Getting aboard the Metaverse bus and reaping from it


In this photo illustration, the Meta logo is displayed on a smartphone screen and the Facebook logo on a computer screen as background. PHOTO | AFP

At the close of the first decade of this century, virtual goods took the world by storm. Social game companies like Zynga rode on the coattails of platforms like Facebook to great success.

In this column, I both entertained the thought and in equal measure challenged the status quo to think differently about how we market our country and get ‘tourist dollars’ albeit virtually. Virtual goods opened up immense monetization opportunities for freemium operators and this has gone on to become mainstream.

Zynga’s Seeds For Haiti micro-philanthropy campaign run to raise funds to support Haiti’s recovery efforts following a devastating earthquake raised over $1.5 million in five days in 2010.

Fortnite, a free-to-play massively multiplayer online game by powerhouse developer Epic Games, boasts of an estimated 350 million users and raked in a reported $5.1 billion revenue for the parent company in 2020, primarily from the sale of virtual goods. Parents and gamers on this column may relate to the desire for V-Bucks Fortnite’s in-game currency used to purchase items.

We clearly missed out on an opportunity here, but the next bus has arrived – the metaverse. Not an entirely new concept but the fervour with which the world is looking at the segment points to a shift whose time has come, supported by access to faster connectivity, storage, and processing power necessary to make the experiences worth it.

Explained simply, the metaverse is the intersection between virtual and physical spaces and economies. Second Life an early mover in this direction, launched in June 2003 offered users a place in a virtual online world, with no set agenda.

It did not quite catch on as the founders may have anticipated, but their resilience may see them reap from lessons learned and the mainstreaming of additional technologies such as the blockchain.

What does this mean for us? In the near future, there will be some form or other of a digital land rush, with a three-pronged opportunity. The first is to create the platforms and infrastructure to support virtual environments, the second is to create value within these environments and the third is to build interoperability rails since my guess is that those who run with the first will probably want to create moats and silos.

Creating value within these environments is where I think we stand the best chance to monetise, given Africa’s rich culture. Pause for a moment and think about it. The abstract just became real.

Njihia is the head of business and partnerships at Sure Corporation | | @mbuguanjihia