In “Snowcrash,” the groundbreaking novel in which he coined the term “metaverse,” Neal Stephenson writes, “See, the world is full of things more powerful than us. But if you know how to catch a ride, you can go places.”
With this holiday season’s trifecta of Omicron, travel cancellations and a 41% chance of rain in New York City this Friday, I’ve decided to take the legendary sci-fi author’s advice. I’m catching a ride to the metaverse to see what New Year’s Eve will be like in virtual reality.
On a recent Zoom chat, I was intrigued to hear Digital Currency Group had partnered with real estate investment and management firm Jamestown to recreate One Times Square (and the surrounding architecture and plaza space) in Decentraland for New Year’s Eve. (Disclosure: CoinDesk is owned by Digital Currency Group, which is an investor in Decentraland.)
The first question that went through my mind was possibly the most obvious: When is midnight in the metaverse? Despite a fair amount of searching, I learned there does not yet seem to be an accepted metaverse timezone. For now, however, no matter where in the physical world users log in from, New Year’s Eve in Decentraland will be tied to its physical twin of Times Square: at 12:00 a.m. ET.
To get a sense of what to expect, I connected my MetaMask and outfitted my avatar to explore Decentraland. I threw on a beige work shirt, brown pants, sunglasses and some gold sneakers that were airdropped to me via an NFT collection I own a few of – I must admit, I would have worn this outfit IRL – and took to the virtual streets.
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First impression: Wow. Decentraland has undergone a lot of development since the last time I visited. There has been an explosion in land development and there are many more players in the world than before. Over the course of an hour, I visited three art galleries, played blackjack with a frog in one of the many casinos, attended a Playboy holiday event and almost got hit by a meteor in an early version of a play-to-earn game. I also learned a few dance moves, which was probably the most appropriate skill needed for a New Year’s party.
Indeed, there will be live musical performances to dance to in this virtual Times Square event. There’ll also be crypto art, immersive games, a custom CoinDesk auditorium showing specially tailored year-end content and of course all the billboards and advertising of actual Times Square.
Even so, you’re probably wondering, why would I choose to ring in the new year with byte-based people when I could spend it with the flesh-and-blood variety?
Two reasons: First, in the past three weeks a family member and many of my friends contracted the Omicron variant of COVID, so it felt a bit precarious to surround myself with real-life humans at this moment; second, this event offers a chance to satisfy my expanding curiosity over where this technology is headed.
The rise of virtual real estate
With all of the talk of immersive online experiences, combined with the significant appreciation in many blockchain-based metaverse tokens, we seem to be approaching a tipping point in how marketplaces, ownership and communities are developing simultaneously online and off. This New Year’s Eve bash offers a glimpse of where we are headed.
“The future of retail, hospitality, business and events will be a consistent experience in the real world and across all online platforms,” said Simon Koster, CEO of DCG Real Estate. “Your business card will list your physical address and your metaverse address, bringing a similar ethos to both. The metaverse location is a supplement for people who want to come to your real space, yet aren’t able to get there in person. It will feel akin to your physical space.”
Perhaps this is why we’ve seen a virtual land boom recently. In just one week in December, we saw $300+ million in land sales, Nike’s purchase of metaverse studio RTFKT and the announcement of a Metaverse Fashion Week. People are betting that we want our environments, clothing, cars and artwork to live in both physical and digital space simultaneously.
There is also an opportunity to erect architecture that does not exist in physical form.
“So many projects have been designed and have never been built. Architects and designers are well ahead of the real estate industry in that they design natively in 3D but do not always get made due to logistics and construction costs,” Koster said. “The Metaverse can give them a platform to bring those to life.”
As for this Friday’s event, Jamestown President Michael Phillips said “300 million eyes watched Times Square ring in the New Year in 2020;” his firm’s activation in Decentraland aims “to bring this to a wider audience and see how the metaverse can enhance it.”
The largest events in Decentraland tend to hover around 10,000 attendees. Expectations for NYE are 10x that or more. With all of this activity (and with much easier access to a bathroom), I look forward to seeing how Friday plays out in the metaverse and to having a virtual toast with many others from around the globe.
CoinDesk in Decentraland
Enter the Virtual One Times Square NYE party here and visit the CoinDesk auditorium to see some of the best 2021 moments from CoinDesk.TV. You can also explore CoinDesk’s Most Influential list of 50 people who shaped crypto in 2021 and get a special offer to attend Consensus 2022, the largest event in the crypto (meat)space.
And if you see my avatar floating around, please come over and say hi. We can ring in the new year together.