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Enter the metaverse

Key takeaways

  • The metaverse can be thought of as a possible next version of the internet—a virtual world experienced by potentially limitless users.
  • Businesses that could benefit are wide ranging, including gaming, computing hardware, engineering software, and digital infrastructure.
  • As with other disruptive technologies, the metaverse is still unfolding and broad-based adoption is uncertain.

When Meta Platforms () jumpstarted the conversation about the possibilities of the metaverse after rebranding from Facebook in late 2021 and announced plans to invest $10 billion to build out its metaverse division, expectations for a digital universe—where virtually anything is possible—were high. An avalanche of investment followed. In January 2022, Microsoft () purchased Activision Blizzard for $69 billion, saying the acquisition was a part of its "building blocks for the metaverse." Alphabet (), Apple (), Nvidia (), and other big tech companies are years into developing technology built for the metaverse. 

While some big tech names are still betting big on the metaverse, the reality hasn't caught up to the hype ... yet. So, what exactly is the metaverse, and what are the potential investing implications?

Enter the metaverse

Some tech prognosticators think the metaverse is the next evolution of the internet—a 3D model of the internet. It has also been characterized as Internet 3.0 (with Internet 1.0 being the early desktop iteration in the 1990s and Internet 2.0 being the mobile/social networking revolution in the 2000s).

Components of the metaverse already exist—think virtual reality, social networking, and online gaming, to name a few. The metaverse can generally be thought of as combining all these experiences and more, in a deeper, immersive virtual reality, with a seemingly infinite number of users synchronously and persistently interacting.

Image describes components of the metaverse, including virtual reality, gaming, and more.

Metaverse investing

Wall Street had previously been optimistic about the metaverse. Citi estimated that the metaverse economy could reach $8 trillion to $13 trillion by 2030.* Goldman Sachs pegged the metaverse at having a potential value of $12.5 trillion. But after Meta Reality Labs lost $14 billion in 2022, that enthusiasm has waned somewhat.

Metaverse investments are primarily concentrated in the communication services and information technology sectors, and a host of industries and businesses in these sectors will be crucial to building out the metaverse. These include:

  • Gaming technology and software. The metaverse will need an expansive ecosystem of digital gaming options to provide increasingly immersive experiences.
  • Smartphone and wearable tech. Smartphones, fitness bands, watches, earbuds, and glasses will be the connection points between the physical world and metaverse.
  • Digital infrastructure. High-capacity IT infrastructure, such as data centers (and edge data centers), will be crucial.
  • Web development and content services. Platforms or tools for cross-platform development are needed to enable real-time communications, web development, and online media streaming to evolve the internet.
  • Design and engineering software. 3D computer-aided design, mapping information systems, and multimedia design software will be needed to construct virtual realities.
  • Computing hardware and components. Multimedia, general analog, and mixed-signal semiconductors are needed to produce technologies that expand computing power to create immersive virtual reality experiences.

Investing implications

Could the metaverse join the growing list of disruptors that have fundamentally altered both our way of life as well as the investing landscape?

Of course, most or all of the investing risks associated with other categories of stocks exist for disruptive opportunities like those linked to the metaverse. You should do your due diligence on any individual stock, fund, or other investment to fully understand its characteristics and risks. Disruptive investments may also carry some unique characteristics to evaluate. For example, in some cases disruptors may exhibit higher-than-average levels of volatility, as investors may have differing opinions on the near-term prospects for these industry-changing companies. Also, the forecasts made by Wall Street hinge on widespread adoption of the metaverse, which is uncertain.

With that said, if it aligns with your strategy and objectives, the metaverse could provide opportunities with the potential to change our reality.

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Metaverse companies are subject to various risks, including those associated with limited product lines, markets, financial resources or personnel, intense competition, potentially rapid product obsolescence, impairment of intellectual property rights, disruptions in service, cybersecurity attacks, and changes in regulation. Stock markets are volatile and can fluctuate significantly in response to company, industry, political, regulatory, market, or economic developments. Investing in stock involves risks, including the loss of principal. * Citi’s analysis of the metaverse more broadly includes other industries like smart manufacturing technology, virtual advertising, and cryptocurrencies. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC, 900 Salem Street, Smithfield, RI 02917