After showing so much promise in 2021, metaverse cryptos crashed back to earth in 2022. Popular metaverse cryptos Decentraland and The Sandbox are both down 90% for the year, and many investors have abandoned the metaverse entirely in favor of less risky crypto assets.

But if you are looking for metaverse cryptos that could capitalize on the next bull market run, there are two names that stand out: ApeCoin (APE 7.19%) and Illuvium (ILV 14.68%). Both appear to be building for the long run, and both have passionate fan communities willing to wait out the crypto winter. Here's a closer look at both.

ApeCoin

When most people think about ApeCoin, they immediately dismiss it as a pure play on the non-fungible token (NFT) market. After all, ApeCoin is the governing token of the Bored Ape Yacht Club ecosystem, and the Bored Ape Yacht Club is arguably the most successful NFT collection ever. Even with the NFT market crash in 2022, the price of a "floor" Ape -- the cheapest Bored Ape available to buy in the secondary market -- is still nearly $100,000.

Young person with leather jacket in the virtual reality metaverse.

Image source: Getty Images.

However, ApeCoin is now bringing these NFTs into the metaverse, and that's where things get interesting. In mid-2022, Yuga Labs, the creators of the Bored Ape Yacht Club, announced the creation of Otherside, a metaverse world populated with the Bored Apes. In this metaverse world, the way you pay for land or items for your avatar is with ApeCoin. So the more this metaverse world develops, the more valuable ApeCoin becomes. Already, CoinMarketCap ranks ApeCoin, with a $1.3 billion market cap, as the most valuable metaverse crypto.

Yuga Labs says it is readying new and exciting metaverse features for 2023, including playable avatars and customizable environments. The concept of "playable avatars" might sound like crypto mumbo-jumbo, but consider that both Eminem and Snoop Dogg performed as their Bored Ape avatars at this year's MTV Video Music Awards show. Going forward, one way to unlock all the valuable intellectual property of the Bored Ape Yacht Club might be letting fans and collectors use their NFTs as avatars in similarly creative ways within Otherside.

Illuvium

Illuvium might be well known to blockchain and gaming enthusiasts, but it has yet to find mainstream investor acceptance. Illuvium debuted at $47.31 in April 2021, skyrocketed as high as $1,846.88 on all the hype about the metaverse, and then crashed back to earth in 2022. In early December 2022, it was again trading at $47.31, so it has completely given up all of its massive gains.

So why in the world would you possibly want to get in now? The short answer is that Illuvium is back with another highly anticipated blockchain game, which just launched in mid-December. Illuvium's new Overworld game has been described as the first-ever AAA game for the Ethereum blockchain, meaning it is high profile and high budget, along the lines of a Hollywood blockbuster. It will be the second game in a three-part gaming experience, with the third game coming in 2023.

Illuvium brings together many of the hottest Web3 gaming trends of the past two years -- such as play-to-earn and GameFi -- and unites them under the concept of interoperable blockchain gaming. Given the short shelf-life of many online games, the concept of interoperable blockchain gaming could become particularly compelling because it enables players to move their digital assets across different games. When you're tired of one game, you won't have to start over from zero in another game.

Looking long term, the Illuvium gaming studio says it plans to release at least nine new games over the next two decades, or about one new game every two years. This sounds to me a lot like a Hollywood movie franchise, whereby you can reliably roll out a new movie every year or so, based on characters and narratives that people already recognize. This gives me more confidence that Illuvium is being built for the long run. Ultimately, Illuvium plans to have more than 100 million gamers.

Is ApeCoin or Illuvium the better buy?

Right now, I'm much more bullish on ApeCoin than Illuvium. The intellectual property backing ApeCoin seems to be much more, well, fungible, across a wide variety of platforms, both online and offline. At this year's NFT conference in New York City, for example, some of the attendees even speculated that the Bored Apes could become one of the great entertainment brands, along the lines of Walt Disney. Imagine your children and grandchildren growing up with bored apes as their favorite cartoon characters instead of Goofy or Mickey Mouse. If that ever happens, the value of ApeCoin could skyrocket to the moon.

Keep in mind, though, that investing in crypto is always risky and volatile. And that's especially true for metaverse cryptos. But if you are looking for a way to play the metaverse in 2023, ApeCoin and Illuvium are my two best picks right now.