What is the “metaverse” and how much will it be worth? Depends on who you ask

What is the “metaverse” and how lucrative will it be for tech companies? It depends on who you ask, the corporate equivalent of a Rorschach test.

A generally accepted definition of the concept is a digital experience that mixes virtual reality, video streaming, mobile games like Roblox Inc. RBLX,
+ 8.63%
and “Fortnite,” cryptocurrency, social media, 5G, artificial intelligence, and email. In short, a Sargassum sea of ​​buzzwords that come close to a digital facsimile of the way we live in the physical world.

“It’s like anything in technology: everyone defines an emerging market that best matches their strengths and needs,” Zeus Kerravala, senior analyst at ZK Research, told MarketWatch. “Whoever wins invariably transforms this experience into his own walled garden. “

When Mark Zuckerberg shared his version of the FB from Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc.
+ 1.21%
Metaverse idea last month, he said he didn’t want it to be a “walled garden” but rather part of a larger open ecosystem. It was a not-so-subtle dig at Apple Inc. AAPL,
-0.04%,
one of many speeches Zuckerberg made while preaching the opening of the metaverse in the rebranding of Facebook.

Apple antagonists Epic Games Inc. and Facebook see the metaverse as a way to attack Apple from a financial, strategic and legal perspective. But Dioselin Gonzalez, mixed reality consultant and former senior software architect at Microsoft MSFT,
-0.16%
Research, estimates that most companies are engaged in a desperate land grab for a piece of the Metaverse market so they can turn it into their own version of Apple’s App Store or Alphabet Inc.’s GOOGL. ,
+ 0.16%
GOOG,
+ 0.01%
Google play.

Don’t Miss: Why is “metaverse” the tech buzzword? Apple has something to do with it

“Facebook is warning against closing the Apple Store, but it will have its own walled garden with metaverse, based on its story,” she told MarketWatch.

At a tech conference in South Korea this week, Epic Games Inc. CEO Tim Sweeney compared the metaverse to a universal app store that runs on all operating systems and gives developers a alternative to the dominance of Apple and Google in the smartphone economy. Epic, one of the leaders in the emerging metaverse space with its popular game “Fortnite,” sued Apple and Google in federal court for antitrust behavior.

“Over the next several decades, the metaverse has the potential to become a multibillion-dollar part of the global economy, open to all businesses in the world on an equal footing,” Sweeney said. “Apple and Google policies prohibit other companies from creating the metaverse so that they can dominate it themselves and tax it. We must not allow these two companies to dominate our digital lives. “

The “multibillion dollar” potential of the Metaverse, as Sweeney pointed out, underscores investor concern over different definitions of the Metaverse: Market estimates vary widely.

Illustrating its vast properties and cutting-edge technologies, the metaverse market is expected to represent a market of $ 800 billion by 2024, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. Roblox CEO David Baszucki, meanwhile, predicts a total addressable market of around $ 200 billion or more each in the categories of mobile, streaming content and social media.

There are much bolder estimates – Morgan Stanley analyst Brian Nowak vaguely refers to a total addressable market of $ 8 trillion among US consumers – that come with several caveats. Adoption “won’t be quick or easy,” Nowak says, due to the uncertainty surrounding the metaverse experience, consumers’ mistrust of Facebook with their personal and corporate data, and lack of expertise. of Facebook in terms of business tools.

A multiverse of metaverse

For now, almost all companies define the metaverse based on their strength, says Jacob Navok, CEO of Genvid Technologies, creator of advanced interactive streaming technology. For Facebook, this is the company’s social media prowess. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella pairs his HoloLens device with the Metaverse, while Walt Disney Co. DIS,
+ 0.13%
CEO Bob Chapek sees Disney + as a facsimile. Sweeney describes the “Fortnite” experience as a metaverse because it is a virtual 3D space that mixes in-game and non-game elements.

“People think Metaverse with a capital M is a big theoretical thing and hard to define,” Alex Howland, president of Virbela, who has developed a 3D virtual platform for remote collaboration, told MarketWatch. Virbela’s holding company is eXp World Holdings Inc. EXPI,
+ 2.84%.
“It’s probably best to think of it in terms of sub-metaavers that serve specific markets in games, the enterprise, and elsewhere.

“Truth be told, it will take at least 10 years,” he said.

Probably the purest game in the slowly evolving metaverse is Roblox, an immersive video game maker where players can accessorize an avatar with virtual gear and use it across different experiences. The company, which went public in March, calls itself a “human co-experience platform.”

Learn More About Roblox: 5 Things You Should Know About The Tween-Centric Gaming Platform

More importantly, Roblox is seen as a building block of the Metaverse because its software, popular among tweens, gives users and developers the tools to create 3D digital worlds.

“The human co-experience, which we call the category, may take some time to build, but we believe that this convergence of technology [mobile gaming, video-streaming, and social media] may be larger than these three markets combined, ”Baszucki said at the company’s investor day on Tuesday.

A bounty on image drawing technology in the Metaverse also favors chipmakers Nvidia Corp. NVDA,
+ 2.55%
and Qualcomm Inc. QCOM,
-0.53%,
as well as Unity Software Inc. U,
+ 3.09%.
At its GTC developer conference in November, Nvidia added more capabilities to its engineering metaverse and collaborative modeling platform. This includes the ability to build “digital twins” of cars, robots, and other real-world projects to accelerate development.

Opinion: This is how Nvidia plans to make a lot of money with the Metaverse

“All the non-tech companies we talk to – clothing, entertainment, intellectual property – are working on metaverse strategies,” Mike Rubin, CEO and founder of developer Dreamium Labs, told MarketWatch. “Some are already dabbling in the world of NFT.”

A fully immersive metaverse experience requires specialized hardware and software technology to mesh many moving parts. Virtual reality and augmented reality are just one entry point to an exotic mix of applications across NFTs, artificial intelligence, 5G networks, advanced computing and cloud computing. And the entry point starts with smartphones before moving on to headsets.

The freedom comes from smartphone replacement, but the likelihood of virtual headsets replacing the smartphone in five years is near zero, according to Navok and others. (Apple is reportedly working on its own bezels and / or headsets.) Yet that did nothing to deter dozens of companies from pursuing a metaverse strategy despite a spongy timeline on the market’s emergence, its reliance on words. all the rage, confusion over what exactly constitutes a metaverse, and downright insane estimates of market size.

From inside a virtual private jet

From inside a $ 47 million virtual private jet, Mytaverse co-founder Kenny Landau offers a tour of the future and a wake-up call to participating companies in the market.

“Facebook is trying to co-opt the Metaverse with a version of its own Metaverse,” he said in a virtual interview inside the jet. “But a big company like Facebook or Microsoft needs to democratize the experience and make it inclusive.”

Mytaverse, a startup that emerged early in the pandemic, is one of hundreds of competing companies in the metaverse constellation. The Mytaverse platform was recently used by PepsiCo Inc. PEP,
-0.94%
to hold a meeting with representatives of AMZN from Amazon.com Inc.,
-0.03%
AWS and Microsoft.

Facebook’s much-publicized rebranding and recently released Ray-Ban Stories eyewear have done a lot to establish its good faith in the emerging market. (The first “full-fledged augmented reality glasses,” announced last month, are codenamed “Project Nazare.”) But company officials, from Zuckerberg down to earth, are positioning Meta as part of an interconnected network. Platform.

Opinion: You still call it Facebook, but as Meta Platforms the stock gets a lot of “likes” – for now

The newly renamed Meta enters its next phase as it tries to re-name the latest iteration of the technology. But in taking its final shot at virtual reality, Silicon Valley and Facebook face a multi-year effort in which Apple and Google will largely remain in power for several more years, as smartphones remain the main entry point to the metaverse. , support Navok and others.

“The perception is that Facebook is the metaverse, or the metaverse is equal to Facebook. But in its current state, Meta, as a company, cannot own or create the “metaverse,” “tech futurist Cathy Hackl told MarketWatch. “No company will own or define the metaverse. ”

Therefore, she added, Fortune 200 companies are likely to pick up gaming companies through acquisitions next year to revive their metaverse aspirations.

Meta has quietly partnered with or picked up a handful of gaming and VR companies over the past few months to build his metaverse dreams. A day after Facebook announced its name change last month, the company reportedly spent more than $ 500 million to buy Within, a startup co-founded by virtual reality pioneer Chris Milk known for his training app. Supernatural.

Prior to that, Meta had signed agreements with Unit 2 Games, which is the platform for creating collaborative games Crayta; Bigbox VR, developer of a popular game for Facebook’s Oculus VR glasses; and VR game maker Downpour Interactive.

Facebook willingly and repeatedly acknowledges the fierce competition from Microsoft, Google, Apple, Snap Inc. SNAP,
-1.61%,
Sony Group Corp. SONY,
+ 0.16%,
Roblox, Epic, and others.

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