Metaverse builders, the online world is your oyster. The creation of virtual experiences is in the very early days right now. So it is a great time to get in and learn how to build games and other things that can actually make you money, according to Matthew Warneford, the founder of Bildrs.io.
iGottic is a 19 year old who owns three Roblox developer studios and started making things on the platform when she was just 10 years old. MarineMike is a 35-year-old former US Marine with a degree in game development, whose Troop Life game on Roblox has over 17 million plays. Both have very different stories, but both are ‘builders’ who use their skills and talent to build user-generated gaming experiences.
Others might call them ‘creators’, but that world is more influencer-led: it’s YouTubers, Instagrammers, and TikTokkers who trade on their individual star quality. Builders are collaborative, working together in multi-skilled teams to produce games and experiences they’d want to play themselves. The major similarity between builders and creators is that, in addition to ultra-successful megastars, there are tens of thousands more earning a solid living for doing what they love instead of working at a bank or management consultancy, or even a tech firm like Google or Apple.
This wasn’t an option until pretty recently. When I started making games in Flash 20-some years ago as a teenager, talented young people needed to set up a traditional company, or take up traditional paid employment in one. Now, platforms like Roblox, Fortnite, and The Sandbox allow anyone to be part of a massively distributed builder workforce where traditional corporate structures aren’t important.
Curious? Here are some ways to get involved:
Metaverse builders: How can I get started?
Start where you’re already spending time! Most builders will gravitate to creating user-generated content (UGC) for the platforms they play on. Some may have played Fortnite Battle Royale and later discovered Creative mode (which has just massively upgraded its tools for builders with Creative 2.0). If you’re interested in blockchain or crypto, you might be exploring The Sandbox.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already been thinking about building — most likely alongside school, university, or even a full-time job. Back when I started out, you needed to know a hell of a lot about coding, but luckily the tools available now mean this is no longer a dealbreaker. Some of my favourite virtual world platforms to explore are:
- The Sandbox
Each requires varying levels of knowledge and experience to make games and in-game assets such as skins or buildings. For example, The Sandbox Game Maker enables builders to make games on Unity with no code whatsoever, while Roblox Studio uses the Lua programming language in its on-platform toolset.
What kinds of skills do I need for building?
There are dozens of ways to build on UGC platforms. You could be focused on programming (the coding bit), 3D animation, 3D modelling, art, sound effects, user interface or user experience. Around these there’s also video editing, marketing, and many other skills. You might be highly skilled in one area, or proficient across many.
As well as the on-platform ones, when you look to create high-fidelity experiences you might use other tools such as Blender, which offers several features including 3D modelling and animation. That’s not to mention the dozens of AI-driven services that generate content from a written prompt alone, such as Midjourney which can generate art, or Scenario which creates in-game assets, and which will revolutionise the way builders work in the coming years.
Metaverse builders: Can I really make money?
Yes. When I was a teenager, I’d have gone wild for the opportunities that are around today. My friends and I built a virtual world platform with a few million users back in the days of dial-up internet, but it was super difficult to make money from it. Now, I get to help other builders make money doing what they love – my company has paid out more than half a million US dollars in the last few months alone. There are various ways builders can now monetise their passion and hobbies, whether this is building hit games, designing items and assets to sell to other developers or players, or simply hiring out their talent to games studios or brands.
Each of the major UGC gaming platforms takes a cut of the revenue builders make on their platform to pay for the development tools and hosting they provide. This varies from platform to platform and, while Fortnite has just announced a huge potential boost to builder revenues, most need ways to monetise their skills off the platform as well as on it. A huge growth area is building experiences for brands or artists such as musicians. The biggest metaverse gaming platforms are a huge draw for global brands such as Nickelodeon and H&M who want to engage their fans in new ways. And they need builders’ skills to help them do it, either paying them for their development talent to create a new virtual world, or to add branded content into their already-successful games.
Will web3 help?
Web3 gaming platforms are currently dwarfed in size by their more traditional counterparts. Roblox has almost 59m daily users, while probably the most well-known web3 metaverse, Sandbox, reported 39,000 daily users in October 2022. Web3 technology, though, is definitely something we should be looking at to ensure builders get maximum returns, and that more builders can make a sustainable income from their skill sets. This doesn’t need to be limited to web3 platforms: we need to explore how web3 can be layered on top of existing successful models to create an enhanced package for builders.
For example, imagine if builders’ work history was visible to all via the blockchain, and they could easily create smart contracts to team up with other builders to deliver on a project together. Or a token existed that brands could use to reward builders for stellar performance on top of their regular fee. Imagine if builders could raise investment through this token for their games and experiences from a like-minded community or DAO, as well as from investors and brands. All of this is achievable for talented builders at all levels and across all platforms – web3 and web2.
What’s the catch?
There’s always a catch. Despite not putting on a suit and tie and heading to an office every day, metaverse builders aren’t immune from the boring stuff. They still have to pay tax on their earnings. The most successful will have to hire and pay teams. They still need to know about insurance, contracts, marketing, and branding.
Metaverse builders will need a way to connect their games and experiences with brands that might want to be in them, and a way to offer their expertise in building to studios, platforms, and brands. They’ll need user acquisition tools and AdTech. Maybe they’ll even tap into the creator economy to harness the power of influencers, or esports. They’ll need a way to link up with other talented builders to ideate and create collaborative projects. The challenge for people like me is to link all these elements together so tens of thousands of builders can earn sustainable revenue for the long-term.
The builder economy is in its infancy right now, but will soon be a vibrant ecosystem that’s worth tens of billions of dollars. That means now is a great time for experimentation: watch some YouTube tutorials; read some Reddit threads; join some Discords; chat to some like-minded builders on Twitter; and start building up a portfolio of your work or concepts. It doesn’t matter how rudimentary this is right now, no one’s marking your work (though there are uni courses in this stuff now too)! After all, as builders our network and the teams we form within it is what sets us apart from creators.