After the announcement of Facebook for rebranding into Metaverse, the crypto market found a renewed zeal for metaverse-based games and applications. The signal was simply, it’s here! While the enthusiasm is pretty evident at this point, it remains to be seen if it will live up to the hype. At this point, which is still quite early, we can see the hype helping people make thousands of dollars from it with the trend quickly leaping through cross-functional applications and domains. But most prominently it has latched itself to the gaming industry. If history is any proof, next will be the adult industry.
Gaming and pornography are the largest sources of digital entertainment for a normal person as evident from the current world state. While the necessity of a decent desktop, stable internet connection, and VR headsets remains a necessity, there is a large audience base that can meet the requirements and is interested in this pursuit. The gaming industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds or more famously called PUBG, the most popular game in the world as of date has 1000 million users and a market capitalization of about 28 billion dollars last year. This is not to include the open-world and role-playing games like Grand Theft Auto and The Witcher. Some games like Half-Life have already migrated to the VR headsets, they are still in the early stage of evolution as to what might be called the realistic and more immersive gaming experience. The next stage of that of course will be complete immersion.
To explain someone who is living under a rock, Metaverses are a virtual-reality space where users can interact with the computer-generated environment and other people. While VR headsets are an almost necessary pre-requisite, to make the experience realistic, the evolved version of it will have sensors, haptic suits, and other gears which will facilitate the immersion into the virtual environment. For example, the use of controller that comes with the Oculus gear can be used both as a sword in some games and tennis in another. While the use-case changes, the base remains the same. As we are moving forward, we are watching the marriage of two main streams coming together, the advancement of VR and the evolution of metaverse-based games that have pre-existed. These were called MMORPGs or massively multiplayer online role-playing games for lack of a better word. Second Life is considered to be almost ubiquitously the first and truly successful metaverse. At its peak, it had about a million active users. The other games that can be seen as contenders were Minecraft and Roblox. Coming to the evolution of metaverses, the creator of Second Life, Philip Rosedale gave a few pointers as to what developers need to be careful about in terms of the lessons from the longest known running metaverse in a recent interview with Time magazine. The takeaways are as follows:
- It is more likely to attract people who are not in a very satisfying place in their lives.
- The success of Second Life in a way is attributed to the sense of aimlessness and the eventual discovery that people realized while using it. As such, too much pre-occupation and goal-based gameplay should not be prioritized.
- Users should be given the means to create and build. To quote Philip verbatim, “You need a toolkit that lets people build things live from kind of small parts: That has to be present in a metaverse to make it successful.”
- The value of goods possessed parallels to the NFTs which are being marketed today form a part of the gaming economy but not the central element of it and should not be the main driving focus of the game.
- People who are not interested in metaverses, will not likely be in a long run as well. As such if someone is living a fulfilling life, it is hard to convince them to immerse in metaverses.
- The learning curve for beginner users should be well-managed as it was one of the mistakes that Second Life did. 20-30% of the new users never signed back in as there was too much to figure out.
- There should be a moderation policy by the makers to deal with the bad actors. Second Life often made headlines for negative reporting of sex simulations, money laundering, etc.
- The subscription model worked well, and the ad-driven model should be less preferred as it becomes a corporate-driven venture over the long run.
While the metaverses are still in evolution, there is a dystopian outlook set in place towards them by a majority. It is beyond the scope of the article to discuss if it is the right or wrong thing to do, but simply speaking it is going to be in some way replication of the ideal life that its users are going to seek. It is important that it provides an enriching experience and perhaps a better outcome in terms of the real-life consequences of it. Recently, Microsoft released a flight-simulator experience that is as real as it can get on a computer screen. It will be an even better experience in 3 Dimensions. Some disabled people will be able to walk around and experience Amazonian rainforests, etc. While there are amazing experiences that VR and metaverses have to offer, it remains to be seen what they have in store. Not least, here is some advice from corners of the internet for an evolving metaverse ecosystem.