Understanding the MetaVerse

Everyone already heard about Metaverse… but where seat challenges?

Technologists would answer that the internet will eventually evolve into the metaverse, which will come to represent the next major computing platform. If the concept can be actualized, it is expected to be as transformative to society and industry as the mobile phone.

You may have seen that press releases from Microsoft, Facebook and others Tech Giants are flooding theses days. They start acquisitions or rebranding to position for this promise revolution. As this new far-west is considered as the next iteration of the internet, Metaverse should be a social, 3D, virtual universe made up of many interconnected virtual spaces.

What we have now – with experience games and collaboration spaces – is only a multiverse: different platforms with their own identities, infinite landscapes, economies, and currencies, and no way to move or operate between them. Navigate into Metaverse should be as easy and convenient as moving from one website to another. These are both huge challenges from a technical, business and economic viewpoint.

Metaverse is being developed independent of government by big tech companies (as opposite to the Internet, which was largely developed by public institutions, military labs and independent academics). No need to say, they have commercial intentions, and these will create challenges and slowness, as while continuously emerge, Metaverse will inevitably take on many different forms along the way.

For the metaverse to succeed, theses current multiverses must evolve in multiple ways:

  • Interoperability: it’s essential, meaning we’ll need to be able to travel between virtual worlds without having to change identities, or lose our money or digital assets.
  • Extensibility: a requirement. With multiple personas, companies will have to create more than single experience according to diversity, and foremost to maintain engagement. You won’t spend your life in a single room with a single activity.
  • Economy: the key. None can invest money to own something that becomes more profitable for others. Fairness must be defined both for companies and customers.
  • Scalability: the “simple” part for techs. As millions of consumers are spreads, infrastructure must be geolocated and synchronized to offer an equal experience wherever you are coming from.
  • Property: a need to connect Metaverse to reality.

Interoperability

No games, studios or platforms have built in-game economies in a way that is conducive to interoperability. It’s always a lock-in economy only shared between game servers and players for a single usage. Even internally, no one thinks or creates a Stock Exchange to trade between Microsoft Forza and Minecraft.

The only interoperable approach is set between companies and brokers (like Google, Facebook, and PayPal) to get the real money coming-in. Major platforms don’t support common standards, which means it is incredibly expensive to produce games that run across them, thus making it difficult to reach a maximum audience and increase profits.

You may spend thousands of hours to tune your character, becoming the most rewarded player, when a new version of your game is released on a new platform, no way of moving your digital asset.

Extensibility

To build the metaverse properly, businesses will need to invest in producing virtual worlds and assets, which is expensive.

Quixel, owned by Epic Games, produces ultra-realistic “MegaScans” of real-world environments that movie studios, gaming publishers and ad agencies can license and customize. Sketchfab, also owned by Epic Games, create a community of creators that publish millions of models in several standards.

NVidia invest to create Omniverse (which is now Open Sources) to federate AI usage arround simulation. The major part performs facial and labial real time animation based on audio input. Unity & UNREAL, are also leveraging machine learning algorithms to generate human-like avatars with MetaHumans and Weta.

In the coming years, it will be easier and cheaper to produce high-quality worlds, called digital twins (but it’s a devoid term usage as it already used to define data-related model), of physical spaces, as well as use scans of the real world to produce high-quality and less-expensive fantasy worlds.

At that time, we you will see a major shift from development to creativity. Needs to imagine new usages for the existing assets, create attractive stories and atmospheres for specific markets will rise. Underlying will come the need to be able to open standard use, in the way inner-game marketplace are doing for DLC and Season Pass.

We can figure out a wider indie market, as studios will focus on creating the main offer for global usage, but won’t invest too much in a global and worldwide workforce to address local trends and needs.

Economy

We consider the current “physical” economy as successful because of openness, trade and the flow of people and data from one ecosystem to another, and this should be the success model for the metaverse economy too.

People will require ways to move skins (avatars), resources (swords, potions, experience), assets (ex. NFTs) and currencies (gold, gems) across platforms, preferably without import duties or exchange rates. This can be envisioned for games belonging to the same studio / platform, as their incomes remain consolidated, but this challenge will become more complex to handle user jumping between to enemy brothers.

Unfortunately, the first try wasn’t prized by the consumers. Ubisoft introduce Quartz, an exchange platform for NFT in Ghost Recon Breakpoint. A strong push back come from the field, criticizing an exercise in “private property, speculation, artificial scarcity, and egoism.”

Main fear raising come for the ability to make money while only playing games to resold assets gains… which is close to the way to artificially inflate character value through mobile game farming farm.

For sure, Users will need a way to view all their digital assets in one single place. To manage this, new holder, or financial services, like bank, wallet or storage facilities, will be needed. They will have to foster the most complex part of the metaverse: Trust

Property

Cryptocurrency immediately breaks down barriers between competing companies in this space. A decentralised, automated, and trust-less blockchain model means that companies, developers, and end users can be assured that their investments, and the value of those investments, won’t arbitrarily change or disappear overnight at the whim of a CEO or government.

The difference between the digital assets bought in game and buying an NFT is true ownership with digital property rights, which is only possible because of blockchain. For virtual worlds to be truly open across platforms, devices and engines, data must also be accessible, which goes against the current ethos of most businesses and governments.

However, blockchain offers unique levels of protection, trust and transparency for every party that is not achievable otherwise.

That’s the approach of The Sandbox, a game where people can buy and use NFTs—the blockchain-based deeds that confer rights or privileges to linked digital or physical assets—to craft virtual worlds alongside other players. The Sandbox’s native token, $SAND, is now available on cryptocurrency exchange OKEx, the world’s largest crypto derivatives exchange and most active market for BTC futures.

But these cryptocurrency remains un-sustainable, oblige owner companies acquiring carbon credits for reversing emissions with carbon removals and provide transparency on the compensation. As old values (like Bitcoin) can’t’ demonstrate the ability to perform such, many are thinking that their sky has a limit. Which, by the way, increases the owning value.

Scalability

Concerts in Fortnite from people like Ariana Grande have transport millions of viewers, in an environment that blends real-life and gaming worlds together to transport them on a journey that wouldn’t be possible anywhere else.

At run time more than +78M simultaneous streams were delivered (which is amazing regarding Netflix’s best invest: Red Notice – +7.31M users a week), but it was also translated into an “old good legacy world” success as Ariana get 10M$ for this 12 min performance, and on YouTube the avatar’ show record +600M views so far on all videos posted.

However, there wasn’t one concert, but 312,000 streams occurring simultaneously. Because of the current computation limits, the need to decrease latency and the ability (relevance) to transport such amount of data worldwide. This said, no physical concert in history can claim an audience of that size, and it is only going to get bigger.

Remembering topics covered before, you can guess that AI’s concert will become the cheaper and most popular way to get (crypto)money 🙂

Conclusion

Shift into the metaverse will be gradual and should be seamless. Facebook has +2 billion users and owns four out of the top five most popular social media networks. This makes them primed to monetise entry points into the metaverse via their existing apps. They are also uniquely positioned to generate interoperable personalised avatars for their users based on shared photos, which would effectively eliminate an initial barrier of entry into the metaverse. But they don’t own popular games. Microsoft owns. With the current investments made, and performance reach by major games (+20M users on Halo in the first launch month), they will offer another way to envision the metaverse.

Without any crystal ball, identify the fine motion is hard, but for sure metaverse is already there.

Ultimately, the metaverse offers us a way to make the internet better, or to make it worse (and vis-et-versa). Hopefully we choose the former and pay for it.

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Laurent LEFEVRE

I'm a Microsoft employee, working on Technology Strategy for large Enterprise account.
I focus on industry business trends and explain how you can leverage Azure Game Stack & Xbox services.
I assume that I don't know anything. This is a great habit to do a full knowledge refresh and avoiding bias.