Socializing in the Metaverse Era requires a new super App to carry a high probability
Under the fiery concept of the Metaverse, the social entrance is full of hustle and bustle.
In January of this year, a social app called “Jelly” became popular. It surpassed WeChat and QQ in just over 20 days after its launch, and reached the No. 1 position on the free list in the Apple App Store. Although it is only short-lived, it has also become the first social app to surpass the Tencent app in the past three years.
February 11, Apple AppStore rankings
Jelly surpasses WeChat, QQ and Douyin
Metaverse social networking is a new battlefield of the Internet where heavy troops are assembled. Prior to this, the “Didi” world show company in the celebrity economic circle announced the launch of the Metaverse virtual community Hong Universe in April 2021. Two weeks later, the number of appointments for testing exceeded 130,000. In December of the same year, Baidu launched the Metaverse Social App Xi Rong, and also specially held the 2021 Create Conference on the Xi Rong platform.
ByteDance, which has always been obsessed with social networking, is also not absent. In January this year, ByteDance launched the beta version of the Metaverse social app Party Island. In Party Island, users can use avatars to hang out with friends, chat and interact, and participate in online activities.
Facebook, the most radical in the Metaverse field, officially opened the VR social platform “Horizon Worlds” in December last year after changing its name to Meta. Users can create virtual images on the platform and interact with other users.
In contrast, Tencent’s actions are extremely low-key – it has not launched any independent app, and only launched the “Super QQ Show” function in QQ, which supports users to freely customize 3D avatars and interact with them, including AI taking photos, pinching faces, changing clothes, QQ Xiaowo and other modules.
With a little information accumulated in the social field, being able to use “jelly” to emerge in the social media of the Metaverse, at least one point: what the Metaverse is about to open is a new era of great sailing, and everything may be reshuffled.
So, why can the current social overlord Tencent “sit down”? Will it be possible to hatch the next killer app and continue to firmly grasp the entrance of social traffic?
The threat of another social city
Tencent’s low-key is not difficult to understand.
“Curry” took the initiative to take down the app 20 days after it was launched, and suspended new users from entering. When the official explained the reason, it admitted that “the problem of freezing has not been solved, and many problems such as delay, crash, and inability to enter do exist.”
After Xiyong was opened, it was also criticized by users for its rough picture quality and slow loading speed. In addition, the social apps that focus on the concept of the Metaverse, such as Rainbow Universe, ZEPETO, and Slow Planet, have not made much splash.
At the current stage of social interaction in the Metaverse, the concept is greater than the substance, and it is still in the initial stage.
In the version upgrade at the beginning of this year, QQ built Unreal Engine 4 with more than 100MB in the installation package, and the exquisite pictures and costumes in the Super QQ show benefited from this.
Unreal Engine 4 is a real-time game development engine launched by Epic Games, which can be used to render virtual worlds and is also a basic component for building the Metaverse. As early as 2012, Tencent acquired a 48.4% stake in Epic Games for $330 million.
Source: Virtual Engine official website
In terms of hardware, after giving up on the acquisition of VR startup Pico, Tencent chose Black Shark Technology, a gaming mobile phone company. According to 36Kr report, after the acquisition of Black Shark, the future business focus will shift from gaming phones to VR devices as a whole.
According to a report by Sina Technology, Tencent also launched a new XR business, laying out a full-link XR ecosystem, including XR devices on the hardware side, perception and interaction technology on the software side, and content and developer ecology on the content and industry sides.
It can be said that Tencent is quite active in the formation of the Metaverse, but it also has to face up to the potential threats from the emerging social forces of the Metaverse.
The gel, which briefly surpassed WeChat social dominance, is produced by “Dianxin”, which focuses on news and information. The starting point is not high, and there are no resources to push it. In this case, it can rely on the concept of “Metaverse social” to break the circle, which shows its originality. The appeal of the universe and the curiosity of young people.
Moreover, Jelly’s positioning is to create an “online apartment with close friends”, which means that Jelly’s popularity bypasses the WeChat city and directly penetrates into the hinterland of acquaintances.
Five years ago, Luke, a product architect and senior product manager who worked at Baidu, wrote an article about the “pain of BAT”. He predicted that Tencent’s biggest crisis in the future may be: in another world, if someone builds another What about social city?
According to Tencent’s 2021 financial report, the combined number of monthly active accounts of WeChat and WeChat reached 1.268 billion. The social dominance seems unshakable, but when the door to the virtual world is opened, “another social city” is already looming.
Tencent is trying to build a bridge between the real world and the virtual world, and is not in a hurry to outline “another social city”. But just like when WeChat took over QQ and continued to dominate in the mobile Internet era, social interaction in the Metaverse era will most likely require a new super app to carry it.
Because WeChat in the real world is too large, it may not be suitable for exploring the Metaverse, and the trial of the super QQ show is obviously just a transition. Sooner or later, Tencent needs to incubate a new product to usher in the next Internet era.
Metaverse cannot replicate “WeChat”
This new Metaverse social app is difficult to replicate the incubation road of WeChat.
Tencent has always had a tradition of “horse racing”, and WeChat is the winner under the horse racing mechanism, but the Metaverse is an ecosystem, and its construction requires hardware entry, as well as supporting operating systems, underlying technologies, artificial intelligence, content, etc. The innovation of components and related products requires systematic support from the top to the bottom, so it is difficult to ride a single person and go out of the way like WeChat did in the past.
Furthermore, hatching a brand-new Metaverse social app is also an unprecedented challenge to Tencent’s innovative capabilities.
QQ, which was born in 1999, was originally called “China’s ICQ”. ICQ is the originator of instant messaging. Since 1996, it has monopolized China’s instant messaging market for two years until QQ appeared and replaced it.
WeChat was launched in 2011. Prior to this, in October 2010, Kik Messenger, which mainly focuses on cross-platform messaging, was launched and quickly became popular; in December of the same year, Michao was launched in China. Relying on Xiaomi mobile phones, the user scale once exceeded 50 million. Subsequently, WeChat with a similar business model hatched and quickly surpassed Michao, and Tencent once again caught up and stood at the forefront.
The era of the Internet has changed, and Tencent has experienced it. There was ICQ before QQ, and WeChat was born after Kik. And this time, there is no template for Metaverse social success. The most radical Meta has yet to touch the “real functional Metaverse”.
Tencent is good at “micro innovation”. This requires high-level leaders to have the foresight to see the trend, and the product can be implemented based on the user’s thinking, but the ground-breaking innovation from 0 to 1 has never been Tencent’s strength.
After being criticized by “copycat”, Tencent has chosen the road of open platform since 2011, and it is also the best strategy for corporate genetics to be a “connector” and a “toolbox”.
Reflected in the field of the Metaverse, Ma Huateng put forward the concept of “full true Internet” for the first time in the internal publication “Three Views” as early as 2020: “If you cross the past, you can fly farther, but if you can’t cross the past, you will fall behind, or even collapse. Next… an exciting opportunity is coming, the mobile Internet has developed for ten years, and is about to usher in the next wave of upgrades, which we call the full-true Internet.”
The trend has been determined and it has the endowment to develop the Metaverse, but Tencent has not yet found a development path worthy of its full efforts.
control future wars
In Tencent’s third-quarter 2021 earnings conference call, when President Liu Chiping answered questions from Goldman Sachs analysts, he listed a series of feasible paths for Tencent to develop its Metaverse business.
These include: “Games with very good interactivity, such as open-world games that are currently on the market, can also open multiple games based on the same IP, and game platforms that provide infrastructure for game developers. There are social networks that support programmable experiences and gamification, and real-world experiences through augmented and virtual reality.”
A series of “can also” and “also” shows that Tencent, which has three advantages of social networking, games and content, has no clear sense of direction in the choice of path, nor does it have a clear plan to use social networking as the entry point of the Metaverse.
In fact, Tencent’s investment in the Metaverse is more directed towards games.
Investing in Epic Games allowed Tencent to deploy the Unreal Engine development platform at the same time, and the Unreal Engine is mainly used for game development. The latest generation of Unreal Engine 5 can make the game screen closer to the movie CG effect and the real physical world.
Another landmark move by Tencent to deploy the Metaverse is to invest in Roblox’s $150 million Series G financing in 2020, and to exclusively represent Roblox’s product distribution in China. Today, “Fortress Night” developed by Epic, together with “Roblox”, are regarded as the two games that are currently closest to the Metaverse form.
Even to make up for the hardware gap, the game mobile phone company Black Shark Technology was chosen.
This is understandable, after all, the game is the closest “entrance” experience to the Metaverse, and it is also Tencent’s largest “cash cow”. Tencent’s latest financial report released on March 23 shows that in Q4 2021, the game business (including local and overseas) revenue was 42.8 billion yuan, accounting for about 30% of the total revenue.
As for Tencent’s Metaverse social networking, it may still be at the conceptual stage.
In the above-mentioned earnings conference call, Liu Chiping once had this answer: “I mentioned many development paths, what is the most attractive thing in each path? This is a very important question, before answering this question clearly , the Metaverse is just a concept.”
Without a strategic focus, there is also a lack of strong top-down promotion. Except for small-scale innovations such as buy buy buy and super QQ show, Tencent’s layout in the field of the Metaverse is still unclear. The exploration also tends to be conservative.
Facebook, which is also based on social networking, has a clearer goal and route.
Zuckerberg, who emphasized the sense of immersion, used VR as the entrance to build the Horizon platform, set up the Facebook Reality lab as the Metaverse R&D department, and continuously enriched the technical reserve through intensive investment.
Essence Securities analyzed and pointed out in the series of reports “Technology Giants Deploy Metaverse”: From social media to the Metaverse, Facebook’s development direction is clear, and the ultimate purpose is social networking.
In 2020, Ma Huateng also mentioned in “Three Views”: “With the promotion of new technologies such as VR, new hardware and software in different scenarios, I believe that another major reshuffle is about to begin. Just like the transformation of the mobile Internet, Those who can’t get on the boat will gradually be left behind.”
There may still be plenty of time.
Liu Chiping once said: “The development of the Metaverse is still in its infancy, and there are still many uncertain factors. The future is worth looking forward to, but it may take several iterations, and it will take longer than people expect to improve.”
But the crisis also lingers around Tencent.
Source: “Ready Player One” stills
There is a line in the movie “Ready Player One” “It is a war to control the future (this is a war to control the future).”
The time left for Tencent in this future battle may not be as much as imagined.
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