With gains of more than 46,000,000% across 2021's trading, it's little wonder that the Shiba Inu token has been the talk of the town. However, metaverse-focused cryptocurrencies have also been enjoying impressive momentum, and some investors are betting that tokens connected to virtual worlds will be the next big thing in crypto. 

To highlight cryptocurrencies that could benefit from the rise of virtual worlds as new settings for socialization and commerce, two Motley Fool contributors have profiled top plays in the metaverse crypto space. Read on to see why they think that Decentraland (MANA -0.11%) and The Sandbox (SAND -0.58%) have what it takes to outperform Shiba Inu in 2022 and beyond. 

A dollar sign made out of money.

Image source: Getty Images.

This hot metaverse token could have room to run

Keith Noonan (Decentraland)Interest in virtual worlds is surging, and Decentraland has established itself as an early mover and top player in the blockchain-based metaverse category. Users can navigate the platform's virtual space, purchase property, and outfit their land and personal avatars with non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and other digital goods. MANA is the cryptocurrency used for making transactions in the Decentraland world, and it has posted stellar gains thanks to excitement surrounding the platform and investors betting that the token has more explosive growth ahead. 

Will Decentraland become the biggest overall player in the metaverse space? Probably not. With competitors including Meta Platforms' Facebook, Microsoft, Nvidia, and many other deep-pocketed tech giants eyeing the category as a key growth opportunity, Decentraland remains an underdog in the broader category.

For investors buying the MANA token, the good news is that Decentraland might only need to capture a small portion of the overall pie in order to deliver strong returns. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has stated that the metaverse has the potential to be a multitrillion-dollar annual revenue opportunity, and there's incredible momentum building in the space.

With a market capitalization of roughly $6.2 billion, investors should proceed with the understanding that Decentraland and its MANA token have already benefited from a dramatic surge of speculative investment. In addition to the potential effects of twists, turns, and competitive developments in the metaverse space, the token's valuation will likely also be impacted by swings in the overall crypto space. 

That being said, the MANA token has a superior fundamental valuation case compared to Shiba Inu and other meme-focused cryptocurrencies, and the metaverse-focused digital currency could post more big gains if the platform continues to attract users. 

This fast-growing metaverse is backed by big names

Taylor Carmichael (The Sandbox): I'm bullish on The Sandbox because my favorite crypto game, Splinterlands (CRYPTO: SPS), owns some property in the The Sandbox and plans on playing there in the future. Like Decentraland, The Sandbox is a metaverse site where gaming companies can build out next-gen games for our virtual entertainment.

The Sandbox has a plot map that allows you to peek at all the virtual property and see who's been buying. Rap star Snoop Dogg owns 144 parcels, and he's planning on turning his metaverse acreage into an NFT virtual mansion where you can buy Snoop avatars and hang out at the Dogg Pound. His Sandbox YouTube video has 171,000 views so far. 

There are 166,464 parcels of land in The Sandbox, so Snoop owns slightly less than 0.1%. Who else is buying up this virtual real estate? Atari, inventor of some of the first video games like Pong and Asteroids, has been buying up Sandbox property left and right. The company owns two of the largest plots of land (576 parcels each), and has several smaller properties throughout the site.  

Interestingly, The South China Morning Post owns 576 parcels of land. Other developers include the makers of ShrekThe Walking Dead, and The SmurfsAdidas (OTC: ADDYY) also owns 144 parcels.

Parcels of Sandbox land are being sold now on OpenSea (the NFT marketplace) for 3.3 Ethereum (CRYPTO: ETH) coins, costing investors roughly $12,000. But you know the rule about real estate: location, location, location. One of the Atari plots in The Sandbox recently sold for $4.3 million, a world record for virtual real estate.

While I think the Atari buyers paid too much, it makes me think the $6 coin is really undervalued right now. Remember, once you're in The Sandbox, dollars don't work anymore. You'll need to acquire some Sandbox coins. I expect these coins to escalate in value as the Sandbox virtual reality is built out, and more and more people check it out.