future of payments

The metaverse will reimagine money as we know it

November 23, 2022 | By Sandeep Malhotra

This article was first published in Insider on November 21, 2022. 

  • In Asia, brands have an opportunity to drive value by creating new experiences for customers in the metaverse.
  • Three factors will intersect to make this happen: Improved hardware, technology, and collaboration.
  • Sophisticated financial technology will then be key in bringing this all to life.

With the metaverse soon becoming a reality for tens of millions of people, now is a prime opportunity for Asian companies to deliver not only enormous value but also incredible experiences for customers — but they're going to need help.

At its core, the metaverse is an interconnection of immersive, real-time virtual experiences. In some versions, these worlds are tied together by blockchain technology to enable people to own and sell digital assets and services.

It's still more idea than reality — virtual or otherwise. But for brands and consumers in Asia, there's no need to wait for Big Tech companies in Silicon Valley to define our future. We can start building things together, today.

Made in Asia

So far, we've seen a growing list of companies in this region dipping a toe into the metaverse, largely from the perspective of branding and marketing. South Korea — with its notably tech-driven culture and booming entertainment industry — stands out, with mobile gaming companies working with K-Pop stars to give fans a new way to interact with their idols.

More traditional companies are getting in on the act too. Take banks and hotels, which are finding new ways to delight customers in virtual reality settings — from building hangouts to hosting conferences, with plans to add shopping and other experiences.

While these are undoubtedly exciting developments, companies will eventually need more sophisticated solutions that add greater value or solve problems for their customers.

Making virtual reality real

For "value" in the metaverse, we can substitute the word "experiences." If physical real estate is valued based on location, in the virtual world value comes from attracting and serving a community. Soon, companies will need to become adept at serving tangible experiences in an intangible setting.

Three trends will intersect to make this happen. First, the hardware: The headsets may feel clunky today, but these will slim down, perhaps to just eyeglasses. Second, we are witnessing the convergence of different technologies that will have an impact beyond the sum of their parts: things like 5G (and soon, 6G), the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and blockchain. The third is collaboration, with companies working with partners across a range of fields to deliver incredible experiences in the metaverse.

What might this look like? Take a sporting event.

In the stadium, data will become a seamless part of the fan experience. When the player takes possession of the ball, you see his stats scroll in your VR glasses. If you're hungry you can order a snack from your seat. You might pop in and out of a fan zone hosted by a hotel or a beverage company in a virtual reality world such as The Sandbox, where your avatar can mingle with your friends' avatars, trade digital collectibles or skins, or go meet your favorite player's avatar. Back in the physical stadium, when your favorite athlete scores, you can buy a team jersey while you're jumping for joy — and have a stadium drone deliver it to your seat.

For intelligent experiences like this to work seamlessly, they will need the support of multiple partners that combine technology with traditional industries. As innovators from a cross-section of fields partner to explore emerging opportunities, Citi estimates that the economic value of virtual commerce will reach $13 trillion by 2030.

Money reimagined

For the metaverse to become an actual arena for shopping, sending money, or enjoying an immersive experience, it will need the support of payment networks. In fact, financial technology (or fintech), will be a key component in bringing the metaverse to life. Money will be expressed in new ways, from digital wallet accounts to tokens (like cryptocurrency) that represent rewards, vouchers, or a slice of ownership in a project or service. As these new expressions of money interact in novel ways and with greater frequency, more opportunities will arise for companies to create new businesses and deliver original experiences to users.

How do we create these pathways in a manner that is convenient for the user, but also safe and secure? How do we protect their identity and data? What regulation is needed to safeguard cyber-commerce while protecting against cybercrime — all while helping create new worlds and new forms of interactions?

The fact is no one person, platform, government, or company has all the answers. At Mastercard, what we do have is a longstanding mission to enable the exchange of value between parties in a simple, smart, safe, and secure manner. We have decades of experience, globally, in bringing the industry together to create rules that benefit everyone: governments, technology companies, banks, big brands, small businesses, and above all, consumers.

Whether it's transporting people to uncharted galaxies or enabling them to experience life in as yet unimaginable ways (through the eyes of their pets perhaps?), we look forward to collaborating with partners across Asia, so that millions of people can safely and easily experience the magic of the metaverse that is coming soon to a device near you. 

Photo of Sandeep Malhotra
Sandeep Malhotra, Executive Vice President, Products & Innovation, Asia Pacific, Mastercard