February 3, 2023

Money News PH

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Does the Metaverse live up to the hype? Game developers are not impressed

The perfect version of the metaverse, tech minds like Mark Zuckerberg say, blends social media, entertainment, and—most exciting of all—meetings in a pristine virtual space. Predicted long ago in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, it’s a place where the online world offers more experiences than the real one. But while Stephenson’s metaverse was part of an apocalyptic future, modern inventors have promised a digital utopia.

Unfortunately, so far the metaverse they’ve built has lived up to those expectations just as well as a Craigslist condo rented based on photos alone. Clunky and weird, Zuckerberg’s Horizon Worlds was perhaps most exciting when Meta informed users that legs for their avatars were “coming soon”. The hardware needed to visit such virtual worlds – often a headset like Meta’s Quest Pro – can be expensive and cumbersome, and once you’re there it’s no party.

None of this escapes those who actually build digital worlds. In a poll released today by Game Developers Conference organizers, a whopping 45 percent of them said “the Metaverse concept will never deliver on its promise.” It was the most popular response to the question of which companies or platforms are “best placed to deliver on the promise of the Metaverse concept,” and a clear sign of the industry’s confidence in the long-term potential of immersive virtual worlds. “People trying to sell it have no idea what it is,” one respondent wrote, “nor do consumers.”

The poll, released by GDC ahead of its annual event in late March, comes after a rough 2022 for Metaverse evangelists. Not only is there cynicism about who is building these worlds and for what purpose, but many potential Metaverse residents are unconvinced that there are any. Meta has lost money and laid off workers over the past year, and even proto-Metaverse worlds like Minecraft and Roblox are now low on game developers’ list of expected success.

It’s not because of a lack of trying. Some developers are still interested in releasing AR/VR games on platforms like Meta Quest and PlayStation VR2. 36 percent of respondents named Meta Quest as a platform they expect to release their next game on. For PS VR2, that number is 18 percent.

Confidence in the metaverse, as the survey put it, rests with Epic Games. While nearly half of respondents said their promise will never be fulfilled, 14 percent felt that if any platform had a chance, it would be the company’s Fortnite. Meanwhile, just 7 percent thought Horizon Worlds stood a chance; same with minecraft. Five percent thought Roblox could do it.

Fortnite has earned that trust over the years thanks to Epic’s curating of events like in-world concerts featuring the likes of Marshmello, Travis Scott, and Ariana Grande. It’s no longer just a place for gamers to compete, but a place for people to enjoy other forms of entertainment together. But Fortnite wasn’t the first game to offer virtual communities, nor the second or third. “The metaverse needs to recognize that it’s reinventing the wheel,” said one respondent, pointing to Linden Lab’s 20-year-old virtual world, Second Life. “And then figuring out why people lost interest in the bike the first few times.”

“[The metaverse] already exists and is sustainable,” wrote another developer. “It just gets resold as a new concept by companies trying to capitalize on it.” (In the case of Meta, the switch to verse was accompanied by falling profits and flat growth.)

The Metaverse may one day realize its true potential, but it likely won’t be in the way Zuckerberg or even Stephenson envisioned. In order for the Metaverse to be a true alternate reality, it must be created by its own users. “Any version of this that exists solely in the hands of a corporation as an advertising platform, virtual workstation, or virtual real estate market is ultimately doomed,” one developer wrote. “It has to be built from things that users really care about.”