The word ‘metaverse’ is becoming almost inescapable, especially for those who peruse technology and games-related headlines.
Most recently, Facebook has been making big noises about transitioning from a social media company to a metaverse one. Meanwhile other companies have raised significant capital — such as Epic Games securing $1 billion — towards similar ambitions (Epic even stated in court earlier this year that Fortnite is not a game, it’s a metaverse).
Jon Radoff, CEO of Beamable and formerly mobile developer Disruptor Beam, has attempted to map out the companies that have either expressed an interest in the metaverse, or at least could be argued are connected to it, which is extensive to say the least.
With the term already in danger of overuse after these opening paragraphs alone, it’s time to question why so many major companies across multiple industries are investing so heavily in a concept some might write off as science fiction.
“The metaverse is to virtual worlds as a website is to the internet”
Herman Narula, Improbable
Indie developer Rami Ismail sums it up to us rather nicely: “The idea of creating an alternative world in which everyone has to use your currency, play by your rules and everyone wants to promote their brands is really appealing to rich people. I mean, I guess we are talking about Fortnite after all.”
But this feature would be too short if we just accepted the “Because money” rationale behind the rise of the metaverse. So let’s take a deeper dive into what it is these companies are actually trying to achieve, and why games developers see themselves at the forefront of these efforts.
Novaquark, the developer behind user-generated MMO Dual Universe, is so dedicated to the concept that it even refers to itself as a metaverse company. General manager Sébastien Bisch describes the metaverse in much the same way most people envisage it: a single, persistent virtual environment shared by everyone on the planet. The go-to pop culture references are The Matrix or Ready Player One’s Oasis if you want a shorthand for what that might look like.
“We believe that the metaverse will be the place where all forms of entertainment and media eventually converge, a gateway where they can be consumed,” Bisch explains. “We also believe that the metaverse will be an inherently social place where social media and online discussion groups might eventually migrate as well.”
Earlier this year, US-based HiDef raised $9 million for its own metaverse project. Founder and chief creative officer Jace Hall paints a picture of the metaverse of something virtual that interacts with reality, rather than replaces it — a platform that eliminates the distinction between online and offline.