• Atomic Form’s digital frame connects directly to the blockchain through its hardware module, to allow users to display and lend their NFTs
  • The New York-based company’s ultimate goal is to “create a hub for metaversal participation regardless of chain, product, or issuer”

The metaverse is often used to describe the successor to the mobile internet where the physical and digital worlds converge in a shared virtual space. In the metaverse, technology is an all encompassing reality and not solely a tool like the rectangular device in your pocket.

Compare the metaverse to a video game like Fortnite. Players have digital avatars and seamlessly roam from one world to another, purchasing virtual goods and participating in this virtual economy.

Lately, the metaverse has resurfaced in mainstream headlines following Facebook’s earnings call in July when CEO Mark Zuckerberg used the term 20 times during the hour-long presentation. Then, Zuckerberg told employees, investors and analysts that Facebook aims to be more than an interconnected set of social media applications. Instead, it will be a “metaverse company.” 

In the coming years, Zuckerberg said the tech giant would continue selling their virtual reality products like Oculus headsets for a lower price point, but generate future revenue through advertising and digital commerce within the metaverse itself.

In a recent step into this virtual space, Facebook’s Financial Head David Marcus said the company’s soon-to-be launched digital wallet, Novi, could someday store holders’ NFTs.

Monetization within the metaverse

When it comes to monetizing what seems a distant and vague concept depicted by Zuckerberg, consider Fortnite again. Epic Games, Fortnite’s parent company, generated $3 billion in 2018, selling accessories and non-functional skins in their video games to characters. Epic now has an equity valuation of $28.7 billion, the company said in a statement

Along with Facebook and Epic, widespread adoption of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) continues as other big-name institutions like Visa dip their toes into the water of the metaverse. 

According to BitMEX Co-founder Arthur Hayes, NFT purchases today may seem arbitrary, but people will always want an identity or sense of self — the biggest change is that now, more of their identity is stored online. An increased demand for digital collectibles (or NFTs) results from this need for social signalling. Essentially, dropping a grand on a Fortnite character costume, a pair of Balenciaga sock sneakers or paying 3 ETH for a cartoon mutant ape all support the same purpose, he wrote in a Medium blog post.

“NFT-permissioned art is completely worthless from an energy standpoint, but it will represent the ultimate way to Flex social standing in a purely digital world,” Hayes wrote. “While it seems silly to those who think Art Basel and The Venice Biennale are the epitome of gatherings of like-minded cultured individuals, infinitely replicable JPEGs traded on the blockchain are no sillier than squiggles on a piece of canvas.”

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  • Morgan Chittum is a New York-based reporter covering NFTs, the metaverse, play-to-earn gaming and other emerging Web3 tech for Blockworks. Previously she was a street reporter, covering crime at New York Daily News, and a media and journalism fellow at the Poynter Institute. Contact Morgan via email at [email protected]