Metaverse gold diggers, it’s time to wake up

“The Metaverse is not a complete revolution to the Internet.” Last month, Time magazine published a cover article “The Metaverse Will Change the World,” author Matthew Ball pointed out, although people still don’t know what the Metaverse means to society. The tech giants have yet to form a unified consensus on it, but he still believes that companies that master the Metaverse will dominate in the future.

As one of the most loyal supporters of the Metaverse, Matthew Ball has published many articles about the Metaverse since 2020 during his tenure as a venture capitalist. The Metaverse he writes is an extension of reality in the virtual world, with full maturity economy and will completely change the way we live. Even if this concept has not been clarified yet, and no mature Metaverse products have come out, this does not prevent the accelerated entry of capital and institutions.

McKinsey has reported that in the first five months of this year, companies and VCs and other institutions have invested a total of 120 billion US dollars in the Metaverse track. In the Metaverse White Paper released by Meta in July, it is predicted that if the Metaverse market grows in a manner similar to the development of mobile technology, by 2031, the “Metaverse” will contribute $3.01 trillion in global GDP, of which 1/3 will come from Asia Pacific, while Morgan Stanley expects the Metaverse market in the U.S. and China to reach $8 trillion.

Metaverse gold diggers, it's time to wake up

Metaverse’s contribution to global GDP forecast source AnalaysisGroup

This sci-fi concept took the world by storm. The reason is that, on the one hand, the epidemic has shifted many of people’s living needs from offline to online, and the ideal Metaverse will give users an immersive experience and value of time and space expansion; on the other hand, thanks to the existing various Network technology has reached the technical threshold involved in science fiction concepts, and wearable devices based on VR, AR and other technologies have provided certain technical support for the Metaverse.

This is very much like a conspiracy. The direct benefit is that the VR/AR field that has been quiet for several years has suddenly become lively again, so that the Metaverse is often equated with immersive virtual reality helmets. The Metaverse world On the other side, following the sharp rise in concept, there are many game companies.

Especially in the past year, we have seen overwhelming videos and articles, speculating, interpreting and defining the Metaverse. Those who pursue it, like the founder of Nvidia Huang Renxun, believe that the GDP of the Metaverse will eventually exceed the “real world”; the opponents also have good reasons to believe that it is a carefully planned bubble – Meta’s investment in the Metaverse so far They are all losing money, and the current valuation has fallen below the historical bottom range.

As new products such as Jelly and Party Island that were once very popular have been removed from the shelves one after another, the technological breakthroughs are small, the investment cost is high, and the new projects that can attract the attention of the market are visible to the naked eye, and the voice of the Metaverse discussion has become smaller and smaller. But what is certain is that this 30-year-old term, an idea of ​​nearly a century, is disenchanting after more than a year of intensifying contradictions.

01 Start with games, stay true to VR

The first batch of Metaverse products, including Discord, which is known as the infrastructure of the Metaverse, were mostly from the perspective of games.

Many years ago, Microsoft used the AR device HoloLens to project the sandbox game “Minecraft” from the screen into reality. The sandbox game platform Roblox, which was launched last year, officially brought the Metaverse into the public eye. According to the prospectus, it believes that a real Metaverse product should have 8 attributes: identity, friends, immersion, low latency, diversity, anytime, anywhere, economic system and civilization.

“In a sense, these games are still 2D, and bringing them into a complete 3D world is Microsoft’s plan in the future.” In Satya Nadella’s view, many immersive games are now available It is a Metaverse in itself.

Coincidentally, at Tencent’s third-quarter conference call last year, an executive pointed out, “Games are a very good foundation for realizing the Metaverse. To realize the Metaverse, we can start with games and see how to better integrate the physical world with the virtual world in the future. The world is integrated to achieve a better and seamless physical and virtual experience.” Tencent’s previous investment in Epic Games and other game companies also confirms the above statement.

At this stage, compared to the “parallel time and space” in the real world, the essence of Metaverse products is still old wine in new bottles. By upgrading old gameplay, such as enhancing online and offline linkage, or 3D “semi-finished products”, but not There has been no disruption in gameplay and business models.

In October 2021, Facebook, which has been established for 17 years, announced a strategic transformation. “I hope that in the future we will no longer be just a social platform, but a Metaverse company,” Zuckerberg said at the annual Connect conference. Facebook with the thumb logo has also become a Meta similar to the “infinity” logo.

In fact, the grass snake gray line, Facebook has been in the Metaverse for a long time. In 2014, Zuckerberg visited the less than two-year-old Oculus. When he put on the Oculus Rift headset for the first time, he said: “You know, this is the future.” From the acquisition of VR service provider Oculus for $2 billion, After that, the “SocialVR” team was formed to be responsible for social interaction in virtual reality; to the formation of RealityLabs to further explore the two fields of VR and AR, Facebook believes that the Metaverse may occur in immersive platforms such as VR.

Since the Metaverse is still in its early stage, games are still the most accessible entry point for users to understand and accept, so meta should expand the lineup of VR games on the platform on the existing basis, and embed more life scenes, such as office, Education, leisure and socialization, etc. “Farewell to the monopoly of giants, it is built by creators and developers; platform constraints and policy constraints are weakened; consumers can also benefit as creators, and Meta acts as a booster for technology and application development.” But this is just his opinion on the Metaverse . Depicted blueprint.

Interestingly, only 3 days have passed since Facebook proposed the “All In” Metaverse. At the Ignite conference, Microsoft plans to turn its Teams with more than 13 million daily active users into a Metaverse, integrate the MR platform Mesh into Teams, and integrate Xbox into the Metaverse. Gaming platforms are incorporated into the Metaverse.

Nadella said that while Microsoft’s Metaverse is initially focused on enterprise applications, the Xbox gaming platform is expected to be involved as well. Compared with Facebook’s “concept-first” approach, which is closely linked with its products, Microsoft’s actions have given the industry a more pragmatic and reliable impression. The breakthrough in Microsoft’s market value that day completely kicked off the battle for the right to speak in the Metaverse.

At this time, we found that the rhetoric that “the Metaverse started with VR” is not groundless. Zuckerberg believes that the core driving force of evolution is the improvement of experience. Since the pursuit of a sense of presence in virtual reality, we should invest in the research of technologies such as VR. became an industry consensus.

“The Metaverse can be accessed through all the different computing platforms: VR, AR, but also PC, mobile devices and game consoles.” Zuckerberg keeps stressing that this will be a permanent, real-time, and unlimited access environment of. “Think of the Metaverse as a physical internet with your whole being in it,” Zuckerberg said.

But contradicting his grand and almost crazy aspirations, some media learned that from the perspective of organizational structure, Facebook’s Metaverse department is a secondary department under the VR business. In the era of mobile Internet, Facebook and Apple and Compared with Google, it has neither hardware nor operating system, so, just like the current mobile phone manufacturers, it is not an exaggeration to say that the Metaverse is his new wine bottle for the old business of VR.

To learn from the previous experience, 2016 is called the first year of VR, and the scale of global VR/AR investment, financing and mergers and acquisitions has achieved explosive growth. However, due to the absence of popular content-driven VR products, the actual effect of VR commercialization is less than expected. According to the White Paper on the Status Quo of VR Experience Stores in China, by the end of 2016, there were more than 3,000 VR experience stores across the country, but less than 30 percent of them were profitable that year. %, this VR investment fever has quickly cooled down since then, and the global VR/AR investment, financing and mergers and acquisitions in 2017 and 2018 have dropped by half compared with 2016.

In the past two years, Ma Huateng proposed the concept of “full Internet” and established the XR department to lay out hardware development, and giants such as Byte, Facebook, iQiyi, Sony and other giants have resumed the old VR business, Zuckerberg once made this conclusion: ” To become a next-generation VR platform, we need to sell at least 10 million Oculus devices to attract enough developers to build the ecosystem.” But according to Counterpoin data, the full XR terminal shipment in 2021 will be 11 million units (of which VR 90%), it is still too early to become an ecosystem.

Is VR really that entrance? I am afraid that most players will not have time to answer, because compared with the difficulties of technology and commercialization, unlike the last boom, the mobile Internet after 2020 is facing a deeper traffic crisis.

02 Is social society the end of the Metaverse?

The stagnant user growth has brought about stagnant revenue growth. Between 2019-2021, Facebook’s daily active users of teens in the United States fell 13% from the previous three years, and it is expected to decline by 45% by 2023. User abandonment has exacerbated the decline in ad revenue. Meta’s just-released second-quarter financial report shows that due to the decline in online advertising revenue from its core business, revenue fell by 1% year-on-year to $28.82 billion for the first time, which was lower than market expectations; net profit and earnings per share also declined. First-quarter guidance was also well below expectations.

In the general environment, advertisers’ weak demand for advertising, and the strict control of user privacy protection by the iOS system, social media companies are faced with the difficulty of increasing advertising revenue. How to rebuild the online advertising system mechanism and achieve a balance between personal data privacy and security and personalized data utilization are considered to be the reasons why social media software has turned into a Metaverse.

According to a report by the data company SensorTower, since the concept of “Metaverse” broke out, an average of one new “Metaverse” app has been added every day. From November 2021 to January the following year, about 552 apps added the word “Metaverse” to their descriptions, and 70 of them claimed to be Metaverse social apps.

Following Baidu’s announcement that Xi Rong took the lead in Metaverse Social, in the first half of this year, in addition to SOUL and Inke, which has transformed into “Ying Universe”, “Jelly”, which has only been online for three weeks, continued to dominate the list, becoming the first ranking since 2019 to surpass WeChat Social applications; Byte’s “Party Island” is also regarded by the outside world as a Metaverse concept of social networking; Tencent’s virtual social function “Super QQ Show” was officially launched on QQ, and XR business layout was also launched in the real Internet.

The endless emergence of software products has created the illusion that the Metaverse social network seems to have reached the critical point of eruption. However, as the gel APP was quickly taken off the shelves due to privacy, delay, lag and other issues, Xiyang also suffered from rough picture quality and slow loading. After being criticized, Hehong Universe’s score remained at around 2 points, and the Party Island, which was removed from the shelves a few days ago, has not yet brought a subversive experience, nor has it achieved commercial success.

After the heat is over, the current setting for building the Metaverse social platform is seriously homogenized, and the technology is still immature. Face pinching, 3D images, and cross-dressing have become standard, but the actual effect is just like adding a feature to the ancient development game. Social functions, let alone bring users an immersive real-life experience. So much so that some investors said that the word Metaverse is about to become cold, and there is no product that can truly represent the industry. And Metaverse Social is still lingering in terms of popularity and concepts, not to mention surpassing the two mountains of WeChat and QQ.

Ideally, the subversion of the traditional social interaction by the Metaverse lies in the “digital simulation world”. Different from the communication mode of text or video, the two parties can communicate and interact in a more realistic digital form, so any App is still limited to the mobile phone screen. , neither is the Metaverse.

In the opinion of Yang Yanzhe, head of Tencent’s IEG department, compared with VR and social networking, he believes that in a highly realistic open world, games and pan-entertainment content attract users, and after the platform provides the underlying creation tools, there will be a large number of PGC and After the UGC content is produced, the platform gathers enough C-side traffic and user time, and the online trading platform is widely connected to the virtual world. At the same time, the currency between the virtual and the real forms an exchange mechanism. At this stage, there will be e-commerce, Deep integration of life services.

But this will involve more complex issues. Privacy, intellectual property, and finance will be reshaped and subverted by the Metaverse. This is not a problem that one or two companies can solve by themselves, and because there is no clear and unified regulatory measures, It is difficult to avoid using the “Metaverse Investment Project” to absorb funds, including fabricating fake Metaverse project investment, defrauding under the banner of the Metaverse blockchain game, maliciously hyping Metaverse real estate to make money, and disguisedly engaging in Metaverse virtual currency for illegal profit.

03 Frankenstein

The technology is not yet mature, and the concept is the first, which is the status quo of the Metaverse. In turn, it is found that the issues we are discussing, whether it is about the immersive experience of the Metaverse or the drawbacks of the Metaverse, are mostly theories and ideas based on the premise that such an idealized Metaverse can be realized. Whether the universe can be fully realized is still inconclusive. After all, the products that come out now only satisfy part of the demand.

For example, if the brain wants to fully enter the 3D digital world, it is immersive, and the headset must meet the minimum frame rate of 60fps, the equivalent refresh rate, and the minimum 100-degree field of view. , even if the current hardware equipment can meet, but these are just the beginning, the next pose update rate and image refresh rate to maintain comfort, need more precise technical control, but most of the current head-mounted display can not meet the needs of all human organs. Immersion needs of time.

Metaverse gold diggers, it's time to wake up

The source of the six supporting technologies of the Metaverse “Metaverse Token”

Some practitioners mentioned that: the current stage of Metaverse applications does not have the blessing of innovative technology behind it, but the essence is the application of integrated technology and the comprehensive improvement of storage, network, computing power, and performance. The current Metaverse is more like a stitching of software and hardware, communication technology, cryptocurrency, blockchain, AI, Internet of Things and other technologies. It is almost impossible to complete 3D rendering, and neither equipment nor broadband speed can support it. Success also depends on the level of development of the communications industry and information technology, as well as fundamental disciplines such as data science and semiconductors.

Therefore, as mentioned in the preface, it seems far-fetched to call the Metaverse the next-generation Internet. Nowadays, the mainstream terminal is still the mobile terminal, and the penetration rate of the C-end of the headset device will not increase much in five years. VR, AR , XR’s current mainstream use channels are still at the B side.

The so-called Metaverse of education, cultural tourism, medical care, and industry is still talking about digital twins . The industry chain has not been upgraded, and there is no unified agreement. It only stays at the level of simulation. On the other hand, the development of individual scenarios, such as a conference scenario in Meta, is expensive, and not all companies can afford the cost of building a larger Metaverse. Copy a concept and put a label on it. Those isolated existences claim to be the product of the Metaverse and entertain themselves . This can only be a bubble, and it is definitely not a Metaverse depicted as a utopia.

The emergence of the virtual world is because people hope to make up for what is missing in the real world. From this perspective, the virtual world is not a simple mapping of reality. The emergence of the Metaverse is due to people’s expectation to reconstruct the relationship between people and society. Relationship, when we truly feel everything in the virtual world, we find that it is not integrated with reality, but a completely separated state, but compared with technology, this state may be the more difficult problem to solve in the Metaverse.

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