT projects, and corporate sponsorships. GGTOOR is a large investor and plans on using the platform to host large scale streaming events in their GGTOOR city. Certain areas of the game offers “mini-games” including a racetrack, ski resort, and a roller coaster. The holders of TCG’s dragon NFTs also have access to the Dragon Cave Club that will offer exclusive events and giveaways. The game has 100,000 plots available with a floor of 1 BNB (currently $278 US) for silver plots and are sold out of Diamond level pre-sale plots that were selling for 20 BNB.
Gameplay: 2.5 out of 5. Unlike the early metaverse projects including Decentraland and Sandbox, the graphics are modern day and are reminiscent of what you would expect out of franchise titles like Grand Theft Auto. Like many of the metaverses in early development, little is known about the gameplay itself. The project core game seems viable in theory as the creature collector games have had success in the past so long as there is a unique draw to this title and not a “less fun” version of other titles that already exist. What makes this stand out more than the two above is it is much farther in development as it is very close to a full release beta for all property owners and have been successful at playtesting the environment for its diamond and platinum property holders. I am giving a neutral rating to the gameplay as one drawback is the game is looking to do everything all at once and be everything to everyone. The fact that there is racing, virtual theme parks, ski resorts, ruin exploration all in addition to the main game mechanic seems a bit scattershot. Factors in TCG’s favor is being the first metaverse to full release that has 2K graphics capability and being truly a massive map sporting 800 square kilometers of in-game environment making it one of the largest metaverses on this list.
Community: 3.5 out of 5. The community has a strong following with the general sentiment about the future of the game being very positive. The biggest advantage the game has is the corporate partnerships it has received, especially with GGTOOR being the largest metaverse land deal in history with a publicized value of $102 million dollars. Needless to say, the corporate influx of money into this project means it will have what it needs to pull itself to the finish line.
Immersion/Creative License: Creative > Immersive. This title is definitely geared to the content creator. To pair with the scattershot approach to the gaming, the project is going to be sporting ferraris and yachts beside flying dragons and winged horses. So if you don’t mind airplanes and dragons taking up the same airspace and feel inspired to make your own creation, then this is the game for you.
Price: 4 out of 5. Given the floor price to own a part of this project during presale is currently 1 BNB ($278 US), this is definitely within the lower entry points when it comes to metaverse projects. While its more expensive than what we as traditional gamers would pay for any one title, the fact that we can own this as a tradeable asset means we can eventually recoup our funds. If you feel like the player base will continue to grow you may even sell for a profit. (Certainly not financial advice!)
The Sandbox can be considered the OG of the metaverse space. First released in June of 2015 it was truly the first metaverse on the scene that has come to any lasting prominence. The developers have continued to improve the title and with the season rotations and were able to top over 2 million registered users at the release of Season 2 earlier this year. Before it is said, I realize that this is not a metaverse “in development” as this metaverse has been around for a while now. However, when considering projects that will continue to be viable in the future and the ever evolving ecosystem it deserves a spot on this list as it is not going anywhere anytime soon.
Gameplay: 3 out of 5. So this is strictly less a game and more of a community. Think Second Life but you own what you create and it can be transferred. There are plenty of experiences within Sandbox with a kind of amusement park style base game, the community contributes greatly to the game’s ecosystem with experiences offered from 3rd parties including Snoop Dogg, the Smurfs, MetaPride, the Walking Dead, and more. There is less of a focus on graphics or realistic gameplay as it is an older title and also seeks to keep computer hardware requirements at a minimum to maximize availability for its users. It makes the list because it has stood the test of time and while next generation metaverses are on the horizon, the Sandbox has yet to be usurped as one of the top projects out there.
Community: 3 out of 5. A strong community with the game still drawing in in excess of 200,000 users for each season so far. I would suspect as more metaverse projects start to slowly come online that the community will start to wane as inevitably the metaverse continues to expand and individuals start to silo into more and more niche projects that cater more to their wants or target demographics.
Immersion/Creative License: Creative > Immersive. Not much to say here. The Sandbox is an eclectic community of all types. Its all about creating a creative space and experience and sharing it with other users.
Price: 2 out of 5. while you can enter into the game for free, the current floor price is 0.96 Eth ( roughly $1,500 US). Well beyond your typical gaming budget and pretty steep barrier for ownership. If you can front the cash, it depends on your opinion long term if its a losing or winning proposition.
Unreal Kingdoms is a metaverse project that is a collaboration between two NFT projects - Cyber Ape Yacht Club and Dragon Guild NFT. The project boasts 6 unique game zones including 5 medieval fantasy themed zones (kingdoms) and a futuristic city space. A 7th kingdom specific to Cyber Ape Yacht Club is currently in development called CAYC Island. The metaverse project is very ambitious and is the largest metaverse project on this list with the in-game environment being 32,000 square kilometers!
Gameplay: 4.5 out of 5. The game currently stands with 5 lands that will offer progressive leveling and NPC and creature encounters unique to each zone with a multitude of character classes to choose from. The alpha is available for download and to experience for any current property owners. The graphics are top tier with the metaverse being built with Unreal Engine and nanite technology giving the project an immense leg up on poly-count and hi-res visuals. There is some trade-off as it will be more demanding on your graphics card to cleanly run the game relative to others on this list. However, the sheer scope and scale of the project is something to be very excited for as there are only 20,000 plots of land over the 32,000 square kilometer expanse. This leaves a vast amount of land reserved for game content and questlines that would make any MMORPG fan immersed in the world and leaves plenty of room for growth for ever expanding quests. The project is still in its infancy but has progressed by leaps and bounds over a short period of time as development was first started earlier this summer.
Community: 4 out of 5. Given the newness of the metaverse project, the community is principally constituted of the communities of the associated NFT projects. While smaller relative to some others on this list, the community sentiment is strong and overwhelmingly positive. This metaverse, like BAYC and Otherside, is being developed with their community in mind offering free land to NFT holders. What it lacks in corporate sponsorship is made up for by a community constantly investing into the project to further fund continued development.
Immersion/Creative License: Immersive > Creative. One aspect of this project that is unique is the separation of “kingdoms” for various themes so users can choose what experience best fits their game experience. Instead of one environment where all types of gaming experiences take place, the premise is for the kingdoms to continue to evolve and expand into niche zones that cater to specific experiences. Do you want a MMORPG reminiscent of Skyrim or Final Fantasy Online, join the Dragon Guild kingdoms. Want a corporate environment with advertising, online casino, community engagement and shopping/storefronts - grab property in the futuristic cityscape. Want a community hangout and event space - teleport to Cyber Ape Yacht Club Island to chill. The main takeaway is to have dedicated space to keep the sense of immersion while enjoying your game experience of choice and retain the option to teleport to other environments to support multiple interests depending on what you are in the mood for.
Price: 4.5 out of 5. The floor price to own property during presale is currently 0.2 Eth ($315 US). This is higher than Big Time’s $140 (free if grinding) and slightly higher than TCG’s minimum entry of $278 but the land offered is 4x the size of the TCG equivalent and larger still than Big Time’s space square footage. This makes Unreal Kingdoms value better than most any metaverse project.