The metaverse is the next frontier of digital experiences, where people can interact, create, play and explore in immersive digital worlds. But not all metaverses are created equal. Some are more open and decentralized. Others are more focused on gaming or socializing. And some are more accessible and scalable. How can we make sense of this diversity and complexity? That’s where the MetaPlayer Quadrant comes in.
The MetaPlayer Quadrant (MPQ) is my recent framework to help you understand and navigate the metaverse landscape. It divides the metaverse into four categories, based on two dimensions: product versus platform, and (de)centralization.
In this very first implementation of the MPQ framework, we’ll dive deeper into the 16 metaverses that our researchers uncovered in the first quarter of this year. Hence, the MQP-2023Q1 edition or more popularly known as MetaMarch 2023.
Before we explore each one in more detail, a quick recap about the two axes.
Product versus platform refers to how much control and customization the users have over their metaverse experience. Products are more curated and standardized, offering a consistent and polished experience for the users. Platforms are more open and flexible, allowing users to create and modify their own content and experiences.
Central versus decentral refers to how much power and autonomy the users have over their metaverse governance. Centralized metaverses are more controlled and regulated by a single entity or authority, such as a company or a government. Decentralized metaverses are more distributed and democratic, giving users more voice and choice in how they run their metaverse.
Overview of MetaMarch 2023 (MPQ2023Q1)
Here’s a quick overview of this edition’s top metaverses per quadrant.
|Global Socializers||Creative Gamers|
|Horizon Worlds by Meta||Fortnite by Epic Games|
|AltspaceVR† by Microsoft||Roblox (Corp.)|
|Hubs by moz://a||Minecraft by Microsoft|
|VRChat (Inc.)||Second Life by Linden Labs|
|(Central Products)||(Central Platforms)|
|Niche Designers||Web3 Blockchainers|
|Spatial (Systems, Inc)||Decentraland (Foundation)|
|The Wild by Autodesk||Upland (Uplandme, Inc.)|
|SynergyXR (ApS)||Somnium Space (Ltd.)|
|Glue (Collaboration)||The Sandbox by Animoco Brands|
|(Decentral Products)||(Decentral Platforms)|
Now let’s deep-dive!
The Global Socializers represent the mainstream vision of the metaverse with products offering immersive content to their fans in mainly VR. The top 4:
- Horizon Worlds: The flagship metaverse from Meta (formerly Facebook) launched in October 2020 as beta and became publicly available in December 2021. It offers a vast virtual world for users to create avatars, explore regions, play games, watch events, shop, work, and socialize. Integrated with Meta (formerly Oculus) Quest 2 headset and Meta app, it supports cross-platform access from PCs and smartphones.
- AltspaceVR: One of the oldest and most popular social VR platforms, offering a variety of environments and activities for users to hang out, chat, attend events, host meetings, and join clubs. It supports various VR headsets, desktop, and mobile devices. However, it shut down on March 10, 2023, as Microsoft focuses on its new metaverse project: Mesh.
- Hubs by moz://a: A web-based social VR platform, allowing users to create and join 3D rooms with their browsers without downloads or installations. It supports VR headsets and mixed reality devices, offering customization options, chat with voice or text, media sharing, 3D drawing, and collaboration.
- VRChat: A free-to-play social VR platform where users create and explore user-generated worlds with avatars, interacting with others using voice, gestures, animations, playing games, watching videos, attending events, and joining communities. It supports various VR headsets and desktop mode.
The Niche Designers represent specific use cases offering more autonomy and participation to targeted user groups like engineers. The top 4 of this quadrant:
- Spatial: A collaborative AR/VR platform for holographic meetings with colleagues or clients, offering voice and gesture communication, 3D model sharing, documents, videos, and integration with productivity tools like Slack, Google Drive, and Microsoft Teams. It supports AR/VR headsets, desktop, and mobile devices.
- The Wild by Autodesk: A cloud-based collaboration platform for immersive experiences in architecture, design, and engineering. Users can import 3D models from various software, explore them in VR or AR with team members or clients, and annotate, sketch, measure, and modify designs in real time.
- SynergyXR: A cloud-based product for interactive VR presentations for sales, marketing, and training. Users can upload 3D models or use pre-made templates to showcase products or services in VR, invite audiences to join them in VR or watch on a web browser, and track performance using analytics tools.
- Glue: A cloud-based platform for creating virtual team spaces for remote collaboration, offering avatar communication, screen sharing, document sharing, whiteboards, and space customization. It supports various VR headsets and desktop mode.
The Creative Gamers represent a hybrid and flexible vision of the metaverse with established platforms offering a balance between user-generated and curated content, as well as user empowerment and platform governance.
- Fortnite: A massively popular online game with a Creative mode that allows players to create their own islands, modes, and events. Players can also join other players’ creations or participate in official events hosted by Epic Games.
- Roblox: A platform-based metaverse where users can create and play games of various genres and styles, socialize with other players, join groups and clubs, and customize their avatars and items.
- Minecraft: A sandbox game where players can build and explore infinite worlds made of blocks, join servers hosting mini-games, role-playing scenarios, educational activities, and more.
- Second Life: One of the oldest and most established metaverses, offering users the ability to create and control avatars, interact with others, buy and sell virtual goods and services, and participate in various events and activities.
The Web3 Blockchainers represent the most ambitious and radical vision of the metaverse where anyone can create, own and govern their own virtual worlds and communities without relying on any central authority or intermediary.
- Decentraland: A popular blockchain-based metaverse where users can buy, sell, and create virtual land parcels using MANA tokens. Users can also explore various districts, such as Vegas City, Crypto Valley, or Dragon City, that host different types of events, games, and experiences. Decentraland is governed by a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) that allows users to vote on the development and policies of the platform.
- Upland: A metaverse that maps the real world and allows users to buy, sell, and trade virtual properties using UPX tokens. Users can also earn income from their properties, collect NFTs, and join various communities and challenges. Upland is powered by the EOS blockchain and uses a gamified approach to make the metaverse more accessible and fun.
- Somnium Space: A metaverse that offers immersive VR experiences and social interactions. Users can buy, sell, and build on virtual land parcels using CUBEs tokens, as well as create and trade NFTs. Somnium Space also supports cross-platform access via desktop and mobile devices. It is based on the Ethereum blockchain and uses a layer-2 solution called Polygon to reduce gas fees and increase scalability.
- The Sandbox: A metaverse that enables users to create, play, and monetize their own voxel-based games and experiences. Users can buy, sell, and rent virtual land parcels using SAND tokens, as well as create and trade NFTs using the platform’s native tools. The Sandbox also hosts various events, partnerships, and collaborations with well-known brands and artists. It is built on the Ethereum blockchain and uses a layer-2 solution called Immutable X to enable zero-gas transactions.
These 16 metaverses showcase the diversity and richness of the current metaverse landscape. Each offers unique opportunities and experiences, catering to different interests and preferences.
As “The Metaverse” continues to evolve, we can expect even more innovation and variety in the virtual, augmented or otherwise digitally superimposed worlds that people can explore, create, and participate in.
Expect the second edition of the MetaPlayers Quadrant mid-June 2023.
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