Set Aside NFT & VR Hype, Metaverse Platforms Already Have 600 Million Users Now, “Billions” by This Decade

In case you missed it, Tim Sweeney laid out his vision for the Metaverse last week after his company Epic unleashed a number of metaverse platform-related announcements — watch above at around 1 hour in: 

Let”s take a long term look at what we see here. And the core of it is some very real growth. Starting with Fortnite’s 70 million monthly active users, Roblox’s 250 million monthly active users, Minecraft’s 100 million, and PubG mobile and Apex Legends, and numerous other metaverse-inspired games, is leading to an identifiable audience today of over 600 million active users in these virtual worlds. And it’s on a growth trajectory that’ll put it at billions of users by the end of this decade.

So we can set aside the crazy hype cycle around NFTs and VR goggles. These technologies may play a role in the future but they are not required. This revolution is happening right now. And the core of it is something every gamer already understands. It’s you and your friends, getting together online and going around as a group on voice chat, having a fun time and social entertainment experiences. And some of these experiences are serious games like Battle Royale. Some of them are going to a concert and dancing or chatting with friends and just having a good time. We see this as the next big change in gaming and then Epic’s evolution as a company.

Hard agree on the hype around NFTs and VR goggles (looking at you, Meta), while I’d quibble around the “billions” target — 1 billion is more realistic. Fortnite, for example, has seen some slippage in its monthly active user numbers (though of course remains quite large).

Sweeney also got into his vision for the open metaverse:

And we’re building towards the open Metaverse from two different directions. First of all, we’re taking the Fortnite audience we have, enhancing development capabilities with the new tools and creator economy to support everybody’s work. But we’re also helping developers owning standalone products evolve towards building Metaverse experiences themselves. The Unreal Engine is a tool for this, the Epic Game Store is a distribution vehicle for it…

We have the opportunity to take all these different online ecosystems, from gaming consoles and publishers, and connect them together into a single place where anybody can talk to anybody else. We have the opportunity to turn today’s game engines into tomorrow’s metaverse browser engines.

I’m delving much deeper into this for the book, but the open web/browser analogy has some serious problems.  The web experience is more or less the same between different web browsers, because they stream the same underlying content. The user interface of a virtual world, however, is part of that world, and cannot be altered substantially from virtual world to the next. You can click from one web page to another; you cannot click a mountain and then expect to somehow end up in an underwater cave. 

Hat tip to reader “Kyz”, who has their own thoughts on the topic:

After years of Metaverse hype, Epic is the one that’s actually set to pull it off. Second Life, Humble’s platform, and some of the newer offerings mentioned here at NWN are still walled gardens, whether that’s by client access or by the company trying to “be” the entire ecosystem. These companies, even the ones that aren’t launched yet, are woefully behind the technology.

And to be fair, they just don’t have the money Epic has to throw at the latest and greatest. Epic on the other hand is on a mission to use cross platform/world standards. And Epic is not alone, they’re partnering with many other heavy hitters in the business. Their approach is the first “actual” metaverse attempt that we’ve had. And as Tim Sweeney mentioned, it’s been ongoing and will continue trying to fulfill a true metaverse, open standards place where people can build worlds (as in Second Life), games, presentations, film, etc…

I don’t mean to offend anyone or dis any one platform, but Epic is really the difference between so-so and the real deal when it comes to cutting edge technology on multiple platforms, being able to use many technologies to build worlds and assets within a greater metaverse that isn’t limited to one company. Epic plays well with everyone as far as integration, others don’t.

Looking forward finally to the open metaverse.

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