Earlier this week, the Sandbox launched Alpha Season 3, the virtual platform’s biggest season yet that includes 98 gaming experiences, 27 of which were created alongside partners from the art, entertainment, and fashion sectors. This launch promises to be Web3’s largest use case of interoperability yet, with NFT owners able to use their digital assets from collections like Bored Ape Yacht Club, Doggies, World of Women, CoolCats, and Clone X as avatars in The Sandbox.
The Sandbox isn’t the only company working on metaverse interoperability. There is growing interest and investment in developing interoperable systems to allow for fluid system-to-system usage and improved user experiences. Meta, Roblox, and Decentraland are working toward integrations that would allow participants to traverse multiple virtual worlds with a single digital identity, while Ready Player Me, which recently closed $56 million in funding, has long been supporting the development of cross-metaverse avatars.
All these industry players share the conviction that the metaverse isn’t going to be a series of walled gardens. Rather, it’s intended to be a constellation of virtual worlds.
What is metaversal interoperability?
Nick Clegg, Meta’s President of Global Affairs writes that interoperability is the “interconnectedness of standards, systems, and applications that enable people to travel seamlessly between one part of the metaverse and another.” This is key to the promise of a unified metaverse, preventing the decentralized, user-owned vision to become siloed. Interoperability isn’t a new concept, and it’s not just particular to the digital world. Every museum, for example, relies on interoperable systems that allow them to reference across their libraries, archives, and collections.
The Metaverse Standards Forum is an example of an industry effort to establish shared best practices and standards towards creating an interoperable future for mass adoption, ensuring user experiences across platforms are positively consistent.
What’s an example of avatar interoperability?
In addition to the Sandbox’s latest specific focus on NFT avatars as a ways to ensure consistent identities across platforms, Ready Player Me focuses on creating interoperable and customizable avatar experiences. While the Sandbox allows participants to connect their NFT to the game, Ready Player Me allows developers to “plug and play” game models — a feature that’s been most attractive to the digital fashion sector — and users to keep a consistent identity across virtual worlds.
Hypothetically,if users visited the gift shop of a museum in a particular metaverse and bought a shirt, their interoperable avatar could put wear that same shirt in an entirely different metaverse. In other words, their customizable avatars (as opposed to connected NFTs) wouldn’t be limited to world-centric or even site-specific locations.
So what does interoperability mean for metaverse culture?
For users, an interoperable metaverse means they’ll be able to jump from world to world without having to switch avatars, wallets, or assets. Features such as interoperable avatars, will draw audiences looking to build and customize their own virtual identities, further defining ownership, personal expression, and social interactions in an open metaverse.
For brands and cultural organizations, interoperability might mean a shared set of standards upon which they can more robustly compete and create value for audiences. Branding possibilities are obviously expanded — especially since the digital identity sector, as financial advisory web3 Studios projected in its recent report, is set for massive growth, generating more than $600 billion in revenue by 2030.
But beyond that are also opportunities to better engage consumers. For example, metaverse museum consortiums could leverage this interoperability to encourage community building and social sharing. By extending memberships, they could allow members to visit museums across these consortiums to enjoy member-specific benefits, such as live and interactive events.