We are still a long way from living in a digital world where we cruise around on hovercrafts while experiencing most of our lives through virtual reality, as science fiction predicted decades ago. Developed by Hollywood, a “metaverse” is a fully fleshed out virtual world where people interact online as digital avatars and indulge in their most ingrained vices while wearing virtual reality goggles. Since Second Life’s release, many attempts to create a metaverse and IMVU have reached the hype stage, but the latest hype exploded when Roblox IPO valuation reached $41 billion and Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook will become a metaverse company within 5 years. The metaverse finally seems like a viable business concept in Silicon Valley.
Metaverses are aspirational but will take decades and significant resources to mirror the movies as seamless universes of seamlessly connected content. Imagine how many creative professionals and engineers are required to create a metaverse if it takes a village to raise a child? Meanwhile, it is undergoing a number of phases of construction, with content creators, movie producers, and smart investors playing a crucial role in the process.
As gaming metaverses advance, some companies are pioneering experiences that use 3D virtual worlds to transport players even deeper into the game. The infrastructure leg of the race may be won by Unity, Unreal, or Nvidia. Nvidia is using its Omniverse beta to enable collaboration across multiple industries in order to establish universal standards. Unity spoke earlier this year about how democratizing development was deep within its DNA, with its mission to bring “advanced technology to developers, so they can create powerful applications.” Using accurate visualization and simulation applications will be increasingly important in future architectural design, according to an industry expert.
Roblox, Minecraft, and Manticore, all of whom have made it possible for the user to build their own games by providing them with the building blocks, will then carry the baton. The market’s recognition that Roblox is more than just a game, but rather the first successful commercially successful metaverse platform, reflects its 161% first quarter growth year over year and its approximately $42 billion valuation. Additionally, Manticore raised $100 million for an arena of user-generated games that it plans to build as an ever-expanding arcade, providing the “infrastructure and economic system as well as the tools to foster collaboration,” according to CEO Frederic Descamps.
Beyond these more building-focused brands, there’s Epic’s Fortnite, with its multiple modes, including user-generated content and maps that keep the game competitive while still enabling users to think creatively. This is another commercially successful, metaverse-aspiring game that has expanded to include live events by Marshmello and Ariana Grande. A $1 billion funding round was announced by Epic in April, which means there is still more innovation to come.
After you have a clear understanding of what is happening within the metaverse, it is time to find out who is driving it. A metaverse’s visible layer is created by two major groups: designers and hosts.
Designers create interactive narratives which populate the world with all the things that will be available to see and do, such as the games. As a result, both novices and professionals are able to build amazing experiences as creation tools become less code-dependent.
As for the hosts, they will be a mix of emcees, tour guides, and commentators, who will communicate authentically with audiences to influence purchasing decisions. Presenters and producers of community events are among their defining characteristics, as Ninja is positioned as the host of the new Fortnite season, attracting many people. Gaming hosts can also be more tethered to the games they are famous for, like a Lord of the Rings streamer displaying every expression on their face while leading an attack against Mordor. In addition, hosts will be able to serve as a live discovery and marketing tool for brand advertisers, which is a natural extension of their sponsorship possibilities.
Look no further than livestreaming platforms such as Twitch and YouTube to see how the host aspect of the metaverse is being cultivated. As real-time chat-enabled livestreams are simultaneously social networks and viewing platforms, they’ve been able to nurture the human connection that’ll be found in these platforms and creators who embrace the metaverse format.
Even in the metaverse, billboards for Lady Gaga concerts will be dwarfed by the impact of watching her promote the concert on a talk show. Metaverse will be born out of this disparity in approach when hosts and engagement-led technology converge – an amalgamation that is already in its nascent form on livestreaming platforms. Despite the fact that we have not yet reached the seemingly basic metaverse offering of enabling viewers to purchase clothes or other items from a creator’s room, they will be the starting point for when we cross that touchscreen precipice. As a result of this form of art and commerce, the metaverse will be a realm of art and commerce in 3D, and hosts will be the spearheads of brands.
It is safe to say even though the metaverse will not appear on your holodeck anytime soon, the companies that do overcome this technical barrier and overcome the cost hurdle will be worth hundreds of billions of dollars because they will occupy more people’s time than any other company ever has. However, if companies that are attempting to enter the market do not develop a content creator strategy, their metaverses could end up like a virtual empty desert.