Will the Metaverse Be Free to Use?

Will the Metaverse Be Free to Use?

is the metaverse free

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How much should we expect to pay to access the metaverse? Will everyone be able to use it? Or will it be solely the domain of the rich and famous?

There is a lot of talk about all the promises of the “metaverse,” the next stage of computing. The practical and entertaining ramifications of immersive experiences and the world painted with data are definitely staggering. But will the cost also be staggering?

The Costs of The Metaverse

The metaverse is a network of linked, immersive, and communal virtual experiences and spaces. In a way, the metaverse (or at least the building blocks of the metaverse) is already here. In other ways, this always-on, ever-present, all-encompassing way of being inside the Internet is still years away.

Like the Internet today, the metaverse is not owned by a single entity or accessed by a single piece of hardware. There will be no “metaverse subscription” paying anyone or a single provider of any “metaverse console”. However, there will be costs associated with accessing the metaverse that will be paid for in different ways by different parties.

Data Connections and Service Providers

You can look at the metaverse as a way to access the internet. Therefore, the metaverse will not be freer than the Internet now. Although no company can charge you a toll to access the metaverse, you will need some sort of internet or data connection to access it.

Some metaverse experiences currently run on the Internet. But other, more advanced applications, like augmented reality, will require faster connections than many people have access to today.

If you’re already using 5G internet and high-speed data, you can take these costs for granted. But others who don’t use and need high-speed internet may feel like they’re paying more to access the metaverse.

Hardware Costs

You won’t need a VR headset or AR glasses to enter the metaverse. But, if you want the full immersion that extended reality can provide, it’s only going to come from these devices. And, naturally, these devices come at a high price.

Consumer VR headsets are becoming more affordable, but they also lack the power of more expensive headsets. Plus, those expensive headsets also need more expensive computers to run their programs. The same can be said of augmented reality.

There aren’t many AR glasses that can do that a good mobile phone can’t. But, if you want to access spatial information in that particular way, you’ll need AR glasses. Like VR headsets, AR glasses require some kind of external computer. For many business models, that’s a dedicated computing box, but it’s often a high-end mobile phone in emerging consumer models.

So again, the costs to access the metaverse may be costs you’re already paying for without even thinking about it. But, if you need or choose to access the metaverse in a certain way, you may be in for a surprise.

Individual Experiences and Platforms

While “the metaverse” will not have a single subscription fee, apps and experiences that use and benefit from metaverse technologies may have purchase prices, subscription fees, in-app purchases, or other business models. This is, again, similar to how we access the Internet today.

Some metaverse experiences, particularly in entertainment, come at a one-time price. Some, particularly in companies, have a subscription model. Others are “freemium” services with a limited version that is free to use and a more robust option that costs money. Free experiences may also use ads or marketplaces on the platform to earn money.

Metaverse-Only Considerations

So far, we’ve primarily discussed ways in which paying for the metaverse will be similar to paying for online experiences today. However, some cost and payment systems and considerations may be unique to the metaverse.

Crypto and NFT

The metaverse is based primarily on two mutually incompatible ideas: creator economies and network compatibility. If nothing else, those ideas tend to be mutually incompatible with how we pay for and use virtual goods and services today.

Right now, most people talk about cryptocurrencies and NFTs as speculative assets. That is, as things that we buy and sell to make a profit in some other currency and not as things that have value and utility in themselves. However, cryptocurrencies and NFTs have inherent functional value in the metaverse. This is largely due to interoperability.

We can already buy digital assets like character customization options on online platforms like video games. However, these assets do not work on other online platforms. This is partly because online platforms are built with different programs and languages ​​and partly because they are purchased within their platforms to avoid microtransactions.

Cryptocurrencies work better for microtransactions than other types of currencies without being native to a particular platform or experience. Imagine being able to buy virtual goods from any online platform with a cryptocurrency instead of using a credit card to buy Robux or V-bucks or any other platform-specific intermediary currency.

Furthermore, NFTs can be compatible with any experience that uses the same blockchain and standards. As a result, cryptocurrencies and NFTs can be important in getting our money and possessions from one virtual world to another.

NFTs also empower artists to create products for virtual environments. This will help create a metaverse that is not dominated by a single brand or entity. Instead of one experience provider creating all assets in a marketplace, users will be able to create and sell their own assets that can be used across all experiences.

Pay with Data

Your data has value. Have you ever tried to download what looked like a fun free mobile game and been surprised when it asked for all sorts of device data? This is a scarily shocking practice that companies use to collect your data which, based on the fine print buried in their incomprehensible terms of use, they can then sell.

Spatial experiences, particularly AR and VR experiences, require a large amount of data to function and can collect much more data. There are theories that Meta Quest 2 is so cheap for the same reason that innocent-looking mobile game was free: someone wants your data.

There are also ethical concerns with outward-facing cameras in VR and AR hardware. The data you provide to make those experiences possible may not always be your own.

How free will the metaverse be?

The metaverse will not be free. But it doesn’t have to be more expensive than the modern Internet. There will always be hardware and connectivity costs, but don’t worry about not being able to pay for your metaverse subscription.

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