The pace and deliverables of the metaverse continue and vary at different levels. I've just spent a week in London where the talk of the week was not Metaverse as per se, but more focused on gamified experiences and the tools that support that. Meaning that the metaverse, like the games industry, is starting to grow through learning from its mistakes, even if it’s at a snail's pace, it's still progress.
If you're reading this, and you haven't watched the Eurovision final yet, SPOILER ALERT: Sweden wins. The UK’s Eurovision Gen Z consumers are embracing the metaverse, 5G and AR to enhance their experience, according to VanillaPlus, the “global voice in telecoms IT”. As if the garish sight of Sam Ryder, the YouTube Jesus, was not enough. We can also look at him in his Glorious Technicolour Dreamcoat in AR. Joy.
I live in a country where English-speaking content is obtained through other platforms, rather than the national broadcaster, which is fair enough. English is not one of my country's official languages. It is definitely a non-official language though. How we access language through media, however Chomsky you want to think about it, has been surveyed in the UK as part of the Eurovision “season”. Of the 1000 UK consumers' questions, Gen Z consumers were enthusiastic about last Saturday's grand final with 67% of Gen Zs gripped by the fever and just 35% of people aged over 55 making definite plans. A whopping 75% Gen Zs surveyed were more interested in watching it in the metaverse. (Note to Tim Sweeney: if you are reading this and I know you are one of us, this could be a good thing for Fortnite.)
Overall, I think terrestrial television, though important to the EBU once a year, is probably a dying medium for people wanting to access something exciting, visual and visceral. And it’s the viscerality of television that is coming much more to the fore now. Whereas we would simply go and sit in our local flea pit and watch My Beautiful Laundrette. We’re now urged to watch Guardians of the Galaxy in staggering 8k or whatever, with or without goggles. If this survey tells us anything, it tells us that we really have to move with the times quickly and devices are the key to this. We don't need new stuff, we just need better ways of connecting over platforms.
The Great Conspiracy
I'm not a conspiratorial person. I know loads of people who are, but since the beginning of this year even I believe that there is a slight “conspiracy” over at Metaverse, HQ: wherever that is. Imagine for a second that your bread and butter is the metaverse (it is mine) but you’re a good business person (unlike me). Imagine downplaying the metaverse, which includes NFTs and all that jazz (web3, platforms, devices, blockchain, DAOs, crypto etc) so that it gives you a better opportunity to talk up the metaverse when it suits you. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has made fun of a recent Business Insider article suggesting that the metaverse had run its course. As we all know, this article was written by a person who literally has no clue, beyond Wikipedia, and a book or two filled with stats, what the metaverse is. Their editor told them to just WRITE SOMETHING.
Ahhh the beloved and much maligned Metaverse, it’s many things to many different people. I have always tried to describe it akin to a PCB, a layer or a potato that enables other things to happen. From games to wearables, we should be able to do everything on it (I'm not going to preempt my incredible, best selling book unless you beg me to). However, what I will say is that Tim Sweeney spent a lot of last year downplaying a great deal of the metaverse saying that we weren't ready, and this and that. I remember writing an article in this very publication, explaining why the metaverse wasn't dead, and how some of these apparent Metaverse visionaries should probably just shut up and stop it. Some people have even changed their illustrious titles from Chief Metaverse Officer to just Marketing Weasel. It was then that my conspiratorial brain kicked in, I realised that what these so-called visionaries were hedging their bets. The more you play it down, gives you a better opportunity to talk it up when it really needs to be talked up. He’s been dead for 100 years but if he says there’s no such thing as bad publicity, has this style of conspiracy really gone out of fashion?
This is not a Metaverse
The platform that's only just really found its legs (pun intended), will no longer let creators using its Horizon World Social VR “playscape” make dedicated events. This is weird because over the course of the last year or so we've lost some really good metaverse experiences (looking at AltspaceVR’s landing page still makes me cry) and we've gained some really shitty ones. Or, even worse, we've got shitty ones that have infiltrated our daily lives through things like social media. So this is such a rubbish story, but really quite expected from Meta. Let me make this clear to every single hack in the universe: They are a social advertising platform. They make millions out of advertising. They are not a Metaverse platform. They merely use that as a vehicle for them to do other things. Meta Inc., is their intranet, joining together the alpha to omega of their products and services.
Therefore, the creator economy is really not in their favour at all. What is in their favour is people clicking through or discovering different things through their assisted aggregators. Do not be under any illusion that somehow Meta is there to support, help and supply us with the creative economy. It is not. This is a walled garden, made by someone who has built an advertising empire and does not want to see it crashing down. So yeah, of course Meta’s “created not curated” events are going from now on to become “curated not created”. Got it? (Unless you are a high profile singer-songwriter, brand, or someone who's got something to flog and would heartily pay for it to be advertised on that platform, then you are very welcome.)
Sowing the Seeds of Nothing Much
Chia, you know Chia don’t you? The digital economy people that don’t grow plants out of their heads. Those people. Well, they really would love it if you spent a minute thinking about interoperability. They want to be the power and presumably the glory of a metaverse that uses interoperable assets. First, let's discover what interoperable actually means in this context. And then secondly let's figure out how a Chia who we’ve really only just heard of is going to be able to interoperate across loads of different platforms. Now look, Richard Tsao Chia’s Chief Metaverse Officer, spent two decades working for Microsoft, Ubisoft, and has more recently worked for Riot Games. That's three platforms out of literally 1000s. No mention of the implication in owning the backend has, on an open and transparent future where folks are going to keep creating their own platforms. The exponential development will only drop off when a formidable competitor steps into the arena and sets a solid working precedent.
Well until then, Chia are not sitting tight, they’re making stuff. NFT trading cards is day two because day one was infrastructure. Crypto Bros the world over see this as being a super opportunity for them to make bank when actually the idea of interoperability is that we should all make bank.
Make Better Games
Like a troll meister waiting for a door knocker to come and tell me about my salvation, I always love it when crypto peeps start telling me how web3 gaming should work when I’ve been in the industry for 30 years. Yeah, it's kind of fun for a little bit to hear people talk about things from a financial perspective. But here's how web3 gaming should work:
MAKE A GOOD GAME.
And then when you've made a good game, get a company like nefta.io, to do all of your web3 backend for you, including the cybersec bit, so you don't need to mess it up. There is literally no need to explain every single piece of governance, passive income, interoperability and security, mass adoption blah, blah, blah, in the way that web3 gaming has been explored in this article to basically shill cybersec. Heed my words:
Most web3 games fail because of point 1. So just don’t do that.
David Beckham, former English footballer, man of crisp white underpants, and general tattooed hottie is interested in the metaverse, aren’t we all dear? But is this article really about the metaverse? Nope. This is about David and countless other celebs securing their future by trademarking their (read their lawyer’s) interest in the metaverse. IP is the most important thing that has happened to anyone and any brand in the public eye over the last 30 years. From DC Comics to Reggae Reggae Sauce. There's still a lot of work for David to do in the spotlight of celebrity, the most important thing being getting back into those crisp white budgie smugglers, maybe as an avatar, maybe in VRChat.
Make Better Metaverses (Please)
I really want to like Habytat but I am really confused by what, in the name of all things Zuckerberg, Datchat is doing with the most basic element of business: the value offering. Is it about democratising access to the metaverse by being available via mobile devices? Is it about creating realistic content? Is it about selling land as NFTs? It could be all those things but here’s the rub for me: Is Habytat being made for users? Have users actually told Datchat Inc/Smartverse that they want this type of metaverse? Because if they haven't, these guys are staring into a pond of their own reflections, listening to themselves in an echo chamber and yeah, making something just for themselves. Add to that there’s this really weird Ready Player Me element to it that doesn’t seem to fit. Gosh, this does feel a little bit like a vanity project to me. I could be wrong, and I'm always willing to be proved wrong. I had an argument about DAOs and polygonal development last week with two separate people and lost both arguments. All I’m saying is that I’m open, which is a damn sight more than what these cats are.
Going Lean without Ozempic
Being a fan of Roblox applies to no one over the age of 24 and I mean that sincerely. With one caveat: you have shares. Something we can all learn in business is lessons from the games industry: you get an idea, you find some money, you throw people at the development, you launch when you’re happy that your users are (VCs be damned) and the minute you go to live-ops, you scale down. NOT UP.
Roblox is doubling down on its record revenues, by taking a long hard look at itself, something which it can now afford to do. All Roblox has ever needed is players: and 66.1 million is enough to cruise. Their revenue is now at $655m and bookings are holding steady at $774m, now is the time to let the players play. Let the creators create. Let Roblox live.
I never thought I’d say it but it’s true, they are doing amazing; if you read this every week, you will know that I am 99.9% disparaging about every single so-called metaverse platform or world and I really do have my faves. However, this is a prime example of the metaverse done good. Long may it continue.
In the games industry when we go to live-ops, it’s not the end of the story, it’s just the beginning. Roblox knows the challenges it faces over the coming quarters but getting lean is good for business. Who knows? They might even prove that lightning can strike twice in the same place—I hope they do. Great work Michael Guthrie, but I'm still not bought into Roblox. No way. I’m 50.
Okay, that's enough metaverse for this week (kind of) I've got a manuscript to deliver in less than two weeks, wish me luck! Until my book comes out, why don’t you check out our wondrous Spotify playlist and listen while you work? Or, sample Metacrun.ch meets… where I interview only the coolest people in the metaverse and web3. Want in? Talk to us!