EVM metaverse landscape 🌐
Dear Bankless Nation,
The Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) is the “environment in which all Ethereum accounts and smart contracts live,” as ethereum.org has explained.
Of course, many metaverse projects don’t rely on the EVM — or even use blockchain tech at all, for that matter.
Yet projects that do turn to the EVM do so because it’s suitable infrastructure for the open metaverse, i.e. NFTs, crypto, and open protocols are ideal for freedom of expression, freedom of transaction, open interoperability, and so forth.
Many layer one (L1) and layer two (L2) chains beyond Ethereum have embraced the EVM, so most metaverse building efforts in the cryptoeconomy today are happening on EVM chains. Let’s outline this EVM metaverse landscape for today’s Metaversal.
Why build a metaverse on the EVM?
In building on the EVM, metaverse projects have the ability to plug into borderless and permissionless infrastructure (crypto, DeFi, NFTs, etc.) to build and share what they want, how they want.
These teams don’t have to apply for the Apple App Store or worry about getting kicked off the Steam games marketplace. Instead, these projects use the EVM as a means to realize and distribute their products on their own terms and in largely disintermediated fashion.
In contrast, consider how earlier this year news broke that Facebook parent company Meta was planning to charge creators up to 47.5% on any sales made through its Horizon Worlds virtual reality platform. Ouch!
That massive cut looks like a mafia play compared to EVM-underpinned marketplace efforts like OpenSea, which charges a 2.5% service fee, and Zora, which currently doesn’t charge any protocol fees.
Accordingly, EVM-based metaverse projects thus have more empowering and more direct ways of bringing their worlds to life. So with that intro out of the way, let’s go through and touch on the EVM metaverse landscape chain by chain.
- Ethereum’s young metaverse scene continues to facilitate the most NFT trading volume and overall activity in the cryptoeconomy. Much of this activity comes from two of Ethereum’s most popular metaverse projects, Decentraland and The Sandbox.
- Other notable projects like Voxels (previously Cryptovoxels) and Somnium Space have seen their volume levels decline in recent times, though both projects still have committed fanbases and are seen as trailblazers by many in the NFT space.
- Newer projects, like NFT Worlds, have also surged onto the scene in recent months, while more and more people are eyeing prominent in-progress efforts like Yuga Labs’s The Otherside, Nifty Island, Webaverse, Wassieverse, Southside City Metaverse, and beyond.
- BNB Chain, formerly Binance Smart Chain, is currently one of the most active EVM chains outside of Ethereum. That comes as no surprise, since Binance has a teeming ecosystem, but if we zoom in at BNB Chain’s metaverse scene, it’s much smaller than Ethereum’s and is filled with projects that have little name recognition outside of Binance’s sphere of influence.
- Relatively speaking, some of the larger metaverse projects building on BNB Chain today include AlienWorlds, Ceek, Merit Circle, Metahero, and YooShi.
- Billed as affordable, environmentally-friendly, and fast, Polygon has one of the most thriving and fastest growing app ecosystems beyond Ethereum in the contemporary cryptoeconomy. In recent months Polygon’s NFT scene has swelled considerably, which has caused an influx of metaverse builders to turn their attention to this user-friendly EVM.
- Thanks to its links to Aave, Aavegotchi’s Gotchiverse is presently one of the most recognizable metaverse projects active on Polygon. Voxels is another project that’s been increasingly experimenting with Polygon, too. Other efforts are much smaller right now, though there are many of them.
- Meta-owned Instagram recently announced that it was going to add support for Polygon NFTs. Could this support lead to Meta looking closer at this EVM chain in the future when it comes to its later VR efforts? Only time will tell, but that’s decidedly in the realm of possibility now.
- Arbitrum is a popular up-and-coming L2. Its NFT scene is still very small, but it’s steadily gaining traction. Leading the NFT charge on Arbitrum right now is Treasure, which is characterized as decentralized NFT infrastructure for metaverse projects. Some of the projects that have been built on Treasure so far include Bridgeworld, Life, and Smolverse.
- Avalanche is an EVM chain that doesn’t have much metaverse activity happening on it currently. To be sure, there are some smaller projects building up on Avalanche right now, like Atlantis World and Lootex. But this early on, Avalanche’s metaverse ambitions are still mostly aspirational. The chain’s creators are trying though, as evidenced by how they recently proposed that the Otherside metaverse be built atop Avalanche.
- Optimism is a very promising L2 that offers full EVM equivalence, meaning that building on Optimism is effectively just like building on Ethereum. Yet despite this major advantage, the Optimism NFT ecosystem is extremely young and isolated mostly to the Quixotic marketplace currently. That said, the Optimism metaverse scene is virtually nonexistent for now, though I expect that to change soon as more projects come to embrace the L2’s EVM equivalence.
Altogether, the EVM metaverse landscape is in its earliest years, but its frontiers are starting to be built out in all directions.
The interoperability possibilities that the EVM opens up is a huge part of this growth and will continue to be going forward. Yet it’s also important to recognize the importance of non-EVM and non-blockchain technologies when it comes to actualizing an open metaverse in the years ahead.
For example, 3D tech like Blender and WebXR can be huge resources for open metaverse builders, and much more work needs to be done to make inroads from the EVM metaverse landscape to these tools and their communities. When EVM projects start to more deeply embrace these additional open metaverse resources is when the real magic will begin, I think.