Solana in 2022: Key dates, roadmap and predictions
After a breakout year in 2021, Solana is ready to mature into a fully fledged ecosystem with GameFi taking centre stage.
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As the dust settles from the New Year and people migrate back into regular scheduling, it's worth looking back and marvelling at Solana's past 12 months to get an idea of what's to come in 2022.
Solana began 2021 as a potential competitor to Ethereum, in the same vein as Cardano (ADA) and Polkadot (DOT). It was relatively obscure compared to its rivals though, as the SOL token stayed range-bound between US$1 and US$3 for the majority of 2020.
Things began to change when Sam Bankman-Fried's FTX exchange announced it would be launching its decentralised exchange on Solana, instead of Ethereum. Solana was chosen for its high speed and low cost, with Bankman-Fried claiming "Solana can process 10,000 times as much as Ethereum; and it's 1,000,000 times cheaper."
As 2021 rolled on with Decentralised Finance (DeFi) exploding and fees on Ethereum becoming unaffordable for many, Solana naturally became one of the go-to smart-contract platforms for non-fungible tokens (NFTs), gaming and of course, DeFi.
As with all things in crypto, this led to an explosion in price with the native SOL coin rising an absurd 15,000% in 2021 from US$1.52 in January to a high of US$260 in November.
Given such a compelling year, many investors are keeping an eye on Solana and wondering if it can continue to deliver through 2022, or if capital is better allocated elsewhere as competition between smart-contract platforms continues to thrive.
Development roadmap and key dates
Solana is yet to release an updated roadmap for 2022, so instead we need to take a broader look at what is happening in the community to get an idea of how Solana will grow in 2022.
The last important date for Solana was the launch of its Mainnet beta in March 2021. Since the release, the development team has been working on optimising the network and bringing it out of beta.
No date has been assigned to the full Mainnet release, though Q3 2021 was the initial estimate.
Being in beta is not necessarily an issue – the Solana Mainnet beta version still has 100% functionality. As a Solana moderator on Reddit said:
"Beta means that it is still developing while the main functions are 100% operational. It's just a word that could be removed at any time", and that
"We will keep the suffix 'beta' for a year or so because we want to check the mainnet stability in the long term."
Given the timing of these posts, it seems possible that March 2022 is a potential date for Solana's network leaving beta. This would fulfil the final piece of Solana's initial roadmap, released in late 2019.
Until then, there is still the possibility of network outages, such as the one in September 2021 which suggested the blockchain was yet to achieve decentralisation.
Beyond the roadmap, a number of projects and developments are slated to be released in 2022, though no official dates from the core Solana team are available yet.
In April 2021, a proposal was put forward for an on-chain governance program. This is intended to allow SOL holders and stakers to participate in "the upgrade of other programs through democratic means".
This would be a significant enhancement to the network. By allowing on-chain governance, the development of Solana would be placed firmly in the hands of SOL holders, and would further cement the protocol's decentralised nature and broaden the use case of SOL.
Allocating US$314 million of funding
In June 2021, Solana completed a private token sale worth a whopping US$314 million to a number of venture capitalists and investors. Partners included Andreessen Horowitz and Polychain Capital, among many others.
This money is being used to accelerate and improve the development of dApps hosted on Solana's network.
This fund distribution is based on Solana CEO Anatoly Yakovenko's key philosophy: that scalability and speed of blockchains are problems of the past. The new frontier of cryptocurrency development must come at the application layer, and this substantial investment is a step toward achieving this goal.
It's one thing having fast and reliable blockchain networks. It's another thing entirely to build blockchain-based real-world applications that everyday people can use. Breaking out from DeFi and into more accessible applications like gaming and NFTs is likely to be a major driver of adoption and success among layer-1 protocols in 2022.
To help execute this vision, Solana Ventures and FTX launched a US$100 million GameFi fund to help leverage Solana's core strength as a high-throughput blockchain capable of hosting AAA gaming titles, such as the upcoming Star Atlas.
Upcoming projects: GameFi and NFTs
One of the reasons for Solana's rise to 2021 prominence was its support for highly affordable NFT projects. Developers could mint and release NFTs on Solana, using a marketplace such as Solanart or Metaplex for fractions of a cent, compared to paying hundreds of dollars on the Ethereum network.
The most successful of these releases was the Degen Ape Academy, a metaverse of 10,000 Ape NFTs. The entire collection of tokens were sold out within 8 minutes, and some of the NFTs are now worth over US$1 million.
Solana looks set to take this further in 2022, placing a greater focus on NFT-based gaming rather than generative art and capitalising on the growing play-to-earn market.
Let's take a look at some of the more promising projects set to launch in 2022.
Perhaps the most anticipated release on Solana in 2022 will be that of the Solice Metaverse. This application is slated to be one of the first to integrate virtual reality (VR) with the Solana protocol.
The virtual world will comprise of custom minigames, dungeon crawls, social elements and in-game marketplaces to create a believable, immersive experience.
Such an ambitious project will be time-consuming and expensive, but the Solice developers have found a number of high-volume investors like Three Arrows Capital and Animoca Brands.
It is likely Solice won't be released until the end of 2022.
Perhaps the coolest part of the metaverse is the staking mechanism which combines virtual reality with DeFi.
— Solice (@solice_io) October 21, 2021
Thus far, most metaverses have been focused on exploring and conquering an expansive open world.
That is not the case with RaceFi, the first car racing game built on Solana. The application works a little like other popular racing games Forza and Grand Turismo – take on friends, strangers or artificial intelligence in high-stakes races.
There is a twist – those participating on RaceFi have the opportunity to earn money through a property ownership structure, or from third-party betting. Users can even stake the native $RACEFI tokens to receive additional rewards.
One of the lesser-known upcoming NFT launches is DarleyGo, a horse racing game that shares parallels with the popular Zed.Run (built on Polygon).
In the game, people can purchase NFTs of horse breeds, the price of which is based on rarity and pedigree. These horses can then be raced against other horses in a multiplayer mode, or bred to try and birth the next champion racer.
DarleyGo is still a ways away from being launched, but a late-2022 beta is anticipated.
What else for Solana?
This is just a very brief list of the applications coming to Solana in 2022. The above are focused on the intersection of gaming and NFTs, but a number of DeFi exchanges, swapping utilities and liquidity solutions are also set for a 2022 launch.
Though these dApps aren't actually improvements to Solana's protocol itself, they can play a massive role in the price of SOL by attracting new audiences and users to the Solana ecosystem. The success of Degen Ape Academy is credited with lifting the price of SOL tokens by 38% in just 24 hours.
Last year showed that Solana clearly has the tools for success, but it's now up to the wider community to put them to work and keep the ball rolling.
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Disclosure: The author owns a range of cryptocurrencies at the time of writing