The metaverse became real estate’s new frontier

A close up of the Six N. Five design for The Row. This is only the latest luxury metaverse project from Everyrealm. The company, previously known as Republic Realm, sold 100 private islands in The Sandbox, called Fantasy Islands, and a superyacht called The Metaflower for $650,000 in cryptocurrency in 2021.courtesy Six N. Five/Everyrealm

When you talk to folks who work in the metaverse, one comparison often comes up: “It’s like the Wild West.” Take what you will from that. Is it a brand-new frontier for those looking to strike it rich? Unlawful territory? a location distinguished by the mysterious and cut off from the rest of society? Or all of the aforementioned. However, it is certain that folks in the Wild West did not spend $650,000 in cryptocurrencies on a virtual yacht.

Real estate speculation is rife in the metaverse, a burgeoning collection of immersive virtual online environments where users can live and play. Investors are placing their bets on Web3, a decentralized version of the internet that its proponents claim would usher in a paradigm shift in how we use the internet.

However, the value of real estate has been unstable. Winston Robson, CEO and co-founder of metaverse analytics business WeMeta, claims that land prices have decreased by 50 to 80% this year across the four major metaverse platforms: The Sandbox, Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, and Somnium Space. He cited issues with the bitcoin market and the real-world economy as causes of the decrease.

However, if you look beyond the figures, you’ll find that entire professions, from architects and designers to developers and real estate salespeople, are changing. Their endeavors there aren’t only limited to the metaverse; they’re already having an effect on reality.

Building for the future

When George Bileca, CEO of Voxel Architects, was given some land in Cryptovoxels to play with, he was pursuing a career in automotive design after studying architecture and design. He utilized it to create a dealership at the outset of the pandemic to sell NFTs (non-fungible tokens) of digital automobiles created by his friend. After two years, Bileca now employs 25 people full-time in the metaverse.

According to the CEO of Voxel Architects, which has offices in Portugal, the company has created over 100 metaverse projects, including venues for fashion week, galleries for the auction house Sotheby’s, and an NFT production facility for the American artist Tom Sachs. The next step is an authentic Elvis Presley experience in Decentraland and The Sandbox.

Sotheby’s in Decentraland, designed and built by Voxel Architects. The building is modeled on the real-life auction house on New Bond Street, London. Credit: courtesy Voxel Architects

According to Bileca, the initial stages of designing a building for the metaverse are very similar to those used in the actual world. An architect or designer meets with a client and creates computer or paper sketches of ideas. Once a design has been decided upon, it is 3D sculpted using conventional design tools while adhering to the design specifications of the metaverse it will inhabit (different metaverses use different building blocks, and have different texture and color ranges).

Coding then starts. Bileca said, “The build is nothing more than an empty carcass. We layer functionality, such as the ability to interact with artwork, access doors, and construct bespoke user interfaces, gaming quests, and other interactive features, on top of that shell. It is then deployed into a metaverse once finished.

Voxel Architects designed Auroboros, a venue for Metaverse Fashion Week in March 2022. Recording artist Grimes held a concert during the event. Credit: courtesy Voxel Architects.

The studio charges an hourly rate for its work, with some projects costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. According to Bileca, who would not name the customer, the most expensive project costing close to $500,000 was for planning, developing, and deploying a development in The Sandbox.

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