Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, is in…bad shape.
Nearly a year after its high-profile rebrand, the company’s shares have tumbled with tears 57 percent. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has lost an estimated $70 billion in net worth, making him the 20th richest man in the world (the world’s smallest violin index). Financial pressure has also forced the company to cut staffing budgets and freeze new hires…even those who have already been accepted.
Much of Meta’s woes can be attributed to a gloomy financial outlook across the tech industry and the world at large. However, it is also an obstacle that they created themselves. general meeting in May, Zuckerberg made the startling announcement that, despite having invested billions of dollars in the metaverse, the platform “won’t really be a significant contributor to the business until at least much later in this decade.” . He added that earnings aren’t expected to really take off until the 2030s at the earliest.
Waiting a decade to make a meaningful profit is probably not going to let investors sleep easy at night. It also doesn’t bode well for their public brand which has taken a beating over the past year. It doesn’t help that after he was bullied online because his avatar on Horizon Worlds, Meta’s de facto metaverse platform, looked like a legless character from a PS1 game, he decided to roll out the red carpet and get the hype by announcing that avatars now do indeed have legs – which earned him to have roasted even harder on the internet. (And even this declaration is met with repression.)
It’s easy to gloat over the schadenfreude of one of the world’s richest and most powerful corporations taking L after L, especially when they’re trying to create something that looks like a ridiculous pipe dream at best and a waste of absolute time, money and resources at worst.
However, the truth is that the metaverse is inevitable. Not only that, but, in many ways, it’s already here and has been there for decades.
Even Neal Stephenson, who coined the term metaverse in his 1992 book Snowfall to describe a fictional virtual reality world, alluded to it. In a June tweet, he said that when he first coined the term he hadn’t conceived of the fact that a metaverse might not go through virtual reality, but then along came a video game. called Loss.
Stephenson touched on a key element of any successful metaverse that many people within the web3 (a term used to describe the next evolution of the World Wide Web) and metaverse space tend to be lacking: video games– or even just the game in general.
“It’s not so much that the metaverse is the future of games. The future of the metaverse is in games,” Jon Radoff, author of the Building the Metaverse blog and founder of metaverse consulting firm Beamable, told The Daily Beast. “The games are going to be what the metaverse is.”
In fact, Radoff believes the origins of the Metaverse date back even further, to the creation of games like Dungeons & Dragons, claiming the popular tabletop game is actually one of the earliest Metaverses. “It’s a space for social experience, for storytelling, for shared imagination, and everything that’s happened since then is technology that breaks down barriers of space and time to participate in it,” he said. .
The most successful metaverses like Roblox, Second Life, and Fortnite are based on video games. By co-opting the term with their rebranding, Meta could have inadvertently done themselves more harm than good. Rather than accept the fact that there are already many thriving metaverse platforms like Roblox and build on those existing technologies, the company has instead retreated to a corner where the only way to access their interpretation of the metaverse is to buy expensive and cumbersome equipment.
Currently, the Meta Quest 2 virtual reality headset sells for $400, while the recently announced Meta Quest Pro costs $1,500. These aren’t exactly prices that someone with no experience or knowledge of VR platforms would likely want to buy, especially when they could spend that money on something like a PS5 or a new phone. But those same products are the very foundation of Meta’s future if it hopes to have one. The company Needs people to join.
“The ergonomics of the technology are terrible,” Radoff said. He added that this is a problem with much of the recent wave of Web3 trends coming from clunky blockchain and crypto platforms that are difficult to use and learn for most new users. “The hardware itself, like the VR headset, is still quite heavy. We’re not at a point where people are going to be wearing it all day doing whatever. They’re fun a bit at a time to play to a game or show up for an experience. But we’re not at a point where all of this is going to merge and integrate into our daily lives like phones are.
However, Radoff said one of the things Meta does well is recognize and meet most people where they are in terms of their comfort level with new technology. For example, Horizon Worlds gets the mobile app treatment. This could be a good way to introduce the company’s metaverse concept to a wider audience.
“Before these things get huge on VR headsets, there’s an opportunity to bring them to the masses using a cellphone you’re already using,” Radoff explained. “This stuff might not be sexy enough to talk about, but I think it’s important in terms of executing a strategy to deliver these experiences to people globally, regardless of ability. buy a $1,500 device.”
For now, however, they can and should take a page out of the playbook for current blockbuster metaverses like Roblox or Fortnite. These are platforms that have fostered communities filled with people with personalities and digital identities that are just as important, if not more so.to users as their own real identities in person. It was only by creating fun and engaging environments that they were able to thrive, grow, and ultimately succeed.
Meta, on the other hand, seems to take a top-down approach, trying to force unwanted and unrequested technology into the hands of the masses based on their deep pockets.
Regardless of the approach though, Zuckerberg and Meta were always up for a Herculean task. They are trying to create a product like the cell phone in much less time than it took for the cell phone to reach our pockets.
Radoff actually thinks there’s something noble about these goals, especially when it comes to how Meta is willing to take big risks to develop potentially game-changing technology.
“Meta gets a lot of credit for taking on super tough problems,” Radoff said. Hardware like sunglasses-style AR/VR with cellphone-like battery life isn’t exactly easy to build after all. “These are extremely complex businesses,” he said. “I think they deserve some credit for taking such a technological risk. It just takes a lot of courage to do that.”
Time will eventually tell whether or not this courage actually pays off. For now, the fact remains that the metaverse has been here for quite some time and will continue to grow and expand into new and different ways for people to socialize and collaborate. It might not be the one Zuck has in mind.
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