MetaRez or Bust

Dear Dr. Per Cap:

Real estate is so expensive, maybe I should buy land in the metaverse, instead.  People are getting rich off digital assets and I could create a metaRez.  What do you think?

Signed,

Asset Hunter


Dear Asset Hunter,

The virtual reality world of the future, aka the metaverse, has arrived.

For readers who haven’t yet dipped a big toe into it, Decentraland is an example of what we’re talking about.  It’s a popular metaverse app that allows real people to vicariously explore a virtual world of land and cityscapes, while interacting with other users as online personas or avatars.

Why would anyone choose a virtual life over a real one?  Honestly, I don’t really get it myself. But in a society with increasingly less desire and need for in-person interaction, the metaverse appeals to some people.

The Decentraland app also includes a marketplace for digital assets, such as land, wearables, emotes, and names.  Boosting demand is Decentraland’s limited supply of a cryptocurrency called MANA, along with a fixed number of property tracts on which to build and sell.  Yes, people pay real money for items that have no physical bearing.  Sound crazy?  Maybe, but markets for intangibles, like intellectual property, have always been a bit irrational.

For anyone still laughing, a sprawling 6,000-square-foot property in Decentraland called Fashion Street Estate fetched the equivalent of $2.4 million in MANA tokens a couple years ago.  Popular virtual venues for hosting virtual fashion shows, music festivals, and celebrity appearances have a few high-end fashion brands, artists, and investors making big financial bets on digital assets in the metaverse.

But be cautious.  Just like cryptocurrencies, these digital assets can rise and fall with the swipe of a keypad, and the future of the metaverse is far from certain.  There are numerous challenges, but a struggling economy, tech glitches, and expensive hardware mean folks aren’t flocking to this brave, new, virtual world in the numbers companies like Microsoft, Disney, and Facebook (which was so gung-ho it changed its name to Meta Platforms in 2021) had originally anticipated.

In fact, some people might say the path to metaverse fortune and glory looks more like the road to perdition than one paved with yellow bricks.  Case in point: Land values in Decentraland have dropped by almost 90% in the past year.

Like I’ve said before with crypto, meme stocks, and other investing fads, “This is pure speculation, so think of it more like gambling than investing, and don’t risk more than you can afford to lose.” Moreover, call me old fashioned, but I’m betting on the future of Native communities we can enjoy without augmented reality headsets.

So, leave the metaRez to the keyboard warriors because where I’m from, there’s still no substitute for a big hug from aunty, the aroma of fresh, outdoor oven bread, and a beautiful piece of pottery you can hold.

Talk about priceless!

Ask Dr. Per Cap is a program funded by First Nations Development Institute with assistance from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. For more information, visit www.firstnations.org. To send a question to Dr. Per Cap, email askdrpercap@firstnations.org.