Derrick Morton is the co-founder and CEO of FlowPlay.
The word ‘metaverse’ is almost as inescapable in 2022 as ‘unprecedented’ was in 2020. the world, from armchair experts to Tim Sweeney speculating on its future and impact. The arrival of the Metaverse has stirred many emotions for both me and the industry, ranging from excitement to suspicion. The rise of the metaverse has also led to a fair amount of misinformation.
The idea of a true Metaverse holds a ton of possibilities, but any seasoned gaming industry veteran will let you in on a little secret: video games already deliver much of what the Metaverse promises.
What even is The metaverse?
I would like to have a direct and complete answer. The reality is that the metaverse is constantly evolving and is currently more of an influx concept than something concrete. At its core, the Metaverse is a rapid advancement of the Internet, often described as an elusive place online where people can play, socialize, and even work as avatars.
Big tech companies are taking this idea one step further, envisioning a more immersive experience that takes advantage of current technologies, like cloud-connected servers, computers, mobile devices, and VR headsets. In the future, players will enter a 3D virtual world, and while not always necessary, AR or VR devices will go hand in hand with the metaverse.
No matter the size or scale, the metaverse in any form will be a virtual world parallel to our real lives. Whether it’s a stroll through a digital neighborhood or a date at a virtual restaurant, the metaverse will be much like the lives we already lead, but with the potential to take on another alter ego. We’ll interact with our friends and colleagues, but we’ll also chat with strangers and spend money earned in the real world to gear up virtually.
While that sounds exciting, the current state of the metaverse is more like something that’s been around for decades in the gaming industry. Almost 20 years ago, Linden Lab in San Francisco launched second life, an online platform that allows people to create an avatar and have a second life in a virtual world. Over the next two decades, many similar online experiences and games were launched with this same idea, providing players with the ability to create virtual representations and interact with locations, objects, and other avatars.
Today the most popular game in the world, fortniteunites its global community across computers, game consoles and mobile devices. fortnite players interact with other avatars and earn virtual currency that can be used to further customize their experience. Other great titles like Robolox and Minecraft encourage their players to come together, just like the games we have created at FlowPlay.
Currently, the biggest difference between what already existed in online games and what is offered on the way to the metaverse is an expensive barrier to entry. FlowPlay’s games, for example, are free to play and offer in-game options to spend real money if you wish. To access the Meta Horizon Worlds, on the other hand, players need to purchase a $300 Oculus headset from Meta. In the 3D Decentraland virtual world, all players need a crypto wallet to purchase the game’s ERC20 token in order to fully enjoy the experience.
To move from what’s already there to something truly new, big tech companies must first learn to work together. A key tenet of the future Metaverse is the ability to seamlessly switch the same avatar between different games and worlds within a single Metaverse – and without this feature, the Metaverse looks a lot like what’s happening now. As Microsoft, Google, Meta, and Epic Games work tirelessly in hopes of gaining first-mover advantage, newly created hardware and software must be developed with integration in mind. Here’s what I think will be the biggest challenge to successfully creating a unique metaverse, and right now I don’t think that’s something that can realistically happen.
Tech companies also need to convince stakeholders of the benefits of interoperability. Last December, Ubisoft announced that it would integrate NFTs into its games, but the reception has been mixed. While Ubisoft hoped the newly created and rare in-game items would appeal to players, they were skeptical at best.
The future metaverse is intriguing, yes, but much of what is being touted already exists in online games. I’m also not convinced that the big tech companies will really be able to come together and work side-by-side to deliver a true interoperable gaming experience that adds real value to gamers. It remains to be seen where the industry will go from here, but in the meantime, online games will stay the course, delivering the same engaging and interactive experiences that its players know and love.
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