Snow Crash's Metaverse was filled with ads in 1992, and the real one will be too

Neal Stevenson’s Snow Crash, a techno-dystopian science-fiction novel that has become a legend among Silicon Valley tech bros, predicted the rise of a future Metaverse all the way back in 1992. 

Despite Stephenson saying that he was “just making sh*t up”, the eerily accurate predictions and worldbuilding of Snow Crash have been long-revered by tech entrepreneurs and futurists including Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg.

Now, Stephenson’s striking fictional depictions of a Metaverse oversaturated with the neon glow of commercial advertising rings truer than ever as Web3 designers and marketers gear up to begin advertising in the Metaverse(s) of today.

On Feb. 23, mixed-reality NFT platform Realm announced a partnership with decentralized advertising exchange Alkimi. Realm stated it intends to use Alkimi’s platform to incentivize players to earn from advertisements by sharing the revenue from existing ad formats in a transparent way.

Speaking on how to avoid a techno-marketing dystopia like Snow Crash in an announcement, Realm co-founder Matthew Larby said that transparency was a top priority,

“Advertising is a fundamental part of most existing social applications, but the deal’s been pretty bad for both the person who creates the data and the advertiser who struggles to verify their spend.”

Ben Putley, CEO of Alkimi Exchange, added to this saying, “Advertising has always followed eyeballs and as we see the numbers of people spending time in Metaverses, it will quickly become a channel advertisers will look to include in their strategies.”

While Alkimi and Realm may have their sights set on ensuring a transparent & sustainable advertising environment, other major players are diving into the Metaverse headfirst.

JPMorgan recently released a report declaring the Metaverse a “$1-trillion opportunity” and further outlining that “[marketing] is potentially one of the biggest segments of the meta-economy.”

UK-based in-game advertiser Bidstack, announced a partnership with multinational media platform Azerion. Bidstack specializes in creating ‘in-game’ advertisements, where companies pay to have their products on billboards in a game such as Call of Duty.

In-game advertising isn’t a brand new concept — back in 2008, Barack Obama purchased in-game billboards from EA games to boost his presidential campaign reach. With geotagging capabilities, EA was able to place the ads in 10 different swing states, gracing the billboards of Madden, NBA, and even Need for Speed with Obama’s promotional material.

Related: The metaverse will bring a further erosion of privacy

However, the Metaverse isn’t being designed as a game, it’s being designed as an alternate world where humans will undoubtedly spend increasing amounts of time, which ultimately means that advertising will be an obvious next step for most brands.

Unless individuals and companies take a certain level of care in designing the sort of world that people want to spend time in, the Metaverse could very well devolve into something akin to Snow Crash, where underpaid delivery drivers drive through endless virtual tunnels of advertising,

“His car is an invisible black lozenge, just a dark place that reflects the tunnel of franchise signs — the loglo.” — Snow Crash, page 13.