It’s Friday night, and I’m sitting on my couch watching my son play Minecraft with his cousin, who lives 600 miles away. The two squeal happily as they chase each other around a custom hide-and-seek map that one of them created, and that’s where it hit me. The metaverse is not something we have to wait for five to ten years. It’s already there, and the next generation lives there.
So how do we juxtapose that with the latest numbers from a report of Information (opens in a new tab) which shows that Meta – and other similar companies – are spending over $70 billion to build the metaverse (opens in a new tab) over the next decade? As The Information article points out, that’s twenty times the amount Apple invested when building the original iPhone.
But, here’s the deal. While many elements of Metaverse as a name certainly exist, it will take a lot more to truly create a digital world that converges all existing Metaverse concepts into something interoperable. Of course, then it would take a lot more money to assemble than a single product. Uh.
But is it really necessary to create a coherent virtual world? I’d like to explore this question in today’s Editor’s Desk article.
I’ve seen the argument that games like World of Warcraft and Everquest popularized the concept of an online world where players can assume an alter ego and experience their days as something far more exciting than real life. . And while these games set out to create a virtual world that felt more like a real world than any before them, they don’t actually fit the proper definition of a metaverse.
Why? Because, in these games, you still only choose characters that the creators created to fit a certain theme, and there’s also no real way to build or create your own worlds or objects within them. Everything is always done within a preconceived framework, even if it is massive.
On the contrary, games like Minecraft and Fortnite are much better representations of what we can and should expect from any type of Metaverse proper name in the future. Why is that? Simply put, there are few, if any, restrictions on what a person can play and what they can do.
Minecraft is evident on the creation front. The game was literally designed for gamers who love to explore and build, giving them the tools to create almost anything they could think of using the game’s unique voxel art style. Over the years, updates Minecraft have focused heavily on empowering people to go beyond the tools of the game and create truly spectacular things, even games within the game.
The Minecraft Marketplace has created a consistent way for creators to take shiny worlds and character models they’ve created and sell them for real money. You can be Buzz Lightyear, you can explore the world of The Nightmare Before Christmas, you can play one of the millions of original concepts and characters, or just create your own.
Fortnite has also taken over to allow players to be pretty much anything they want. In fact, it’s perhaps the best example of how amazingly good a Metaverse is when it all comes together. You do not believe me ? Check the video in this Tweet (opens in a new tab) (written language warning) for what I think is probably the best example I’ve seen for the game.
As Goku walks through a field, the sonic and visual flair of a Kamehameha rings out on the horizon. Goku then leaps into the air and uses Spiderman’s web shooters to quickly swing from tree to tree until he reaches the players who had just fought, only to pull out Darth Vader’s lightsaber and annihilate the player almost instantly.
If that’s not enough to convince you, how about a Xenomorph from the movie Aliens dance to a Wu-Tang Clan song (opens in a new tab)? Or, how about anime characters like Dragon Ball Z and Naruto – plus many original characters – have the time of their life (opens in a new tab) in a virtual BTS concert?
This type of fandom mashup was previously only possible in pirated titles or fanfiction, but now here it is in the most popular online game of all time. That’s the power of the metaverse, and it’s something that’s only really materialized in recent years as a real, living, breathing concept.
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So while Fortnite and Minecraft are probably two of the best examples of what might be called a metaverse in pop culture today, there is another obvious example that only exists in VR: VR Chat.
As a completely free title, VR Chat is nothing short of breathtaking and can be completely overwhelming for new users. VR Chat is not just an online forum that gives people a more visual way to meet and discuss current events. It’s a whole culture, evidenced in the scalloping of catgirl avatars and a host of other things that you’ll really understand if you’re a regular user.
But, again, VR Chat isn’t just a place where people and their virtual avatars can mingle while they sit on their couches at night. It’s a place where people completely recreate classic games and even let you dive into the worlds of current-gen games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Pretty much everything you can think of has been redone in VR Chat. Whether playing Among Us VR (opens in a new tab) before the official game releases later this year, drift cars in Ridge Racer – complete with appropriate PS1-era visuals – blasting imps in the original Doom while playing as an avatar, or scoring walls in the always adorable Jet Set Radio, VR Chat has it all.
So where does Meta’s idea of a Metaverse (capital M) come in? While VR Chat’s goal is to be a virtual place where you can hang out with friends – including friends who don’t have VR headsets with the game’s desktop mode – Meta’s concept goes to the beyond the four walls of your home and includes your phone and any other digital devices you may have with you.
Essentially, think of Meta’s Metaverse as a combination of VR Chat and Pokemon Go, where people can interact with each other and transact wherever they are and on whatever device they fancy. ‘utilize.
It’s this complexity that’s going to be the hardest part, really, and it’s also what makes Meta’s metaverse both the costliest and perhaps the most transformative of all metaverse concepts.
If we still compare what it costs to launch other technologies, estimates place initial investments in creation around $125 million, or about $235 million in today’s dollars. As The Information pointed out, Android took around $1 billion to make, while the original iPhone sits at around $3.4 billion.
That being said, it’s unlikely that people who were doing engineering at the time really had any idea what the Internet would really become or the extent of its stores of knowledge.
Likewise, a good metaverse would be even more complete than the initial Internet infrastructure simply because it has to bring so much together into a massive, congruent virtual universe. It’s no wonder that such a design is much more expensive and complex than investing in a single product, as most of these comparisons point out.
Given how transformative it could be, I’m not sure it’s even fair to try to compare any of these things together. It’s really funny how the numbers differ from each other – especially since Meta is looking to spend $70 billion developing the Metaverse over the next few years – but that cost also includes tertiary things like the development of VR and AR headsets. Over $10 billion, to be precise.
But, if Meta can find a way to bring everyone’s favorite brands, characters, places, and games together in one place, accessible through almost any device imaginable, and create a complete ecosystem that benefits real people with real money, he will have something truly transformational in his hands.
The thing is, it takes more than imagination to create something as large and complex as a metaverse. It takes a lot of time, a lot of manpower and a lot of money.
That Meta will even reach the estimated $70 billion by 2026 is anyone’s best guess, but, based on Meta’s recent hiring freeze and rumors that the company will indeed not be hiring new employees in 2023 this tells me that cost cutting measures have already begun, and what seems like a weirdly high number right now will go down as money starts flowing back into the coffers of Meta from a Metaverse concept more mature.
In the meantime, we seriously need games like Minecraft, Roblox, and Fortnite on Quest 2. At the very least, this looks like one of those. (opens in a new tab) is already on its way.