Blockchain, NFTs, and Metaverse: The Future is Now

We’ve all read books or seen movies about what the future of civilization will be like. Whether sci-fi or space fantasy, the descriptions and images of what life will be like are dazzling. Well, the future may be closer than we think—if not already here. Consider the advancements of blockchain technology, NFTs (non-fungible tokens), and the emerging metaverse. This is not science fiction. This is actuality.

A review…

  • Blockchain: As explained in Investopedia, a blockchain electronically stores digitally formatted information inside a distributed database which is shared within a computer network. Unlike standard databases, a blockchain stores data in blocks. These blocks are linked together via cryptography. The overall purpose of a blockchain is to maintain secure records of transactions within cryptocurrency systems. Blockchain technology has become popular and sought out because of its strength in the securing of data. Most recently, one form of blockchain technology that’s taken shape—and lots of notice—is the NFT.

  • NFT (non-fungible token): An NFT has unique identification codes and meta data that make it a ‘one-of-a-kind’ entity. Once any real-word item has been classified as an NFT, it cannot be duplicated, traded or exchanged. In short, the ownership cannot be copied. Last year, there was coverage of how digital artwork and music were formatted as NFTs—and in some cases became worth upward of over one million dollars. As for brands, three recognizable names—Taco Bell, Charmin, and Nike—got in on the NFT action as a marketing method for the future (ahem…now). The benefit of NFTs—as with all types of blockchain technology—is safety and security of true ownership. And brand safety and security are important, especially in the land of the metaverse.

  • Metaverse: One of the most controversial and widely debated topics in the digital space has been Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to change the name and branding of his iconic social media platform, Facebook, to Meta. When addressing Facebook Connect this past October, Zuckerberg claimed this name change was to underline his vision for the ‘metaverse’—a virtual reality setting where human beings can interact with others in a computer-generated environment. Zuckerberg’s motives for this name and branding change were the basis for controversy and debate: Was it a step forward for a vision of the future, or a way to deflect attention from scrutiny and investigation that coincided with the announcement? 

Regardless of intent, as February 2022 begins, the advancements of blockchains, NFTs, and the metaverse have advanced—far and fast.

Another famous brand joins the metaverse landscape 

As mentioned above, last year Taco Bell, Charmin, and Nike were among the well-known brands that used NFTs as a trending way to market themselves. Coca-Cola was another iconic name to join this revolution in July of 2021, as reported in The Drum. The strategy that the soft drink brand devised with 3D company, Tafi, was a series of virtual auctions that awarded ‘loot boxes’ of prizes such as the classic Coke vending machine, digital apparel, and ‘friendship cards,’ among other NFTs. This campaign earned over one million dollars in revenue.

The metaverse is also attracting high-end brands

While Taco Bell, Charmin, and Coca Cola are easily recognized, it is also worth noting that more exclusive—and expensive—brand names are joining the metaverse. Here are the high-end brands listed in The Drum (along with their digital developers) that have come to new life—and raised greater awareness—through NFTs and visits to virtual settings: 

  • Gucci (working with Roblox)
  • Louis Vuitton (working with Beeple)
  • Balenciaga (working with Fortnite)
  • Selfridges (working with Charli Cohen and Yahoo RYOT Lab)

As more brands jump on the metaverse band wagon, more of what can be called ‘virtual real estate’ is being sold. And with more sales comes more speculation.

Metaverse real estate is booming

In a report by Robert Frank for MSNBC, the collective sale of virtual real estate for the metaverse was upward of $500 million in 2021. As if this were not overwhelming enough, that figure could double this year. Of the platforms where this real estate is selling fast, Sandbox, Decentraland, Cryptovoxels and Somnium are the major spaces that have taken the lead. (In the virtual space, real estate is sold by ‘parcels,’ which may be considered the digital equivalent of acreage or square feet in the real world.) Despite these impressive figures, there is one looming question regarding the metaverse: Will it succeed or fail?

The debate over the success of the metaverse

Despite the popularity and enthusiasm many brands express for the metaverse, at the other extreme, there is understandable concern among investors who question its value. After all, the metaverse is not tangible, but artificial. Even more cynical detractors question as to whether this is the wave of the future or a high-tech pyramid scheme, where investors may put money into ventures that will ultimately fail. Generally, as Mr. Frank notes, this debate may boil down to a generation gap: Older investors are more skeptical, while those who are younger—and who grew up with digital technology—are more receptive and optimistic.

While the future may be now, there is still much to learn and discover, particularly where the metaverse is concerned.