When Facebook announced its pivot to all things metaverse, even going so far as to change its name to Meta, very few people seemed to have a solid grasp of what the social media giant was actually embracing and investing so heavily in.
Now, more than a year later, awareness of the metaverse has grown, as more and more people are entering new virtual environments to connect with one another, and the landscape is more competitive than ever.
Top Metaverse Companies
- Animoca Brands
- Epic Games
- Ready Player Me
- The Sandbox
What Is the Metaverse?
The metaverse is a collection of shared virtual worlds where users can work, play, shop and interact with one another, often as avatars. For example, workers can collaborate in an immersive digital setting, while consumers can shop for clothes and other items for their avatars in 3D showrooms. To gain entry to these worlds, users typically wear virtual or mixed reality headsets, or use their personal computers and even smartphones. Different companies approach the metaverse differently, but the shared throughline is an attempt to build an immersive experience that evolved out of extended reality, or the worlds of virtual, augmented and mixed realities.
15 Metaverse Companies
From major brands like Nike to virtual gaming platforms like Roblox, many companies are making big bets on the metaverse, either by building its foundations or vying to become early adopters. Here are 15 companies making a major impact in the metaverse today.
With a mission of promoting digital property rights of games and NFTs as a way to a more open metaverse, the gaming software and venture capital firm, Animoca Brands, invests heavily in the metaverse. With a portfolio of investments ranging from OpenSea, an NFT marketplace, to Axie Infinity, a play-to-earn game, the company recently took a majority stake in the music metaverse gaming platform Pixelynx, Venture Beat reported.
ARuVR is an extended reality training platform that allows companies to create virtual training programs for their employees. The company works with clients across a variety of industries ranging from healthcare and construction to finance and logistics. ARuVR helped a biopharmaceutical company create an XR platform that would allow the organization to scale their training initiatives across departments, eliminating the need for employees to travel to the United Kingdom for in-person training. Using VR headsets or smartphones, participants were able to tour the company’s manufacturing facilities and clean rooms, which reduced the risk of contamination by 100 percent and the cost of training by 98 percent.
The play-to-earn NFT game Axie Infinity, allows players to purchase digital pets, Axies, and pit them against others to earn cryptocurrency. Hosted on the Ethereum blockchain, Axie Infinity players can trade and collect “Axies,” which are customizable. While the game was touted as a way for people to earn money and paved the way for other play-to-earn games, cracks in that dream — like a massive hack of the game’s blockchain where more than $600 million was stolen — have emerged. (The game’s cryptocurrency, Axie Infinity Shards, has dropped in value by more than 90 percent in the last year, making it a less viable option for those who see playing Axie as a career.)
Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, has become one of the leading companies behind the evolution of the metaverse. In 2020, the company hosted a number of events, including virtual concerts with Travis Scott and Ariana Grande, and an art show with the artist Kaws, all within Fortnite. And, earlier this year, the company announced that it had raised $2 billion to fund other metaverse initiatives, like Unreal Engine, which is a game engine they hope will be used to build the metaverse. Unreal Engine can be used to create immersive experiences in games, films and other simulated environments.
Google is currently working on a hardware project that would allow users to access and experience the metaverse. Earlier this year, The Verge reported that Google had an AR headset in the works. Codenamed Project Iris, the headset is believed to look like a pair of ski goggles and feature outward-facing cameras that would create a mixed reality experience that combines a video stream of the real world with one that’s computer generated, according to The Verge.
When it comes to the metaverse, Meta has big ambitions. With everything from headsets like the Meta Quest 2 and Quest Pro to education initiatives to help developers build and create in the virtual world, the company is investing heavily in the metaverse, upwards of $10 billion in 2021, according to the New York Times. Meta’s Horizon Worlds, its collection of more than 10,000 virtual reality worlds for Meta headsets, are already being used to connect at work and attend events like comedy shows and concerts in the metaverse.
Microsoft is aiming to open up the metaverse to workers. In October, the company announced a partnership with Meta to bring apps like Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint to Meta Quest headsets. Users will be able to stream content from these apps so they can interact with it within their headsets. Microsoft’s Mesh for Teams, will also be integrated within the Quest platform so workers can connect and collaborate as avatars in the metaverse. The two companies are also working together to bring XBox games to the Meta Quest Store, allowing those games to be streamed within Meta’s headsets. Microsoft also offers a mixed reality device dubbed the HoloLens 2, which is marketed toward enterprise businesses working in manufacturing, education, healthcare and other industries.
NFT Worlds is a platform that allows users to develop new worlds in the metaverse and experience what other users have created, like cities and private islands. To get started, users purchase virtual property with its own distinct geography, natural resources like lumber, coal, and oil, with prices and land values fluctuating based on the rarity of its characteristics. The platform features in-game currency, $WRLD, that users can earn and use to purchase items for worlds, and the games and events hosted within.
The hardware and software company NVIDIA launched its own metaverse-like platform last year. The 3D platform, which the company calls the Omniverse, is built on Pixar’s Universal Scene Description, an open source 3D file format. It’s being used to boost 3D workflows in film production and other industries like architecture and gaming, as well as creating simulated worlds and digital twins for training artificial intelligence systems used in industrial and scientific applications like weather and wildfire prediction.
Still in development, Otherside, a metaverse platform being developed by Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT creator Yuga Labs, will allow users to build virtual gaming worlds that can be explored and played within a narrative storyline. Land can be claimed using one of 100,000 keys, or Otherdeeds, wich were made available to owners of Bored Ape Yacht Club and Mutant Ape Yacht Club NFT owners in April, with another 100,000 Otherdeeds being made available to those same deed holders who help develop this new shared, virtual space. Other users can purchase Otherdeeds using the in-game token ApeCoin.
Ready Player Me helps users create full-body 3D custom avatars for the metaverse that can be used across more than 5,000 virtual worlds, apps and games. Users upload a selfie or photograph of themselves — or choose a pre-made avatar — and then customize it with various features like hairstyles, clothing and imported NFTs.
Unity is a 3D content creation platform used in a variety of industries ranging from government to automotive interested in working in the metaverse. Unity helped the car company Volvo create a virtual platform for concept visualization, allowing teams of engineers and designers to collaborate with another in real time. The company also helped Sitowise, a Finland-based firm focused on sustainable development of cities, create a digital twin of the Port of Oulu linked to sensors in the built environment, so the Sitowise could run real-time simulations and optimize the port’s operations.
The Sandbox is a metaverse game where players create games and other virtual experiences. Users are also able to create and animate 3D NFTs of humans, tools and other objects, and sell them on the game’s NFT marketplace as ASSETS. Digital real estate dubbed LAND is also available for purchase and is where users can build and keep their games and ASSETS.
ShapesXR allows remote work teams to design and create VR, AR and mixed reality experiences, applications and games. Using Meta Quest headsets, teams can work and collaborate with one another in a virtual world where they’re creating early design prototypes of immersive experiences and tools for use in sectors like healthcare and education.
One of the most popular and well-known platforms for user-generated games and virtual experiences, Roblox is also helping brands like Nike and Chipotle gain a foothold in the metaverse. Earlier this year, Chipotle opened a ’90s-themed burrito builder within the gaming platform — it later evolved into a burrito maze for Halloween — where players could earn Burrito Bucks by virtually rolling burritos for customers, according to Restaurant Dive, a trade publication. (The burrito bucks can be used to purchase real burritos via the chain’s digital platforms.)
How Are Companies Using the Metaverse?
Companies like Meta and big brands like Nike and Walmart are diving in as early adopters, using the metaverse to reach users and customers in new ways.
Much of the foundation of the current metaverse is being built through gaming, specifically platforms like Roblox, The Sandbox and NFT Worlds, which allow individual users to create their own games and immersive experiences that can be accessed by others, and in some instances, monetized.
Apparel brands, too, are embracing the metaverse, creating digital showroom experiences where users can browse and purchase NFT apparel to outfit avatars. It’s even gotten to the point where fashion stylists are being consulted. In December, Forever 21 dropped limited edition hoodies and other accessories in its metaverse store. Gucci opened a virtual art gallery and piazza in the metaverse.
And it’s not just limited to clothing — BMW launched a virtual space for avatars to experience its iX1 SUV.
In 2021, Nike launched its branded metaverse project, Nikeland, on Roblox where users can play games like tag or the floor is lava with stylized avatars decked out in Nike gear. They can also try on virtual shoes and apparel in Nike’s virtual showroom. As of September, 21 million people have visited Nikeland, according to The Drum, a marketing and advertising publication.
Walmart is also using Roblox as a launchpad into the metaverse. The retailer entered the virtual gaming platform this year by unveiling two immersive experiences for shoppers: Walmart Land and Walmart Universe of Play.
Universe of Play allows users to play with popular toys like L.O.L Dolls and Razor Scooters in a virtual setting, while in Walmart Land, visitors can browse a virtual store geared for their avatars. They can also attend concerts and unlock tokens and badges by playing games and taking part in virtual activities like sitting on a floating donut or jumping the needle on a turntable 100,000 times.