Software as a Service or SaaS refers to a subscription-based model for using software platforms rather than purchasing a lifetime or perpetual licence. The term first appeared in a 1985 United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) filing and became popular in the cloud era.
Today, almost anything can be deployed in an “as a service” model, giving customers greater flexibility and providers a steady stream of revenue. Enterprises could eventually deploy solutions in the metaverse using a similar model, giving rise to Metaverse-as-a-Service, or MaaS.
Definition of the metaverse
The metaverse refers to a network of interconnected 3D virtual worlds that allow users to participate in a real social economy. One can buy and sell things, earn money, make friends, create brands and collaborate with other users on the platform.
The metaverse is conceived as a decentralised space built on blockchain architecture so that no single entity can control it. In other words, it seeks to recreate the democratic nature of the real world in a digital space.
The term “metaverse” was first used by author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. It gradually gained popularity in the tech world with the rise of multiplayer world-building games such as Second Life, Minecraft and Roblox.
Decentraland further expanded the concept by launching a metaverse platform that allowed users to exchange their own cryptocurrency, MANA, which would enable the purchase of real estate and digital assets in virtual reality.
Facebook further promoted Metaverse as a revolutionary technological force after it changed its name to Meta Platforms in 2020 and announced it would invest $50 million in its development. More information related to the Metaverse in the video below.
As more companies like Microsoft, Samsung, NVIDIA, HTC and others venture into the metaverse segment, it is only a matter of time until markets have a Metaverse-as-a-Service (MaaS) offering that allows companies to benefit from the technology with lower barriers to entry.
What is MaaS?
MaaS is defined as an enterprise solution that enables organisations to develop and strengthen their presence in a 3D virtual world to support collaboration, business processes, investments, cryptocurrencies and other related use cases.
Importantly, MaaS will not help companies create their own metaverse equivalents that compete with Decentraland or Roblox, but will allow companies to benefit from existing metaverse infrastructure, similar to how a SaaS operates.
Despite being an emerging technology segment, a number of vendors are already making inroads into MaaS:
Examples of metaverse as a service
Lovelace is a cryptocurrency platform and NFT that announced a MaaS offering in October 2021. The company already operates its own cryptocurrency token called LACE and intends to offer MaaS services to optimise Metaverse adoption.
The company will help organisations assess and reimagine their virtual reality product and service capabilities to enable businesses to participate across the board.
It offers a MaaS toolset that provides developers and users with the technologies needed to create and market NFT, operate smart contracts, monetise virtual reality games, integrate with other Metaverse platforms and more.
Propel is a blockchain solutions platform that offers plug-and-play infrastructure tools for the metaverse. The company is new and full details are yet to be revealed, but Propel has announced that it will offer MaaS solutions for smart contracts, NFT services and decentralised finance (DeFi).
It will equip organisations with tenology solutions to develop applications based on popular blockchain protocols such as Ethereum, Polkadot and Binance Smart Chain (BSC).
Currently, the company is conducting a funding round for its $PEL cryptocurrency token through an initial hot cross over hot offering (IHO), which operates similarly to initial coin offerings (ICOs).
MetaVerseBooks is a MaaS provider that offers tools for the creation of virtual reality worlds, NFT and decentralised application management (dApp).
Companies can leverage the solution to strengthen their presence on Microsoft’s XBOX Metaverse, iOS and Android platforms, and any Unity-based virtual reality environment.
Its core solution enables NFT for enterprises to manage NFT buyers and related metadata. This MaaS offering is priced at $10,000 USD for the Starter edition.
Touchcast is a 3D and VR event company that leverages Microsoft Azure Cloud. It announced its MaaS offering at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2022, where it launched MCity. Organisations can register for a .metaverse domain, which will provide them with a secure virtual reality space to build metaverse campuses.
In Metaverse, they can facilitate collaboration, host events, create virtual reality shops, conduct learning sessions or use virtual real estate to drive business growth.
NVIDIA’s artificial intelligence (AI) technology, Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, Microsoft’s Azure Cloud and Accenture’s services power the platform to provide enterprises with a complete MaaS offering. MCity is currently in an invitation-only beta stage.
Pros and cons of Metaverse as a service
There are several benefits of using MaaS:
- Companies without extensive experience or digital expertise can develop Metaverse products. Even small and medium-sized companies can participate in the Metaverse economy without formidable capital costs.
- Encourages investment in what is still an experimental technology. Most platforms are still limited to consumer use cases and solutions such as Meta’s Horizons suite of applications or Microsoft Mesh have not yet been widely launched. In this environment, MaaS allows enterprises to invest in and benefit from technology with minimal risk.
- Eventually, MaaS could drive standardisation in the industry, with some companies acting as metaverse “brokers” to assist in infrastructure development.
- The downside is that organisations could run the risk of vendor lock-in. As the metaverse evolves, it will become increasingly difficult to transfer MaaS investments to another platform, if necessary, especially without the necessary digital skills. However, a degree of maturity that creates vendor lock-in is still years away and, for now, MaaS is a promising option for organisations looking to enter the metaverse.