Fortnite's metaverse event gives a glimpse of a world beyond gaming.
When Epic Games, creators of multiplayer shooter Fortnite, had hosted Marshmello last year, the event saw the participation of 10.4 million fans. But it did not create as much noise on social media as this year’s Travis Scott affair. Last week’s performance of Travis Scott saw 12.3 million users congregating with their avatars as Scott smashed records. The 10-minute performance saw people donning new avatars and entering a new metaverse to roam around on beaches and enjoy a virtual day out.
Metaverse may not be a new phenomenon-the first conversation around it started in the early 1980s-but games like Fortnite have redefined what it may mean. Fortnite’s two successes show that the future may not be that far off and with most of the world in a lockdown, things may move faster than possible. A metaverse is a virtual world created to host a lot of activities. It can be simple roaming around and discovering thing or as complex as a marketplace, where you can purchase products.
Piers Kicks, a VC and a former gamer, enthusiastically explained the whole phenomenon in a thread comprising 25 tweets. Emphatic about Epic’s success Kicks tweeted that “Whilst undoubtedly cool, this event represents something bigger. It is yet another major stepping stone in digital culture’s advance into the mainstream with Fortnite having featured Deadpool, Thanos, Batman, John Wick, Marshmello, Star Wars, Nike, and now Travis Scott.”
He further highlighted “For the Metaverse to begin to flourish, there needs to emerge: 1) concurrency infrastructure 2) enticing content, both user-generated and pop culture related 3) standards and protocols.”
While games are getting the content part right-Fortnite has over 78 million monthly active users while its competitor PUBG has over 200 million-the internet is still far off from a world of standards and protocols.
Kicks, however, has a solution for this. “With the virtual goods market reaching $50bn, perhaps it is time to move away from letting items sit in heterogeneous centralized servers that are owned by a single company, provide no way to generate cash flows, and offer no real ownership or control prospects for the user.”
What Kicks was talking about was a decentralized marketplace for virtual goods, where people can sell avatars, their online collections and make money off the market. The problem is for this to occur a lot many systems will need to converge and many companies, governments, may not be ready for such a drastic change.
Pokemon Go is a classic example. The game was limited by its time, but it still made a splash. It allowed people to go on treasure hunts and collect pokemon. Although the creators predicted much more, after a point it got boring. But imagine what if you could trade pokemon’s for a price and this could be done using game coupons, which then could be converted into bitcoins and those bitcoins could be used at any of the local stores. Pokemon would have become much more than a game. The AR experience could have transformed many industries. While it did transform, it stopped short of building a metaverse. Fortnite, on the other hand, has been lucky and smart with incremental innovations.
It has not delved into something that would require additional hardware-AR/VR glasses- to take things forward. But once those technologies are ready and cheap, metaverses would be a much bigger reality. There is a reason Facebook bought VR firm Oculus a few years ago. Firms will still need to open up for trade in the digital economy, and governments will also have to adjust. For now, we can settle with listening and dancing to Travis Scott and Marshmello.