3 (Unexpected) Ways The Metaverse May Change Your Life This Year

For starters, you can expect conversations around the metaverse to cool down… and that's actually a good thing. 

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For anyone following the metaverse, 2021 was the year of inflated expectations. Facebook may have made front-page news with its Meta rebrand, but for most consumers, the metaverse remained a long way from anything highly integrated, usable or affordable.

The good news? This year will be a crucial turning point for the metaverse — one where digital hype has the potential to translate into real-world impact. So what happens next? Here are three trends I predict will change the metaverse (for better or worse) in 2022.

Less Hype, More Impact

For starters, you can expect conversations around the metaverse to cool down... and that's actually a good thing.

Every breakthrough industry goes through the same process like clockwork. Hype skyrockets, reality brings it crashing back down, and then companies within the industry have to prove their worth.

Hype reached a fever pitch with the Meta announcement in October and has been slowing down ever since. As the major players continue to establish themselves in 2022, those in it for a quick buck will exit, many more will fail and the public discourse will die down. This is where the hype cycle reaches a lull — and it's where the hard work begins.

Consulting firm Gartner calls this stage the "trough of disillusionment." It's a critical place where investment only continues if the surviving players make improvements to their products. What bodes well for the metaverse is that the biggest players are heavily invested — Meta alone aimed to contribute $10 billion to the industry in 2021, with plans to spend more in the coming years. Bloomberg estimates it could be an $800 billion industry by 2024.

So while you may be hearing less about the metaverse in 2022, that doesn't mean it's gone the way of flying cars and jetpacks. It's still there — and it's time for the big dogs to put their heads down and get to work.

A New "Metaverse 1%" Emerges

The metaverse has already spawned entirely new asset classes — from virtual real estate to virtual goods. In 2022, we'll see competition for these resources heat up ... and a new "metaverse 1%" start to emerge, with the potential to replicate real-life inequalities.

For example, last year saw the beginning of metaverse land grabs on Decentraland and Sandbox. On one hand, using blockchain to acquire digital land introduces real efficiencies: smart contracts and peer-to-peer sales can eliminate the need for lawyers and real estate agents, allowing people to own assets without losing their shirts on third-party fees.

On the other hand, these conveniences don't mean much if the average person is priced out of this market, too. The cheapest plots in Decentraland and Sandbox are about $13,000 — not exactly spare change. Not to mention, the market is being inflated by deep-pocketed investors making splashy purchases, like the $4.3 million sale of Sandbox's "5th Avenue"-esque shopping district.

Much like real life, virtual land prices are driven by speculation and scarcity. Yes, a whole new generation of people will have the chance to get in early on this potential boom, but the average person may be priced out of popular metaverses long before they reach widespread adoption.

You'll Stop Doubting NFTs

With so much speculation in this space, I can't help thinking back to the original dot-com boom (and bust) in the late '90s. There was plenty of smoke and mirrors, but by the time the industry came out the other side of the "trough of disillusionment," the public had a better understanding of what the internet was and the value it delivered.

The same is happening now for NFTs — a cornerstone of the metaverse movement. While only 2%-3% of the U.S. population currently owns NFTs, nearly one-third of people in the Philippines already hold NFTs. Other countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Nigeria are in the same situation, as people find better ways to make a living through platforms with decentralized marketplaces built around NFTs, rather than working with volatile local currencies.

In 2022, NFTs will only become more palatable to the general public as people see their true value. Much like with bitcoin, institutional investors will follow the lead of major players like Visa and Circle and begin to legitimize and stabilize the market for everything from digital artwork to video game items, original memes, sports highlights and virtual fashions. We'll also begin to see wealth managers integrate digital assets into forward-looking portfolios to stay current with younger investors.

By many estimates, we're still a decade or more away from people working and playing in a seamless metaverse, but 2022 will be the year it crosses an important threshold — the point of no return. Enormous investment is drawing the world's brightest minds, who will find a way to turn over the calendar from a year of lofty promises to one of encouraging progress.

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