Coderblock, the "made in Italy metaverse" seems to be over

Coderblock, the made in Italy metaverse seems to be over


How things change in a couple of years. It seems like a century has passed, but it was only March 2021 when NFT fever began to rise following the sensational sale of a digital work by Beeple for $69 million. In the same period, we began to talk about the metaverse, whose expectations reached their peak in early 2022, making it seem like a realistic prospect to transfer an increasing part of our lives to immersive and digital environments. At the same time, expectations towards the web3 increased: the third generation of internet based on blockchain and cryptocurrencies which should have also fueled the various metaverses that focus on the sale of nfts.

The winter of nfts

Fast forward about 12 months and the situation has radically changed. The nft market - which in January 2022 had reached its maximum (with daily trades around 300 million dollars) -  also collapsed by 90%, with a daily turnover which, in the second half of 2022, decreased hovering around 20 million. In recent weeks, however, there has been a recovery that has led trades to exceed 100 million dollars for the first time in almost a year.

That's not all: in the last quarter of 2022, the Investments in web3 startups are down an impressive 74% over the same period a year earlier. And finally, the various metaverses that we have been discussing for so many months seem to have been gradually abandoned: Horizon Worlds, the metaverse of Meta (in virtual reality but not based on blockchain), lost in the space of a year about 50% of the its users, going from 300,000 to 200,000 users; while the best known environments based on blockchain, nft and cryptocurrencies have shown all their weaknesses.

The case of Decentraland is emblematic: after generating a lot of hype and attracting even the biggest brands in the world to its "parcels" (digital plots that can be purchased using cryptocurrencies), today the reality has shown itself in all its harshness: in February Decentraland was visited on average by 4 thousand people a day, a negligible number compared to the normal attendance of even more niche social platforms (for example, Reddit has about 50 million active users every day) or other environments for some strange reason under the label of metaverse like Roblox (60 million users per day).

The Italian announcement

Yet, in the face of all this, there are those who still bet on the mix between metaverse and nft . This is the case, for example, of the Italian company Coderblock, born in Palermo in 2015 and which has recently announced that it has closed a new round of financing worth one million euros led by Deloitte Consulting and Adm Media Consulting.

Of what is it about? According to their own description, “Coderblock is the online metaverse for new connections and business opportunities: a blockchain-based virtual world where you can create your own avatar to experience in-game adventures, work, connect with other users, buy and customize virtual terrains . [...] Coderblock is launched on the market with Workspace: an innovative shared workspace to manage and monitor work groups in smart working within the first 3D virtual office, with the aim of simplifying daily work activities ” .

To all this is obviously added the possibility of buying and reselling the various plots of digital land, in this case called "land". It is therefore an environment that is reminiscent of Decentraland in many ways, even if characterized by more colorful and lively graphics.

But if Decentraland is not working, despite the enormous hype and colossal brands involved, why should Coderblock ? “The way I see it, they are two different categories - explains the founder Danilo Costa to -. Decentraland staked everything on companies even before there was a stimulating environment for users. We want to move in the opposite way, giving users the opportunity to experience Coderblock like a real video game, with storylines to face and more. In my opinion, however, the metaverse and web3 are aimed at a niche of users; in other cases however – for reasons more related to marketing – it was preferred to fill these worlds with companies and major events, even if there was not yet a critical mass of web users3” .

Like Decentraland, Coderblock (at least for the moment) does not take advantage of virtual reality. Your avatar is then displayed on the computer screen as in any traditional third person video game. Consequently, if you want to use Coderblock for professional purposes (as already suggested in the press release, which explicitly mentions the Workspace virtual offices), you will then have to enter the appropriate places by moving your avatar on the screen using the computer's arrow keys or, in the case of shopping, by moving your little man from shop to shop.

The question is always the same: does it really make sense to "immerse" (in quotation marks, since in reality we observe everything via computer) in environments of this type to work, socialize or shop ? Beyond classic video games (which obviously have a completely different raison d'ĂȘtre), to date no platform of this type has been successful, not even those in virtual reality (which have the advantage of truly immersing us in a digital world), also due to their excessive cumbersomeness and lack of usefulness.

“I don't think it is unnecessarily cumbersome - continues Costa -. Above all, it depends on what you want to do with it: in our case, there are companies that have carried out hackathons within Coderblock obtaining hundreds of highly profiled users. Every time we talk to a customer, we try to meet their unique needs” .

Among the companies that have worked with Coderblock we find the Randstad employment agency and also Enel, which in most cases have rented digital spaces (which they will now also be able to buy) to create events, conferences or other similar situations. Beyond the games for users and the opportunities for companies, the economic aspect is still central to this type of blockchain-based environment. Again, Danilo Costa explains it, this time in the Coderblock press release, who - after having illustrated how the "lands" for sale on Coderblock are spaces "in which to build buildings, offices, pavilions, shops and/or any business reality" – points out how “whoever bought a parcel of virtual land on Decentraland for a few dollars 5 years ago can now sell it for millions. For Italians, this is an opportunity to be the first pieces that will build an international puzzle of opportunities” .

The Mana case

The case of Mana, the internal cryptocurrency Decentraland, shows some risks in this type of operation. Five years ago – when this “metaverse” was known to a handful of enthusiasts – Mana was worth around 15 cents while today it is worth 75: an important growth, but one that pales in comparison to any classic Tesla, Amazon or similar stock.

However, those who bought Decentraland tokens a year ago now find in their hands a cryptocurrency that is worth a third of what it was then. Instead, those who bought them at the peak of success - in November 2021, when they had exceeded five dollars - today find themselves basically waste paper in their hands, which has lost 85% of its value.

Worse again: land speculation is one of the components that most ruined the experience on Decentraland. Since most of the people bought the land for sale with the only hope of reselling it at a higher price, none of them built anything or animated the digital environments in any way. He has simply abandoned his plots to be resold. The result is that Decentraland is today a sort of ghost village where very little has been built and much is in a state of neglect. Is it really the case to recreate a sort of “Made in Italy Decentraland” destined in all probability to meet the same fate?

“We have put about 1,500 lands up for sale, or 3.4% of the total - continues Danilo Costa -. So far we have sold about 50/60% of them at a price of $295 each. But we are the first to say it: whoever buys must have the will to build, otherwise we don't need to populate this world. It is not a speculation, and in fact the prices are low. If you manage to make money, I don't see anything wrong with it".

But what if it is really possible that digital worlds can spread by moving a little man on the computer using the keyboard (excluding the world of social gaming, mistakenly inserted under the metaverse hat)? “First of all, the metaverse to be such must be interoperable, it is not possible to create many metaverses separated from each other. And this is the direction in which, by exploiting the blockchain, we want to go - continues Costa -. In addition, the giants do not have the patience necessary to grow a technology of this type and must achieve immediate results. But if you really want to build a metaverse, you can't have that kind of concern. And then there is a question of the interface: I have to allow these environments to be experienced also via smartphone and facilitate the onboarding process as much as possible” .

Although Coderblock understandably focuses on the more videogame aspects, the The real challenge will be not only to show us that we are able to reach a sufficient threshold of daily users (at the moment, there are about 40,000 subscribers, but it is not known how many are active), but also to succeed in the mission of convincing us to go shopping by laboriously moving the our avatars from one virtual store to another instead of using the more convenient Amazon app. Or moving our little men from one office to another to hold meetings in fake offices that we observe in the third person (therefore without being immersed in them) instead of using Zoom.

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