Rise (and fall) of virtual land sales
The market for virtual real estate took off in 2022, seeing activity from brands, celebrities, enthusiasts, tech companies and more. Many believe that virtual land will be a building block of the developing metaverse, where users can own the space upon which they build—a far cry from the state of Web2 gaming platforms that maintain control of everything built in their ecosystems. The idea caught fire at the beginning of the year, especially on blockchain-based platforms like The Sandbox and Decentraland, where single plots of virtual real estate were fetching an average of $11,000.
The craze did not last long, however; by October the prices of these plots fell roughly 80%. Reports of low usage in Decentraland also ignited a firestorm of mirth and confusion as to whether metaverse land has any staying power at all. According to Web3 advocates, as well as many brands, virtual real estate is here to stay, but as with the entirety of this vision, it’s going to take some time to build out.
Brands and agencies flocked
If you’ve been keeping up with Ad Age’s metaverse blog, then you know that brands have flocked to virtual spaces throughout 2022. This is a major milestone, not only because it’s a sign that mainstream entities are embracing the metaverse, but also because marketing is one of the primary ways in which mass audiences are turned on to a subject. In other words, brands have helped usher countless consumers to metaverse spaces, carving a path to mainstream adoption.
Brands across categories have tapped the virtual, from fashion and food to travel and home goods. Underlying these activations, however, is interest from ad agencies, which undoubtedly has fueled the marketing industry’s embrace of metaverse technologies. A large number of agencies have even built their own virtual offices. When the agencies themselves are establishing a presence where they’re telling their brands to activate, you know that space has potential.
As traditional brands, companies and players flocked to the metaverse, they made sure to reserve their IP. Numerous entities throughout 2022 filed trademark applications having to do with the metaverse, including but not limited to: UPS, Mastercard, Victoria’s Secret, Chuck E. Cheese, Hugo Boss, Steph Curry, Heidi Klum and Paramount.
According to trademark attorney Mike Kondoudis, the number of monthly trademark applications peaked in March with 773, but never dipped below 334 through October. In total through the first 10 months of 2022, 4,997 U.S. trademark applications were filed for metaverse and virtual goods/services. Through all 12 months of 2021, that number was 1,890.
Metaverse job listings
Another indication of traditional entities’ interest in the metaverse came in the form of job listings dedicated to exploring the space further. Disney made serious headway in this department, poaching Mark Bozon, formerly creative director for Apple’s Apple Arcade, to be its VP of next-generation storytelling and creative experiences—in other words, metaverse strategy. It also was looking for a Web3 attorney to oversee “transactions involving emerging technologies, including NFTs, blockchain, metaverse and decentralized finance.”
Disney was not alone. Warner Music Group created a listing for a senior director of metaverse development, Roblox listed for a senior Web3 software engineer, Spotify listed for a senior manager of innovation and market intelligence with experience in Web3 and even Apple listed for two Web3-knowledgeable personnel for its retail and marketing team. Apple later removed the post. In fact, a new type of CMO position—chief metaverse officer—emerged, seeing appointees at design consultancy Journey, Creative Artists Agency and LVMH, among others.