There are several ways investors can benefit from the metaverse, an emerging tech trend that aims to connect people located anywhere on Earth in a virtual, three-dimensional world.
Roblox (RBLX 3.56%) and Unity Software (U -1.40%) are two companies that could help make the metaverse a reality. Roblox provides a platform for developers for creating, publishing, and operating 3D experiences, and allows users to consume those experiences on different types of devices. Unity Software, on the other hand, allows developers, creators, artists, engineers, designers, and architects to make interactive and real-time 3D content.
In simpler words, both Roblox and Unity Software are pick-and-shovel plays on the metaverse as they are in the business of creating 3D content such as virtual worlds and digital twins. Which one of these two metaverse stocks should you be buying right now? Let's find out.
The case for Roblox
The adoption of 3D virtual worlds is already rubbing off positively on Roblox. The company had a solid 2021 with revenue increasing 108% to $1.9 billion and daily active users jumping 40% to 45.5 million. What's more, the company's daily active user base jumped to 55 million in February, rising 28% year over year.
It is also worth noting that Roblox users spent 41.4 billion hours on its platform last year, a 35% increase over the prior year. The company's healthy user base and engagement explain why major names from musician David Guetta to the NFL are using its platform to build their metaverse presence.
Meanwhile, the company's virtual currency, known as Robux, is already quite popular. Users can buy Robux to upgrade their avatars in virtual worlds, using the virtual currency to purchase items within the game that could range from clothing to accessories to even pets. Roblox users spent $2.7 billion last year to purchase Robux, which is reflected in the company's bookings amount.
In all, Roblox's ecosystem of 29 million developers, 11 million virtual experiences, a huge user base, and a popular virtual currency make it an ideal platform for brands looking to make a mark in the metaverse. Nike, for instance, has already created a virtual world on Roblox. Other brands such as Forever 21, Vans, and Ralph Lauren have also tapped Roblox to foray into the metaverse.
The metaverse is expected to clock an annual growth rate of 47% through 2029, as per a third-party estimate. So, as more users enter the metaverse, more companies would be encouraged to make the jump into the virtual world and expand Roblox's addressable market. This explains why analysts expect Roblox to record impressive growth.
The case for Unity Software
Unity Software is well known for its Unity video game engine, which is used by developers to create games that work across different platforms such as computers, consoles, and mobile. Unity is now leveraging its video gaming expertise in the metaverse by focusing on the creation of real-time 3D content for various industries ranging from retail to architecture to automotive to the creation of digital twins, among others.
The good part is that the company's non-gaming business is gaining impressive traction, indicating that it may already be benefiting from the metaverse. Unity reported a 70% increase in its non-gaming revenue in 2021. Unity management said on the company's February earnings conference call that the non-gaming business accounted for 25% of the $326 million in revenue generated by the "create solutions" segment in 2021. For comparison, the non-gaming business produced 20% of the create solutions segment revenue in 2020.
Major corporations are using Unity's solutions to create digital twins -- virtual 3D representations of real-life objects. South Korean giant Hyundai Motors, for instance, has partnered with Unity to make a digital twin of an actual factory to use in its efforts to improve plant management, increase productivity, and bring about innovation in the manufacturing process. Meanwhile, eBay is using Unity's solutions to help "sellers to showcase the actual item they are offering with our proprietary interactive 360-view."
There were a host of other partnerships that Unity management touched upon on the company's last earnings conference call, indicating that its 3D rendering solutions are being adopted across diverse industries. The adoption of Unity's solutions should ideally get stronger with time as the metaverse is expected to boost the demand for digital twins and other 3D applications. The digital twin market, for instance, is expected to hit $48 billion in revenue by 2026 as compared to $3 billion in 2020.
So, Unity Software has a lot of room to grow its revenue. The company generated $1.1 billion in revenue last year, up 44% from 2020. It expects to maintain its momentum in 2022 as well, with revenue expected to increase 35% at the midpoint of its guidance range to nearly $1.5 billion. What's more, analysts are upbeat about the company's long-term prospects as they expect its earnings to grow at an annual pace of 69% for the next five years.
But which is the better metaverse stock?
Both Roblox and Unity are growing at a nice pace and seem on track to benefit from the metaverse. However, with a price-to-sales ratio of 11.1, Roblox is the more affordable pick for investors. Unity Software is much more expensive at 23 times sales, even though it recorded slower growth last year.
As such, investors looking for a metaverse stock that's relatively inexpensive may want to take a closer look at Roblox given its mix of better value and fast growth.