Game on: how tech companies are betting on the metaverse | FT Film

We are moving towards a new evolution in you know computing technology and digital interfaces moving away from flat framed content towards spatial three-dimensional content your computer in the near future you know it's not going to be something you hold here it's going to be super.

Lightweight glasses the idea of the metaverse is not really here yet like the metaverse doesn't exist yet we're building it and i do think we're not so far on the premise of the middle earth what we're seeing is a leap of understanding of these digital spaces.

And they have the potential to be very valuable to people great experiences start out being great before they're mature they didn't start bad and then as the technology progresses become good they were good from the beginning there's nothing like that in the metaverse right now.

A whole virtual universe so when you see ready player one right that's a pretty dystopic vision of the future of the metaverse and you know obviously the people that are accessing that you know vision of the metaverse are using it through virtual reality um they're escaping the physical world because the physical world's not very.

Fun that's not the the future that i want to see right i do think you know from gaming perspective it starts with gaming gaming is the on-ramp for the reason that a lot of these virtual experiences whether it's in augmented reality or virtual reality they are being created on game engines i think games.

Will unlock all the possibilities of the metaverse will create new form of entertainment the way games work is like life and so using gaming mechanics at the core of building the manaverse will make it more accessible to everyone most of the activities that we do online.

Are going from things that you did by yourself to things that you do with other people like shared right so gaming is a good example because if you think about gaming 3d immersive and multiplayer has been there for a long while games are obviously a somewhat older.

Medium they started as arcade games and small experiments by mathematicians with something that looked incredibly basic and pixel like pong tennis we came through the the early console era of the nintendos and and sega mega drives we now have these incredibly powerful playstations and xboxes that are in tens if not hundreds of millions of homes.

Gaming has become a mainstay in in modern society and nowadays we carry gaming devices with us every day in our mobile phones on our laptops people play games everywhere and so what used to be a kind of niche activity perhaps for teenage boys in the 90s like me is now about 3 billion people i think is the is the estimate for the audience of gamers.

Around the world so the video game industry is orders of magnitude bigger than other kinds of entertainment and that only accelerated further during the pandemic when people couldn't go out to the cinema or they couldn't go out to a rock concert and they had to stay home and play video games but also to.

Maintain their social life for a lot of children it was their only way to play with their friends also for a lot of more adult players and senior players it was a way to interact with their family with their loved ones people that would never have played a game three four five years ago have now come to accept that gaming is.

Part of life of culture according to a new report by accenture the value of the global gaming industry now exceeds given it's such a lucrative business it's no surprise that some of the world's most valuable companies are now taking video gaming much much more seriously amazon sort of made what was seen as.

Quite a big move into games a few years ago and it bought twitch for a billion dollars but we've seen the pace of consolidation in the gaming industry pick up especially at the beginning of 2022 with some really monster deals like microsoft buying activision blizzard sony buying bungie the maker of destiny and halo and take two buying zinger the.

The social and mobile gaming company this is some big news that's coming out right now it looks like microsoft is going to be buying activision blizzard call of duty warcraft candy crush tony hawk diablo overwatch spyro will be joining team xbox sony the owner of playstation is going to buy uh bungie what's going on.

Here tech companies are basing their future on games in part because of the games themselves and the intellectual property and the franchises that come with that people will go out and buy the next grand theft auto or the next call of duty every year and it comes out but they're also betting that we'll spend more time in these virtual worlds you.

See an evolution right now where there's a kind of a land rush to acquire gaming studios or gaming properties you see microsoft acquiring activision blizzard right that is completely completely makes sense from the future that they see ahead of them with web 3.0 with metaverse today we're going to talk about the metaverse.

I want to share what we imagine is possible yeah the experiences you'll have the creative economy will all build and you're gonna be able to do almost anything you can imagine perfect the concept of the metaverse.

Circulating in in gaming spaces right where we have games such as roblox uh minecraft where young people go on and create worlds and have digital avatars and and communicate through them um what's happened last year is that facebook went out and said it wanted to build one huge singular metaverse and that's.

Really spurred a rapid acceleration in the number of companies jumping into the spaces and thinking about how we might be able to make money from them the metaverse vision as it was presented over the past year by uh by facebook now meta is a very um not creative vision that was basically.

Lifted directly from matrix ready player one it's a very old idea we talk about the metaverse all the time but i have to admit i don't really understand it i don't know what it means um what do you need in order for your games to kind of translate into the metaverse so yes i think i think when microsoft and activision you know merged this talk of.

The metaverse was again it's just more marketing they try to make a deal look more interesting to investors in the month that it happened had it happened six months before they wouldn't have said the metaverse they would have said something else if there's one buzzword that i've heard more from big tech companies over the.

Last few months than any other it's the metaverse people differ in their interpretations of what exactly the metaverse is the term itself is derived from a book in the early 90s by neil stephenson called snow crash which was actually quite a dystopian book about society sort of gone to hell people were using.

Virtual reality glasses as a form of escape the same concept came up again in ready player one which was a book that was released a few years ago steven spielberg turned it into a film it's different depending on who you ask sachin adella at microsoft thinks the metaverse could be people hanging out on microsoft teams and doing a video call.

For facebook it's very much about putting on a headset being in a virtual world and kind of feeling like you are really there and present with the people around you metaverse right now is a broad term but what it means to me is our virtual realities that we exist in and right now we already exist in many metaverses when i go on my virtual.

Reality headset and hang out with friends in vrchat that's a metaverse but also if you look what microsoft has done with the hololens and magic leap we're seeing the foundation for augmented reality there as well then beyond that spatial web you know we're starting to see websites transforming into three-dimensional websites and.

That's a whole avenue towards a metaverse that doesn't require any special hardware and of course video games i mean video games are so immersive people you know are clocked into those for hours upon hours on end and they lose themselves in video games so i think when we look at the metaverse it's kind.

Of the acceleration of these technologies and um this whole life and world that exists only in in virtual space there is a lot of debate about what the metaverse is and whether there will be one single metaverse or multiple metaverses but the common agreement is that it's a shared virtual space uh in which.

You and i will have an avatar that will be able to do lots of the things they can do in the real world to me there's only one metaverse just like there's only one internet right there's many domains or many websites within the internet there's many metaverse platforms uh you almost have to envision it as when someone says the metaverse.

It's like the metaverse capital m and then there's maybe meta versus lowercase m or metaverse platforms so what does it take to be a metaverse platform i think there needs to be an element of social um a lot of these early metaverse platforms have to do with gaming right so gaming is the on-ramp or it's kind of the parent to.

That greater metaverse capital m one thing that i find very interesting is that it's not something new uh when you think about the games that we've played games like world of warcraft or second life or eve online are these big video games where really real parts of the world overlap with the digital.

Reality and second life people build things themselves and then sell them to other users but you also see it in fortnight where people like just run around and have fun and in games like roblox where people can make their own video games and enjoy that roblox was founded uh more than 16 years.

Ago by dei pazuki our ceo and eric casell they started doing physics simulations so for kids or people in the lab who wanted to simulate say cars crashing and you cannot do that in real life so it was easier to do it in computers but they realized that people were having fun creating these experiences and.

Sharing it with other students nowadays it's a platform where millions of people can come and create 3d immersive experiences for other people to hang out share play they can talk they can work they can learn something new you can already like come with your avatar into social lab chat with other users dance express.

Yourself through animation and emotes you can play both single player and multiplayer game you can also find like art galleries virtual museum fashion shows dance clubs early examples of what the metaverse can be like fortnight or roblox where you have lots of different people coming together.

And it's a real kind of mishmash of different characters from different franchises and different intellectual properties the problem is for games like fortnite you can play as batman and you can play as superman and and you can play as characters from any number of different movies that are coming out depending on.

What the studios want to promote quite often but you have to do it within fortnight and the real promise of the metaverse and the way mark zuckerberg at facebook talks about it is that you will be able to take that character and go into any game and the metaverse will be linked in the same way that the internet.

Is today but in a sort of 3d kind of a way this movie scene where you see all the characters mixed from values movies and and brands that we are familiar with we have that in sandbox it's it's coming to life we can see this merchant this.

Medley of content made by the community made by users i'm mixing with snoop dogg here care bears here smurf working that and enabling anyone to use all of them if you start thinking about blockchain games and nfts a lot of the new concepts that are starting up in there which are small virtual worlds like the sandbox or.

Decentraland these are starting from scratch they're separate from all the big tech companies and in those because of the blockchain when you buy a piece of land or a virtual object you you own it in a way that you don't when you're buying an object in game through call of duty or fortnite.

Towards 2017 as we were exploring around the new technology this time blockchain we found the first blockchain game cryptokitty and we experimented with it of course and what struck us was this idea that those virtual cats as nfts could actually be exchanged and sold on marketplace and that marketplace actually being outside of the game.

From there was born the idea to combine the technology nft with user generated content and then allow anyone to become their own creator own nft creator and use those nfts in a game maker so then they could monetize their content play with it exchange it the way they want there's been recent hype around what's known as.

Nfts or non-fungible tokens which is essentially where you certify ownership of a digital good using blockchain technology so if i buy a digital sneaker i can um sort of fuse into the blockchain that is mine and nobody else's and it's confirmed and so um the suggestion is that nfts will be used to create lots of these sort of.

Digital goods in these digital realms and then they are obviously underpinned by virtual currency and bought and sold in virtual currency and so we see nfts and virtual currency coming into the space that's perhaps the long-term path to interoperability i think it's a much bigger ask for true interoperability to happen.

Between call of duty and battlefield which created by electronics arts and activision which are the two fiercest rivals in video games equally it seems kind of difficult to imagine that apple which is working on its own augmented reality headset would some way interoperate with oculus which are made.

By the same company as facebook those companies do not like each other and it seems like the the vision of a metaverse where anyone can go anywhere and take all of their digital assets with them wherever they go is going to hit up against some pretty hard business rivalries and reality.

During the pandemic we definitely had critical metaverse moments right and they happened inside gaming platforms so you had travis scott doing his concert in fortnite which you know had millions millions of views and participants he made millions of dollars and that was you know that was an experiment but it was a successful one.

Then you had little not sex and roblox and then you have ariana grande and you're going to see a lot more i think experiments inside these gaming platforms that are you know very very successful so the gaming industry it is a very important part of the future of the metaverse right it's where a lot of.

These experiments are happening but i think fashion is really the one leading innovation here gucci doing something you know in roblox and it is valenciaga doing something in fortnite and it's all these different things that you see every day with passion.

One part of the metaverse that i think does make sense is that we are increasingly seeing people dress up their digital avatars of themselves online in ways that reflect their offline personality so if you are a big sneaker fan or if you're a big sports fan or if you really like a particular.

Character from squid game you want to dress up your avatar in a virtual world to reflect that gucci came and and decided to do something that they call the gucci gardens on roblox right they were creating the gucci gardens in i think it was in florence and you needed to be there in real life if you wanted to.

Attend it but they realized that not many people can actually go to florence and and be in that event in real life so they did us a replica of the gucci gardens inside roblox and one of the cool things that they did is that every morning they dropped a different item and a limited item that you could actually collect.

When you joined the experience and those limited items became kind of like collection items that people could sell and resell on a platform and many of those ended up selling for more than the cost of the real uh gucci bag which tells you the power of of people expressing their digital identity and collecting these digital items and i.

Think that's a mindset shift i think for a lot of people when they see something happening in in gaming spaces or in virtual spaces they say oh that's not real just because it's not physical and i think that that's the big change that's happening is that for younger generations the gen z and the gen alpha what happens in these virtual spaces is.

Real they own these virtual assets they build these worlds and they're very very real to them i can understand why companies would be interested in this like i understand why like nike wants to sell you you know shoes in the metaverse i get it and if i could sell you stuff that isn't even.

Real it isn't even manufactured it's much easier for supply chain all that stuff of course i get it the question isn't like is this just more stuff for a company to sell you like that that's easy to see the question is like do people want this and why do they want it and is it good is it good for them and is it good for the.

World and sometimes sure it is you know people buy skins and decorations and you know in fortnite and roblox whatever but sometimes it's it's pretty bad it's pretty harmful it's pretty addictive i don't think we should be afraid of this technology i mean in the same way that when the print came out maybe people many people may have been.

Concerned about it and but now we have books and it has been amazing for civilization that we have books in the same way that when tv came up books didn't disappear and people kept reading books it's easy for the companies to just sort of plow in and create something and it's in their interests to do it to create spaces that.

People want to be in but i think there's particular concern beginning to um beginning to be raised among lawmakers in particular around keeping safe spaces for children so for somewhere like roblox it's not just um protecting children from harmful content it's also protecting children from predators um and and from seeing things.

That could be incredibly disturbing to them we have tools that proactively catch content so they can actually analyze images or they can analyze uh different assets and determine whether they're appropriate or not we think about it in a way that is flexible where people are spending time and they're gonna use it.

Hopefully wisely for the things that it does very well if you want to feel immersed if you want to feel presence if you want to interact this is amazing this is the oasis a whole virtual universe you can do anything be anyone.

Without going anywhere at all i've seen already one movie i've read the snow crash book free guy movies that kind of project the idea of the medals and i do think we're not so far on the premise of the medals this idea that we can through an avatar engage into multiple virtual worlds and do all sort of activities much beyond.

Gaming or working but really like socializing dancing interacting learning attending all sorts of shows art galleries museum the thing that we are not necessarily close to is this meta-human representation where we think or that we need to be as realistic as possible on the graphic side to be immersed in a.

Metaverse or we need the headset the vr headset as well the challenge is when you put it on a headset is having enough graphical power in that headset because it's portable so it has less power it has it also gets hot so you can't get it so hot so that it burns the person's face you know you're in that world if you're in vr for.

A long time you take off the glasses sometimes the real world feels alien wearing a thing on your face and and not being able to see where you really are or actually talk to people and not being able to see people's real face and being this kind of isolated and doing everything in 3d is not fun.

Or it's fun for for for certain experiences for a few minutes at a time there are some pretty fun vr games right now like i like beat saber i like beat saber well it's great i think there's another game that i really liked uh i think it's called you must fall you like fight monsters with two swords it's kind of fun you know for like 20 minutes at a.

Time this idea that there's a uh an immersive world that we primarily experience through vr through virtual reality um as sort of an alternative a substitute you know to the real world that has a a connected economics uh that encompasses.

Uh gaming and living and working and we're all kind of spending our time in this like skeuomorphic 3d vr world um i think it's dystopian i think it's it's it's unpleasant it's stupid it has uh pretty bad repercussions for the world the metaverse shouldn't be a replacement for the real world it should.

Help you augment the real world and what i mean by that is that it should allow you to do things that maybe were not possible to do right so when you think about the movie and when you think about the book i mean some of the interesting concepts there is hey can two people who are in different geographies feel together right feel that they are.

Together can they represent themselves and be whoever they want to be that's where you customize your avatar and then when you are inside these worlds you want to do different things you may want to play a game as i mentioned but you may also also want to listen to a concert you may also want to do some work right so all these capabilities are.

There i just love the complete immersion of being in a vr headset and i'm a total vr nerd who goes into like vr chat and alt space with my with my group of other vr enthusiasts and we world hop and we we hang out you know every week yeah the hardware is clunky uh today but these things get lighter and faster so you know headsets are probably like at.

The backpack cell phone era or the you know the big clunky you know really with a big antenna like that cell phone like that's where you can maybe view where vr headsets are today i certainly think that right now the hardware is a still still a little bit too cumbersome and um for for mass adoption but we are seeing some huge like growth in areas i don't.

Think necessarily people were expecting like fitness but if you ask me from with my business hat on which one i think is going to be more popular no doubt i think ar is going to be more common than vr on a day-to-day basis because it doesn't remove you from your physical reality i can still be present in my physical world while engaging with 3d.

Assets i think that every piece of technology augmented reality virtual reality they have amazing use cases and amazing experiences for them right and and there are situations where i may want to wear these goggles and feel completely immersed like i want to be you know we're building a replica for again let me let me pick the eiffel.

Tower so i really want to be able to move around it feel that i can touch it feel that i can move and the technology will continue to advance so that you have sensors to manipulate things so that you can see things you can see things with someone next to you and so forth augmented reality is also super great in the sense that.

It doesn't block you from the world around you right you are really seeing the world around you and you're overlaying content information that makes that world richer so i think that each of these things will have its different use cases but but it's gonna be really cool to actually be able to enjoy these.

Experiences in in an immersive way but i don't think that's the only way so we hear a lot about the metaverse from the big tech companies what i don't hear is a lot about the metaverse from players themselves this seems to me like a vision that suits the business objectives of facebook apple microsoft.

And epic rather than something that players themselves genuinely want the most influential games in the world uh you know minecraft you know fortnite uh diablo world of warcraft they're not in the metaverse it's not that they've been the most immersive experiences they've just been.

The most creative the most imaginative the most fun we've had full immersion technology for for a very long time even like let's say with movies right we've had 3d movies for i don't know 40 years 50 years there's very few examples of good 3d movies not because people didn't know how to make them because people who go.

To movies aren't actually looking for that sort of fake immersion they're looking for good storytelling and sometimes the 3d really gets in the way and it's the same thing with games part of the urgency for all of these tech companies to rush into the metaverse is that we've we've really kind of reached a bit of a plateau in.

The current generation of technology with the smartphone and the pc smartphone penetration is is very well established in europe and the us at this point and developed markets and so the upside of getting more people to download your app is that much smaller so tech companies are having to try and find a new frontier to colonize and.

They've seized on the metaverse as that concept i just think that the way it's being sold right now is very much in line with old science fiction books of getting beamed into a computer um if everything in the computer just kind of is what you do in real life but now you're a virtual puppet.

I really see the benefitGame on: how tech companies are betting on the metaverse | FT Film

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