More and more of our financial life is happening online, and it’s not just in our online bank accounts. The tech we are becoming increasingly reliant on is making a reality of its own, with the lines between the virtual and real becoming more blurred every day.
First, it was money itself, with cryptocurrency. Then it was art and collectibles, with NFTs. And now it’s the price we put on the online spaces we inhabit — with virtual real estate.
When the “Crypto Landscape” Becomes More Than a Metaphor
It may seem crazy to some to pay so much for something that isn’t real in the way we know its analogue counterpart to be, such as a painting, a player-worn sports jersey, or an apartment. But anything can have value if enough people choose to give it value. Even the U.S. dollar itself, an example of fiat money in cryptocurrency terminology, is not backed by gold, or any other precious metal, or anything else “real” besides some fancy paper and a conscious choice to use it in everyday life.
Very few events could show this phenomenon more than the famous recent purchase of a non-fungible token of the Beeple artwork “Everydays — The First 5000 Days” for $69.3 million by Vignesh Sundaresan, more commonly known as Metakoven.
As Sundaresan said in a recent interview about the purchase, “This is a change in medium. That means that there’s going to be hundreds and thousands of people from around the world who are going to adopt this medium — a digitally native medium — to monetize art, and there’s going to be an economy around it, and the first piece of such an important movement going forward is going to be quite valuable in the future, also.”
And so it is with the sales of real estate in a virtual environment, one where people can never exist in the material sense, but only in their minds.
But what is virtual real estate? Essentially, it stands for digital spaces recognizable visually as living spaces one might inhabit in the analogue world, created by software. Such spaces, for example, can be representations of land plots in the physical world on Google Earth or through platforms such as Decentraland, where you can sell advertising in the virtual spaces available there. Furthermore, not all spaces are sold — some are rented out.
A Different Kind of Valuation
Although virtual real estate usually involves no physical asset beyond an infinitesimally light electrical current, it does have value beyond a monetary one. It allows its owners and visitors to be part of communities and have experiences there that may not be possible or are usually beyond their control through “real” real estate.
In fact, Metakoven himself doesn’t plan to keep his Beeple masterpiece locked away in a crypto wallet. Rather, he plans to put his Beeple masterpiece on display in virtual galleries.
Moreover, this kind of community and experience isn’t new — Metaverse platforms such as Minecraft, SimCity, Second Life, Fortnite, and Roblox, to name just a few of the more famous ones, have been providing communities of interactive digital participants for decades now. And making money from some of these virtual spaces certainly isn’t new, either.
So, by all accounts, virtual real estate is here to stay, for multiple reasons:
- It poses fewer barriers for people to participate. With no property tax, mechanical repairs, or soaring prices (especially in today’s market), anyone with a crypto wallet and a couple of (thousand) dollars can stake a claim and be a virtual neighbor to anyone — celebrities included.
- It’s a space with a variety of participants, from virtual reality and blockchain developers, from investors to hobbyists, from gamers to soccer moms. A truly inclusive and diverse community.
- Even in a month when total NFT sales and value of sales were down, between March 30 and April 28, 2021, the only NFT sector growing in valuation, and by a lot, was virtual real estate.
On the Frontier — Literally — of Virtual Real Estate
As mentioned before, there are platforms such as Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, Somnium Space, The Sandbox, and Etherland that provide virtual experiences, and then there are platforms that aim to cross borders to connect them. Republic Realm is a prime example of such a venture.
Although not open to the public yet, this virtual real estate platform aims to build community engagement across a variety of platforms, providing real-time output of underpriced listings and using findings to identify attractive acquisition targets.
Companies such as Republic Realm connect platforms, and some companies connect the connectors. One such company is AIKON, which will be integrating Republic Realm into its barrier-busting blockchain soon. In fact, AIKON has already integrated blockchain platforms such as Ethereum, Algorand, and EOS, and is working on adding Bitcoin and Cosmos to the mix.
Essentially, AIKON has created a seamless protocol on the blockchain to secure data with its blockchain identity management solution ORE ID, and super secure multisig cryptocurrency wallet, ORE Vault.
Moreover, it’s all connected to the ORE Network, with transactions flowing through the ORE Chain, a blockchain created to handle the identities and digital assets it protects. The ORE Chain is designed to integrate with other blockchains, allowing one to use multiple dApps, on multiple chains, with a single email address, SMS, or social login.
It’s virtual real estate platforms like Decentraland that will continue to create digital worlds, but it’s platforms like AIKON and Republic Realm that are making sure all roads connecting these worlds are safe, fast, and clear.
And all those roads lead to the future. Are you ready to join the new world where your next house is virtual, bought with virtual money, and existing in your imagination?
If your answer is yes, here’s to the new kids in town!