What is the metaverse? Its definition may be drastically different for each person. For the older generation, even a Zoom meeting could be considered “the metaverse.”
The most common answer to this question is something along the lines of a virtual reality wonderland that is the next big thing. It’s the new dream that Meta/Facebook spent $10 billion towards rebranding their company and conceptualizing their own metaverse. But there are clear misconceptions that companies have when it comes to this nascent digital space, down to its definition.
After investigating over 100 different metaverses currently on the market, I’ve narrowed it down to four concrete misconceptions that newcomers need to know about the metaverse.
Metaverse Misconceptions 1: The metaverse is ready for mass adoption
Like many new frontiers, infrastructure in the metaverse is still being built. The metaverse is very much a work in progress. It is primarily accessible to only early adopters – mostly people in tech and gamers. Even the hardware that is required to have a fluid experience is held back by accessibility hurdles. These include the requirement for top-of-the-line graphics cards and computer processors. All of these are still held back by the disrupted global supply chain.
The very first fashion week in the metaverse debuted with fanfare but not without flaws. Some users reported the experience to be “very slow, confusing, or not work at all.”
The average person is not necessarily equipped with a gaming computer setup or even the bare minimum processing bandwidth that is required to run these virtual worlds. Therefore, most people are limited in their ability to truly enjoy the metaverse as it currently stands.
Let’s take a look at other monumental shifts in the internet. It wasn’t until the ownership of smartphones outweighed the ownership of traditional mobile phones that social media use really took off. This also could not have happened without the built-in cameras that rivaled digital point-and-shoots, as well as the expansion of the mobile data network. Sure, the metaverse is here and is being improved every day. But it just doesn’t exist in a meaningful way that affects the general public.
Metaverse Misconceptions 2:Every company is missing out by not joining the metaverse
To preface, there is no doubt that companies may be missing out on taking their space in the metaverse by not acting quickly. However, the extent to which sectors should join and start shilling their products on metaverse billboards is limited. These sectors, at least currently, include the tech, gaming, entertainment industry, and crypto spaces. Remember, these are the demographics that would even have the equipment to access most of these metaverses.
The companies we’ve been approached by that are interested in marketing to the metaverse truly run the gamut, from fashion houses to insurance companies. We can’t guarantee the current demographics of active metaverse users are seeking great rates on their car insurance. But industries such as fashion are uniquely suited to entering this space, as avatars need clothing and accessories for self-expression.
As we continue to build metaverses, new use cases will open the doors for others. But at this point in time, you can safely leave it up to “fun” industries like gaming, art and fashion, or real estate to dominate the space. Companies that are hesitant to join the metaverse can be open but skeptical. There’s no need to join until there is a clear way forward, with tangible objectives that can meet company goals.
Metaverse Misconceptions 3: The metaverse is a 4D video game
To start, there are hundreds of metaverses currently out there that appeal to different people. Many current metaverses have game-like elements. But this does not mean metaverses are being developed with only gamers in mind. For example, The Sandbox has more traditional gaming mechanics with a pixel art style. It clearly appeals to people familiar with video games. On the other hand, Spatial is more graphically advanced and aesthetics driven. It is perfect for digital art galleries and other events that require high-quality graphics.
For the more gamified metaverses, the main difference between traditional video games and the metaverse is ownership. In a video game with in-game currency, everything you buy and own is locked to the game. And for online games, if one day the developer decides to shut down the servers, the in-game items you once “owned” disappear with the servers.
This is contrary to the idea of true digital ownership. Digital assets are meant to stay with you forever as recorded on the blockchain, which is enshrined in the core ethos of Web3. This is still a genuine issue for the metaverse and could pose problems for businesses attempting to sell a product.
Metaverse Misconceptions 4: The metaverse is trying to replace reality and will ruin our future
As with any new technology that emerges in the cultural zeitgeist, there’s a lot to be said about media fearmongering over what the metaverse means for our children’s future. The idea is they will get sucked in to digital worlds at the expense of their real lives and withdraw from the world around them.
This is not to say that excessive internet use isn’t a problem. Young people are more depressed than ever and heavy screentime may only exacerbate the problem. However, this may be mistaking the forest for the trees. Gen Z is experiencing its formative years on the backdrop of historical extremes. These include weather events due to climate change, the revoking of human rights, global wars, widening income inequality, the housing crisis, and pandemic after pandemic. Is there any wonder that internet escapism helps them cope?
Ultimately, the metaverse is being built not as a new iteration, but as an upgrade of the current internet. It is much like social media and other facets that the internet enables for one’s ability to express themselves. Participation in the metaverse is simply an extension of our reality.
As seen in a recent VRchat documentary, there are already use cases for how the metaverse enhances the lives of its users. Even in its most primitive form, the key to the metaverse is offering another way for people to connect with each other.
It may seem like a wild, wild west right now. It will be up to the developers and its users to make sure that we form our ideal metaverses with rules and culture that protect and uplift its users and future generations.
Rethink the metaverse
Web3 startups continue to build upon existing metaverse experiences. There is no doubt that both progressive and traditional companies want to capitalize on this new venture and get a head start by joining the metaverse. But to truly harness the full potential, companies should reassess their strategy and dive deeper into why they are joining the metaverse. Are you looking to meet users where they are and enhance their virtual experience, or are you joining just because of the hype?
About the author
Thibault Launay is a Co-Founder and CEO of Exclusible, the luxury industry’s go-to platform for metaverse and NFT activations. He is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor across various sectors. He is a member of NFT hedge fund Blackpool, an advisor of OVR.ai, and a well-known collector of NFTs and physical vintage watches. Thibault is an alumnus of Paris Dauphine University, Harvard Business School, and Forbes 30 Under 30.
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