The open metaverse Upland is patting itself on the back after closing on an incredible year that saw millions of new users stepping inside its virtual environs for the first time, buying up a record number of non-fungible tokens in the process.
Upland is a kind of virtual property game hosted in a metaverse that’s mapped to the real world, with more than 20 U.S. cities already live. Throughout 2022, it added dozens of new cities, including its first international ones like Porto, Rio de Janeiro and Doha, Qatar. The game is unique to Web3 and the metaverse, providing social-economic immersion that’s accessible via the Web, iOS and Android devices. Sometimes called “Monopoly on the blockchain” Upland offers an open, ownership-based economy where players can buy, own and develop virtual land while engaging with a growing, dynamic community made up of people from all over the world.
In the last year, Upland became one of the most popular metaverses in existence. No doubt, its partnership with FIFA for the 2022 Qatar World Cup played a key part in welcoming more than three million new players to Upland. Of those, 290,000 can now count themselves as land owners, having collectively snapped up more than five million Land NFTs by the end of 2022. Altogether, Upland claims it’s now five-times larger than the three next-biggest metaverses combined – Decentraland, The Sandbox and The OtherSide.
They are impressive growth numbers and they look even better when we consider that 60% of NFT buyers in Upland had never previously owned one prior to playing Upland.
Upland says it was able to grow to such an impressive size due to the stability of its sustainable economy and its focus on being accessible through mobile devices. Its fair economy and accessibility make it the ideal metaverse platform for users and brands alike to create value. One of the ways users can do this is by opening a “Metaventure”, which is a player-owned business within Upland. Helped by Upland’s partnership with FIFA and its close association with the World Cup, numerous Metaventures expanded into soccer and outdoor decor NFTs in the fourth quarter, helping Metaventure business activity grow by 300% in the final quarter of the year.
FIFA World Cup Experience
Upland’s partnership with FIFA resulted in the creation of an immersive FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 metaverse experience that saw football fans from across the world meet up virtually to follow their favorite teams throughout the tournament. Fans were encouraged to collect, trade and own multiple kinds of FIFA-branded digital assets and match video highlights, while participating in gamified experiences and even having the chance to visit – and own! – a digital replica of the Lusail Stadium that hosted the World Cup final. The experience was a huge hit, with more than 195,000 bundles containing over 800,000 NFTs sold.
Besides FIFA, Upland also entered into a partnership with Relief for Ukraine, encouraging its community to purchase virtual property, with the proceeds going towards humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. The partnership saw more than $175,000 in funds raised for the charity, with buyers receiving Ukrainian flags they could decorate their virtual properties with to show their support.
Upland also partnered with Susan J. Komen, the world’s largest Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and UNICEF Brasil to raise funds for additional good causes.
A big reason for Upland’s success is its developer-friendly nature. Unlike other metaverses such as Roblox, Decentraland and The Sandbox, developers are not required to limit their creations to Upland alone. That’s because Upland made some unique design decisions, which make it possible for any game or experience to be ported to its metaverse, irrespective of the platform it was first designed for. In this way, Upland sees itself almost as a game and app distribution platform, providing the infrastructure, context and distribution required to help any developer expand into Web3.
It’s an approach that has proven attractive to a wide range of developers, with the likes of Gala Games and World of Football both announcing they’ll be building games within Upland’s metaverse in the coming year. All told, Upland now boasts more than 160 independent developers who’re currently building experiences destined for its metaverse.
Loads More To Come
The good news is that, for all of Upland’s success in 2022, it’s really only just getting started. In its Q4 roadmap update, Upland revealed numerous updates in the pipeline that should arrive sometime in the new year. One of the most exciting will be its onboarding overhaul, with the promise of putting more emphasis on quality of life and onboarding improvements for new players, with enhancements (including guided gameplay) that should help people get more comfortable with Upand’s gameplay mechanics faster, with the purpose being to reduce the barrier to getting involved in its community.
Having launched a competitive racing game within Upland in late 2022, a future update promises to give players more agency in race performance and outcomes, ensuring that the races become more dynamic and interesting. New features will include driver statistics and car statistics that directly impact performance, as well as lane switching.
Metaventures are another area of focus for the new year, with Upland promising an expansion of its Structure Ornament shops and an open beta of Outdoor Decor item manufacturing that’s designed to ramp up player-owned commerce. Meanwhile, expect improvements to the in-game chat feature that launched in December, with the addition of Group Chat, Neighborhood Chat, and more Global Channels to come.
Elsewhere, Upland is planning to make its NFTs, including properties, Legits and block explorers, searchable on both Upland and Google Search, making it easier than ever for players to find the assets and collectibles they’re looking for and expanding the reach of Metaventures.
Last but not least, and this probably goes without saying, Upland is also planning a big expansion of its metaverse in 2023, with the addition of new cities including Buenos Aires, home of its latest new partner, the Argentina Football Association.