Consumerism in the metaverse

The Easter break and springtime gives everyone a chance to reflect, looking forward to holidays, spending time with the family and indulging in good food and retail therapy.

Traditionally, with shops closed, Easter Sunday has been the day IT leaders in retail schedule major upgrade rollouts. But the online world never closes and rollouts are increasingly part of IT’s continuous delivery programme.

People can shop online whenever and wherever they want. While one can only fit in so many “best ever” purchases of 4K TVs, sofas, beds, or makeover their garden, kitchen, bedroom or bathroom, digital assets are limitless.

The concept of a digital asset has been around since tech firms began charging for software. But, unlike something purchased in the physical world like a book or a vinyl record, people never “owned” the software they purchased. They purchased the rights to use that software and were bound contractually by terms and conditions set out by the software provider. These days, while many may prefer streaming services like Spotify, people can also buy digital downloads of music and movies. But it is the online games industry that is demonstrating the potential economic value of digital assets and the role of micropayments for in-game purchases.

Hardcore gamers will happily part with a small amount of money to purchase a package of pixels and sounds, wrapped up in a block of code. The in-app purchase offers something the gamer perceives as desirable or valuable in the virtual world where the game plays out and may well deliver the dopamine fix that happens when someone buys something special in the real world.

Value in digital

As they already play in virtual worlds, gamers are likely to be the first target demographic of the so-called metaverse, followed by those prolific on social media. One can imagine a Blade Runner-esque virtual world populated by billboards advertising digital flying cars, bikes, clothes, shoes and accessories and a better than real life lifestyle, where people live in digital penthouse apartments and houses overlooking picture perfect digital skylines and landscapes.

Unlike the real world, these assets should have far less of an environmental impact than physical products. While the CPUs and GPUs to render digital assets require electricity, the environmental impact of producing and running them is minimal compared to cars, clothes, shoes, property and consumer packaged goods in the real world.

It is good to dream. And in a virtual world, people can dream up anything. If it succeeds, the metaverse may offer a new economic model that is more sustainable than what exists today in the physical world. Let’s Imagine a metaverse that allows us to break free from our indulgence in purchasing physical things.

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