The First Game Metaverses

The First Game Metaverses

Believe it or not, there have been metaverses before Meta. Let’s take a look at some of them!

While the metaverse might have only recently entered the limelight, the concept has existed for a long time. The term “metaverse” was in fact coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 science fiction novel, Snow Crash. He used the term to describe a virtual reality-based world that would take the place of the internet. 

Given that the term has been around for a while, naturally, there have been attempts at creating this virtual world. Let’s look at some of the video games which have defined how the term metaverse is understood today. 

Second Life

Dubbed as the first metaverse, Second Life is a virtual world that has been around since 2003. Unlike the other entries on this list, it is not a playable game with any specific objectives. Instead, the world is just a place for people to adopt digital avatars, explore and interact with each other. Within Second Life, you can create your own content and even trade goods and services using Linden Dollar, the in-game currency. 

Despite being an 18-year-old game at this point, Second Life has over 200,000 daily active users and more than 2 billion user-generated assets. It has ‌a gross domestic product (GDP) of US$600 million dollars. 

Minecraft

Another thriving metaverse that already exists is the game Minecraft. Created in the mid-2000s, Minecraft was originally a browser extension that allowed people to build whatever they wanted using blocks within a virtual space. The game allows anyone to create their own metaverse based on their vision without the need for fancy tech devices, like VR headsets, to enter. 

The game still continues to facilitate ‌virtual worlds for its over 126 million monthly users. It has generated US$415 million in revenue in 2020. 

Roblox

Roblox is a platform where users can access and create a wide variety of games. Much like the previous entries, Roblox isn’t focused on new technology but rather makes it possible for you to use existing game tech to create an immersive experience. 

Founded in 2004, the platform largely has a younger user base and boasts over 24 million experiences (aka user-created worlds and games) for users to dive into. One of the key features of the platform is that while all the games are free, users can choose to buy special items in exchange for an in-platform digital currency called “Robux”. Developers receive a cut of these purchases and can make as much as US$1 million a year through them.

As of this year, the platform has 47 million daily active users and 9.5 million developers. The platform’s developer community has made over US$130 million in 2021, and the platform itself has made US$509 million in revenue in the previous quarter of the year. The platform has also gained significant attention from sportswear giant Nike, which created its own metaverse, Nikeland, on it. Nikeland is a space where users can play games, interact with each other and dress their virtual characters in exclusive Nike clothing. 

Despite the popularity of metaverses, the road ahead may not be smooth. For instance, the Second Life virtual world has seen allegations of Ponzi schemes using in-game currency and child grooming. This displays the possibility of similar incidents happening on other platforms, highlighting the importance of content moderation on metaverses. Considering its young user base, Roblox has been proactive in combating this hurdle with over 4000 moderators and a content filtering algorithm. What we can take away from these games are lessons on what needs to be considered when creating a metaverse that will stay relevant over the years. 

Header image courtesy of Freepik

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