If you’ve ever wanted to retreat to a virtual world and have the power to shape the way it looks just by waving your mighty crypto wand, then Decentraland should be the next dimension on your itinerary. It is a virtual world entirely based on blockchain technology that enables its community using the MANA token to buy plots of land, build structures, engage in a myriad of in-world economic transactions, and monetize the content and applications they build.
It may seem similar to Second Life, MineCraft or Fortnite, but there is a very big difference. In Decentraland, the world is not controlled by a centralized organization or company. All members can participate in governance and shape the rules of the world they inhabit.
It’s The Matrix, but everyone shares the role of Architect. And you can tell the difference between the real world and the virtual world. For now.
Welcome, to the real world Neo
Decentraland came to life in 2017 when the Argentina-based team raised $25 million in its 2017, promising to build the first metaverse based on the blockchain. The virtual world has been open to early adopters since 2019, and further opened to the wider public early 2021. During that time, the platform has evolved from a simple 2D experiment into a full-blown 3D world.
Decentraland is organized in a neat 300×300 grid of about 90,000 units of land, or parcels. Some points of interest users have built include Crypto Valley for conferences (used during Consensus: Distributed), a human-size chess board, a venue for live streaming recently used for a Space-X launch, Dragon City, a night club with live-streaming music, a casino for gambling with crypto. The graphics range immensely in quality, mostly depending on what the users themselves have built.
Basic price dynamics and physics of real-life real estate apply to Decentraland real estate. Parcels close to the center of various popular districts are more valuable, and the same goes for parcels close to crossroads. Purchasing parcels next to each other allows you to merge them into an estate and build larger structures. And just like the in real world, land is scarce, expensive, and you need to play the long game to get prime real estate. The average price for a parcel is 6,900 MANA, which as of writing is worth about $8,800 USD.
What makes Decentraland unique
Unlike most other virtual worlds, in Decentraland it’s the players that have the ultimate control over the game. There are no Corporate players pulling the strings, or centralized bodies that enforce the rules. The players own the MANA, the ERC-20 token that fuels the in-game economy, and that enables them to vote directly on policies and initiatives that govern the land. This affects everything from the types of items allowed to investments from the DAO’s treasury.
Besides trading items and parcels, players can fill their personal space with games, activities, and artwork for others to interact with, and personalize their avatars with unique wearables. All these in-game collectibles are created using NFTs bought and sold on the Decentraland Marketplace. Anyone can create these digital assets, and anyone can buy and resell these items.
The NFT marketplace is a huge component of the Decentraland economy and its starting to expand its ties into the real world, through commercial interest. This goes beyond simple branded wearables like an AAX T-shirt. For example, players can set up billboards on their parcels which they can then rent out to real-world companies like a traditional advertising space. A passerby on the virtual platform can interact with the ad and when an avatar clicks on the billboard, the link opens a new window outside of Decentraland into a normal browser.
As the community of Decentraland dwellers grows, so too will the interest from the outside world which opens up a whole range of exciting possibilities. The owner of the Sugar Club nightclub could rent out the venue for an exclusive live-streaming concert, crypto art will have a place to actually be on display, virtual pets platform Ethermon is set to enter Decentraland, and there’s word some players are working on launching Decentraland News – a news channel funded internationally without ties to any corporation.
Right now, it’s still more potential than functional. The loading times are slow, the interface is clunky at times, and glitches are common. But that can be forgiven looking at the short amount of time Decentraland has been live, and rendered unimportant given the scope and potential this digital wonderland has in store for us.