Professional services giant PwC has become the latest big business to jump on the metaverse bandwagon. The firm’s Hong Kong wing has purchased imaginary real estate on The Sandbox – a game where digital land has previously been purchased for a fee of upwards from $10,000.
A tech evangelist and their money are soon parted, a modernised version of an age-old truism might go. As a hype bubble continues to inflate around the perceived value of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and the ability to invest in a non-existent asset, with no material value, there is a growing clamour to capitalise on the opportunities presented by digital trading.
The Sandbox is a sandbox game for mobile phones and Microsoft Windows, developed by game studio Pixowl and originally released in 2012, as game makers looked to emulate the success of Minecraft. Spying an opportunity to pivot the brand into an emerging market, the game was acquired by Animoca Brands in 2018 – and its name was used for a blockchain-based 3D open world game.
In May 2019, Animoca raised $2.5 million in funding for the development of this project. This eventually yielded a retro-style pixelated environment in which users can buy plots of virtual LAND (virtual real estate represented as an NFT), develop it, and sell it on. Recent sales have seen ‘undeveloped’ LAND go for about $10,000, according to blockchain data – but one tract of virtual land in the metaverse reportedly sold for $4.3 million in November 2021.
With so much money already being thrown around in the entirely virtual experience, it is no surprise that some of the world’s largest businesses want a piece of the action. A host of promotional partners own land, including hip-hop institution Snoop Dogg, electronic music mogul Deadmau5, and now Big Four consultancy PwC.
Though the cost of its LAND asset was undisclosed, it has been noted on multiple crypto-currency blogs that PwC’s Hong Kong wing intends to construct a Web 3.0 advisory hub to facilitate a new generation of professional services, including accounting and taxation. William Gee, Partner at PwC Hong Kong, has been quoted as saying that the company will look to “leverage our expertise to advise clients” on the metaverse, calling the burgeoning technology a “digital phenomenon.”
What benefits placing PwC’s services in a digital advisory hub on the – as mentioned, extortionately expensive – metaverse, as opposed to literally any other free-to-use part of the internet, remains to be seen. However, it may tie into comments previously made by members of the Big Four firm.
In July 2021, PwC’s crypto leader Henri Arslanian was reported to have noted that venture capital funds and similar conglomerates with large financial resources were curtailing opportunities for smaller, often family-run firms to invest and participate in the growth of promising crypto start-ups. By being on The Sandbox, PwC might hope to be better able to reach out to such start-ups, and reap the benefits from developing their investments. Over December, The Sandbox registered 4,450 unique users.
Sebastien Borget, Chief Operating Officer of The Sandbox, said of PwC’s arrival, “The metaverse is open for business. We welcome PwC Hong Kong to experience how The Sandbox fosters new immersive experiences and ways for brands to connect with customers.”