How to Actually Make Money in the Metaverse and Why 3D Modeling is the “Next Big Thing” by@Batura
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How to Actually Make Money in the Metaverse and Why 3D Modeling is the “Next Big Thing”

November 17th 2022
8 min
by @Batura 7,543 reads
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The primary metaverse revenue opportunity consists largely of the existing gaming software and services as well as rising sales of gaming hardware. However, besides established conglomerates, a portion of the rapidly emerging market share is being captured by sole entrepreneurs who are keeping up with the times. From digital real estate agents to creators and traders of virtual goods - people are making millions in the metaverse already. For example, the 21-year-old Samuel Jordan also known as @Builder_Boy, reportedly earns up to $90,000 per month from selling his virtual items in the Roblox metaverse [2]. Samuel is considered to be one of the top-selling UGC digital fashion creators and had previously collaborated with global brands like Burberry, Stella McCartney, Forever21 [3].

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Philipp Batura

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The internet is fundamentally changing into a series of spatial forms commonly referred to as the metaverse. Metaverse is a network of immersive and persistent virtual worlds focused on social connection.

The global Metaverse revenue opportunity could approach $783.3 billion in 2024 based on Bloomberg’s analysis [1].

Metaverse Market Growth Projection. Source: Bloomberg Intelligence

Metaverse Market Growth Projection. Source: Bloomberg Intelligence

The primary metaverse revenue opportunity consists largely of the existing gaming software and services as well as rising sales of gaming hardware. However, besides established conglomerates, a portion of the rapidly emerging market share is being captured by sole entrepreneurs who are keeping up with the times. From digital real estate agents to creators and traders of virtual goods - people are making millions in the metaverse already.

For example, the 21-year-old Samuel Jordan also known as @Builder_Boy, reportedly earns up to $90,000 per month from selling his virtual items in the Roblox metaverse [2]. Samuel is considered to be one of the top-selling UGC digital fashion creators and had previously collaborated with global brands like Burberry, Stella McCartney, Forever21 [3].

Roblox Avatar Shop Items by @Builder_Boy

Roblox Avatar Shop Items by @Builder_Boy

About Roblox and the UGC business around it

Roblox is a platform that thrives on user-generated virtual experiences, predominantly games built by thousands of independent developers: programmers, visual and sound effects artists, 3D modelers, and animators.

Through the virtual world of Roblox you live with your digital identity, an avatar, that you create during the onboarding process. You can customize your avatar by picking UGC items from the platform’s marketplace. The marketplace is called the Avatar Shop and currently offers an incalculable amount of virtual items for sale, created by the platform itself and other indie artists, some of whom have become tremendously successful from designing and selling their digital merchandise.

According to the Roblox official statistics presented on the September 2022 Investor Day, top 10 Roblox marketplace creators make $815,000 yearly on average [4].

Top Roblox UGC Marketplace Creators Earnings

Top Roblox UGC Marketplace Creators Earnings

How to sell your virtual assets

With Roblox having an audience of over 59.9 million daily active users [5], it is not easy to get into virtual goods creation and selling on the platform. You have to be a part of their UGC creation program and to do that you submit an application and portfolio with your best assets that must adhere to the program guidelines, Terms of Use, and DMCA Guidelines. Each application gets personally reviewed and you may or may not be accepted for the Roblox UGC program. If you do, then it’s all up to your creativity and 3D modeling skills to make it on the platform (which we’ll get into in a bit).

If you don’t make it into the Roblox UGC program, don’t let this drawback your passion for virtual asset creation! There are many other platforms and engines where you can monetize your virtual goods on!

It is recommended to look into the Unity Asset Store or the Unreal Engine Marketplace. Both platforms are considered to be more accessible in terms of becoming a content distributor and being allowed to sell content packages and pre-built virtual worlds. Here are the links for applying for the Unity and Unreal Engine creator programs and tutorials that you can follow:

Plus, it’s worth checking out web 3D asset marketplaces like TurboSquid or Sketchfab, CreativeMarket, CGTrader, and Cults. These platforms typically split the sale between themselves and the artist that created the asset. Artists get 40% to 95% of the sales according to the marketplace. In most cases, artists retain ownership of their 3D models while the customers only buy the right to use and present the models.

Turbosquid 3D Models Marketplace

Turbosquid 3D Models Marketplace

In addition, some artists sell their products directly in their own stores offering their products at a lower price by not using intermediaries.

Besides Roblox, game engines, and 3D marketplaces, metaverse platforms rely on the UGC economy too. Minecraft has its own marketplace of pre-built worlds, skin, and texture packs that are also designed and sold by the platform users.

Minecraft Marketplace

Minecraft Marketplace

And on Fortnite, you can unleash the building potential in you by constructing gamified virtual realms using the in-game set of assets and tools.

Fortnite Creative Mode. Source: Wertandrew YouTube Channel

Fortnite Creative Mode. Source: Wertandrew YouTube Channel

These gaming platforms are great for familiarizing yourself with the UGC economy at the beginner stage!

How to create digital assets?

What is 3D Modelling?

Now that you know where to sell your 3D assets it’s time to learn where and how to create them.

Virtual objects are created by 3D modeling, a process that involves manipulating 3D shapes in a simulated 3D space in specialized software. Today, 3D modeling is used in various industries like gaming and animation, film and commercial advertising, interior design and architecture, the medical industry too.

There are three main approaches that the modern 3D modeling software uses below deck: NURBS modeling (non-uniform rational B-spline), digital sculpting, and polygon-based modeling.

NURBS modeling utilizes various types of curves and surfaces to create objects with infinite levels of detail and precision. It was developed for mainly designing real-life physical objects in the manufacturing and engineering industries. However, there are still some modelers who prefer to use NURBS modeling for designing virtual 3D objects. Examples of software that offer NURBS include Autodesk Inventor, Revit, Rhinoceros 3D, SOLIDWORKS, CATIA, Siemens NX.

NURBS modeling in Autodesk Inventor. Source: Autodesk

NURBS modeling in Autodesk Inventor. Source: Autodesk

Digital sculpting is the process of creating virtual 3D objects out of dense polygon mesh as their core medium by adding or reducing volume and shaping it with a set of digital tools. The mechanics of these are similar to traditional clay sculpting. Examples of software that offer digital sculpting include ZBrush, Mudbox, Meshmixer, Oculus Medium, 3DCoat.

Sculpting in ZBrush. Source: Prusa 3D

Sculpting in ZBrush. Source: Prusa 3D

Though sculpting tools are relatively easy to learn and allow for the creation of complex models fast, they export content that’s too “heavy” to be processed by outer platforms which commonly require much lower polygon density of 3D models in order for them to work efficiently or to work at all. Usually, a sculpt of a model is followed by recreating a lower-density version of it. This is called retopology and it’s a discipline of its own.

Almost any 3D object you see today in a video game or a movie was created using polygon-based modeling. Polygon-based modeling is the process of creating a virtual 3D object using flat triangular or rectangular shapes approximating the object’s surface. The polygon layout, and topology, have to be planned in advance, which requires time and specific skills. 3D objects created in a higher density of polygons are more detailed but require more computing power to display and run. Examples of software that allow this type of modeling include Blender, Modo, Maya, +3ds Max, Cinema 4D.

3D Modeling in Blender. Source: FlyCat Fly

3D Modeling in Blender. Source: FlyCat Fly

It is common industry practice to use sculpting to create a high-density polygon mesh model first and then retopologizing it in a specific level of detail for a specific platform, filling it in with color, painting with an RGB brush, or covering its regions with PBR materials. All the tools mentioned above are only operable on desktop and will take quite a learning curve to master.

Tools that do not require such a pipeline are just emerging. A good example of that would be Shapeyard, an app that is more accessible and allows for the creation of 3D models on mobile devices.

3D Modeling on iOS with Shapeyard

In comparison to the traditional desktop polygon-based modeling tool alternatives like Blender or Maya, Shapeyard uses the “what you see is what you get” approach.

Modeling in the app is based around the simple placement of primitives, smoothening their edges and joints, applying various modifiers including bending and deforming. Then filling them in with color, painting with an RBG brush or covering their regions with PBR materials.

3D Modeling in Shapeyard. Source: Shapeyard YouTube Channel

3D Modeling in Shapeyard. Source: Shapeyard YouTube Channel

The app is super intuitive in the UI and by playing around with it for a few minutes you will easily learn to create basic 3D models that are metaverse sell ready.

Alternative ways of 3D content creation

Apart from the traditional surface models there are other virtual asset types that you can create and platforms where you can sell them on. For example, The Sandbox, a blockchain-based virtual world where players can build and monetize their 3D content and gaming experiences. Assets on the Sandbox platform are made in VoxEdit using voxels, three-dimensional units of graphic information (kind of like 3D pixels).

VoxEdit Software. Source: The Sandbox

VoxEdit Software. Source: The Sandbox

VoxEdit is a software that allows you to create, rig, and animate your own voxel-based NFT assets, sell them on The Sandbox's marketplace. The assets can also be traded beyond the Sandbox marketplace as they are minted on the Ethereum blockchain, ranging from a 0.0003 ETH “Xin Lin” model up to the 177 ETH “Black Plague Doctor”.

The Sandbox Asset Shop. Source: The Sandbox

The Sandbox Asset Shop. Source: The Sandbox

Sandbox’s VoxEditor is easy to use and master, which makes the entry barrier to successful content creation on the platform low. Definitely give it a go since how user-friendly the software is. And who knows, perhaps your NFT will beat the platform’s record and gets sold for more than the $650,000 ‘Metaflower Super Mega Yacht’ [6]!

Don’t miss out on the 3D content rush!

As virtual goods are by definition nonphysical, their value is determined solely by what users are willing to pay for them. Creating one asset and selling it infinitely may sound too good to be true, but this is the reality that we’re living in nowadays and the reason why 3D modeling is looking to become one of the most demanded professions in the near future.

On a large scale, the market for virtual goods has been experiencing exponential growth in the recent years with the video game industry generating $180.3 billion and the NFT sales volume surpassing $40 billion in 2021 [7], [8].

Multiple industries including art, fashion, and architecture are fusing with the virtual realm and branching new hobbies and professions. So grab your iPhone, install Shapeyard, create your first 3D model and publish it on Roblox, Unity, or Unreal, mint your first NFT collection on The Sandbox! Good luck and don’t forget to share your creations in the comments too!

References

[1] Bloomberg Metaverse may be $800 billion market, next tech platform —  December 01, 2021

[2] Business Insider A Roblox creator earns up to $90,000 a month selling virtual items like $0.94 stud earrings and $1.24 fur hoods. He explains how he turned his passion for video games into cash —  August 31, 2022

[3] Roblox @Builder_Boy —  October 28, 2022

[4] YouTube Roblox Investor Day September 2022 —  September 15, 2022

[5] Roblox IR Roblox Reports August 2022 Key Metrics —  September 15, 2022

[6] Hypebeast 'The Metaflower Super Mega Yacht' NFT Sells for a Record $650,000 USD —  November 24, 2021

[7] Business of Esports Gaming Industry To Mark Another Revenue Record This Year — January 3, 2022

[8] Bloomberg NFT Market Surpassed $40 Billion in 2021, New Estimate Shows —  January 6, 2022

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