Metaverse Content, Services and Asset Businesses
Source : https://www.matthewball.vc/all/csametaverse
This primer focuses on what the Metaverse must do to grow, thrive, and operate. This includes both philosophy and technology, and any progress in either will be a driving force for the Metaverse economy. The Metaverse economy will be able to run virtually all content, delivered or powered services and assets, as well as virtually bought and sold.
For the foreseeable future, “CAS” revenues will be very modest. Take the internet as an example. The majority of industry growth and revenue went to companies that sold internet-focused hardware from the 1990s to the late 2000s. Mobile phones and PCs, as well as connectivity (i.e. Fixed and wireless networks. It took a while for internet-focused content companies such as Facebook, Tinder and Spotify to grow and scale.
We do see the potential. It is not surprising that Snap, Spotify, and Netflix all identified Fortnite as a key competitor in their earnings calls.
It is clear that companies with the most loved IP and brands will play a significant role in the Metaverse. This role will likely be proportional their relative love. To date, the largest Fortnite activations have been Marvel. Star Wars and the NFL were next, while the NBA is still the leader in NFTs. These franchises have been around for decades because they are universally loved and respected by fans and imaginations. Gucci and Louis Vuitton brands are equally likely to succeed; people constantly look for opportunities to signal and express themselves. Not all the top games today will be participating in the Metaverse ( again. Being a game does not mean you are participating in the “Metaverse”. Many will be able to connect, even if it’s just through asset entitlements (earn an outfit or buy it in-game and take it elsewhere — more details below).
The Metaverse will lead to many new entertainment franchises as well as consumer-facing brands. Because new access technologies are more than just changing how consumers access content. They alter the content.
Cable TV, for instance, did not just increase the resolution of broadcast-era television shows, but it also enabled niche, serialized and more expensive television. This allowed series like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad to be created, along with AMC and HGTV. It was possible to save a video game and to play multiple games at once when it moved from arcade to console. The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy VII are examples of console-era titles. These titles go beyond higher-fidelity Pacman and Galaga. Online enabled fantasy worlds to be persistently and massively multiplayer. World of Warcraft and EVE Online were the result.
Although technology has had a limited impact on music, the shift from radio broadcast to tapes, then digital optical disks and finally streaming has had an enormous influence on everything, from the length of a song to who it is. Technology has made it possible for even The Beatles to achieve success. In the United States, there were 5.5 million transistor radios sold between 1954 and 1962. This install base almost doubled to 10,000,000 in 1963, with many of these being given as Christmas gifts. This is the “killer app” or top use case for this new ubiquitous device. Listening to The Beatles’ song “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, which was released on December 26th for radio play. The song became The Beatles’ first Billboard #1 within a month. This was the result of their February appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. It also helped kick-start Beatlemania.
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Travis Scott’s virtual concert is very similar. Nearly 30,000,000 people spent nine minutes immersed in Travis Scott’s music. These included casual and die-hard fans as well as non-fans. This experience is unlike any other on Earth, including the Super Bowl halftime show. A week later, the track Scott (The Scotts), which was premiered at the concert and was a collaboration between Kid Cudi, debuted at #1 on Billboard. Cudi’s debut at #1 on Billboard was his first and largest. Several tracks Scott sang from his Astroworld album, which he had released two years ago, were also included in this Billboard #1.
This is why we must look beyond the core Metaverse content experiences. They’re all very cool. They’re all incremental. Travis Scott’s show was transformative, but it wasn’t live motion recorded, it didn’t really involve the audience and it reached only fifty people at once. What happens when all this changes? What happens if Travis Scott, instead of being a giant, sits on an outer-space planet and terraforms it as a god-like titan. Or, if he is a motion capture model of the planet! What?
The entertainment industry will need to take some time to understand what a Metaverse radio station, TV series, porn site or OnlyFans looks. Technology advances will play a major role in this process, just as it was with Fortnite. The first companies, artists and stories to succeed will be found alongside the likes Luke Skywalker, Captain America and Taylor Swift. The Metaverse-era will see new fashion labels and houses emerge, as well, using its unique canvas and audience to quickly establish mindshare and differentiate. I am helping Virgil Abloh (CEO/Founder of Off-White) create that type of brand. His goals are simple, but his vision is broad. “I want virtual clothes to paint pictures that physical clothes can’t, and to let buyers access a new dimension to their personal style – regardless of who they are, where and what they love.”
It is comparatively easy to imagine the future for many digital services businesses such as those in the mindfulness and fitness categories. Zwift can be described as Peloton for virtual worlds. Mirror is a pre-Metaverse Equinox. Apps such as Calm and Headspace (Disclosure – a portfolio company), will need to transition to virtual spaces.
State Space’s Aim Lab provides a virtual training ground for skill development and competitive gaming using AI. The game can be connected to Valorant for both player and game data (i.e. A player’s shot history, control settings, and reload speed and recoil can all be accessed by the game. State Space is expanding its Roblox-like creation platform to include cognitive and physical therapy.
Our social networks and services will need to change as we socialize more, and our achievements, and socializing shifts to virtual spaces. Snapchat is not just AOL Instant Messenger for mobile, but it can also be considered a slightly evolved version of BBM, an early mobile messaging leader. Medal.TV (Disclosure : A Makers portfolio company) can be described as “Instagram for virtual world”. It now boasts over half a billion DAUs, up 400% year-over. They post more than 1MM clips each day. Many of the most popular clips are not displaying extraordinary talent or athleticism, but rather mundane. The Metaverse will change how we date and find partners. What’s “Swipe right” in XR? (Don’t answer.)
The expansion of the creator economy is also possible. There will be new marketplaces to sell and commission independently developed virtual goods (Etsy for skins). You can also hire artists and architects to design your digital spaces. Many of these features are already in place via Super Rare or OpenSea.
The Metaverse will also transform categories that have largely escaped disruption during the internet age. The education sector is an excellent example. Many technologists believe that trade schools and colleges in person would be fundamentally restructured and replaced by distance learning. If COVID has made any difference to this movement, it has shown how terrible Zoom-based learning is and how crucial rich socializing and individual presence are for development.
The Metaverse allows students to view 3D animated characters through a 2D iPad screen, 360deg virtual reality or a 2D iPad screen. It will allow them to participate in richly populated educational environments with full autonomy and agency, rich facial animations, and rich body animations. While it won’t replace in-person experiences, it will significantly reduce the gap and help those with social anxiety. This will allow society to leverage one of its most valuable and scarce resources, incredible teachers.
Virtual immersive classes allow students to learn in ways not possible in a classroom, especially in underfunded schools. This is more than simply visiting Rome in VR. Although VR was promised to be the “killer app” for XR, it turned out to be quite stale. The Metaverse will allow students to learn more about the construction and operation of Roman aqueducts through their participation in the building process. Instead of just learning about physics, children will be able to build Rube Goldberg machine (on Earth and on Mars) and create LED screens that are the same size as buildings. While this does not require education from far away, it will certainly enhance it. These capabilities will be enhanced by schools that can provide a physical classroom. New companies will be created to create virtual schools and lessons. Teachers and performers will be hired to teach them via motion capture.
Motion capture will be extended far wider. For example, today millions of people gamble online or use Zoom-based casino sites. Or they play in game-based ones like Grand Auto‘s Lucky: Los Santoscasino. Many of us will soon be able to visit Metaverse casinos, where they can enjoy live, motion-capture-powered entertainment and live, motion-capture-powered dealers. We’ll also be able to view (or even commission!) live stage plays, hire immersive tutors, and much more.
Virtually performed labor has been around for over a decade. Many “players”, often in lower-income countries, would spend their day collecting digital resources to sell inside and outside of the game. This was not long after in-game trading economies were created. This “labor” was often repetitive and menial and only limited to a handful of applications. We will see this work become more valuable and diverse as the Metaverse expands. This will result in new labor/hiring platforms (TaskRabbit Uber Fivrr and Upwork for the Metaverse! Metaverse “call centres” which allow for more advanced outsourcing of hourly labor in foreign markets. This will also make it easier for salaried American workers to take part in the “high-value” economy outside of major cities.
This will change how we allocate and monetize our modern resources, including housing and transportation infrastructure. This will impact who we hire and how much we can make a living.
New services and jobs will be created as a result of increased consumer spending on virtual assets, land, currencies, land, items and avatars. Large crypto owners use cold storage hardware and service providers to protect their NFTs. Others may also hire investment advisors and insurance providers to protect their virtual goods. Brokers can lease these assets to third party, lend against them, or rent them out to others, depending on what your vision of the future is. These specialists may be hired to design your avatar and manage the sale of these assets on different Metaverse marketplaces.
It will become more difficult to manage interoperability of asset entitlements on a 1-to-1 basis as the “interoperable virtual assets economy” grows. It is impossible to connect all of our virtual worlds, platforms and experience accounts in order to transfer a currency or skin to another. This is especially true if there are any import duties or exchange rates to consider. We’ll also need a single location to view all of our possessions and see where they can be used.
It’s possible that another type of Metaverse service will be created — the Metaverse Wallet, or Storage Locker. This could be managed using existing platform services like Epic Online Services and PlayStation Network or a social network such as Discord or Facebook. It can also be managed using standalone wallets such PaySafe, Coinbase, Rainbow. This is much easier if the Metaverse runs on the blockchain and NFTs.
Business Assets and Related Businesses
Businesses will need to produce and invest in many more virtual assets, as well as more complex versions, in order to build the Metaverse. This is costly.
The cost of large-scale AAA titles has risen from low single-digit million to several hundred of millions over the last three console generations. This is why many AAA titles are launched under a package fee model (i.e. They expect to eventually transition to a free-to-play model (i.e. $60-70) in the future. Publishers need to recover their initial investment in Night City or Los Santos or the City of London.
Microsoft Flight Simulator was briefly discussed in Part III. It is the largest and most realistic consumer simulation ever created. It contains over 2 trillion trees individually rendered, 1.5 billion buildings, and almost every road, mountain and city worldwide. It holds over 2.5 petabytes (or 2,500,000 gigabytes) of data. It’s possible only because it is based on real-world scans (mostly owned by Xbox Studios’ sister, Bing Maps). It would be expensive to build all of this data or create a world with similar detail and diversity from scratch.
To address this need, a number of businesses and models have been created. They will continue to grow in importance in the years ahead.
Epic Games purchased Quixel in 2019. Quixel produces “MegaScans,” which are incredibly realistic, of real-world mesas and fjords. The scans have detail down to the pebble. Quixel customers include game publishers and movie studios. They can license the scans to save time and avoid designing their own sand dunes and mossy rock waterfalls. You can also use the Quixel scans to start custom work. Cesium, as discussed in Part VII of this Primer is responsible for managing and integrating a large number of geospatial data sources (e.g. point clouds, environmental scans, photogrammetry data and renders). Open libraries, its own database and private client clouds. These can then be cloud streamed using any proprietary engine via the 3D Tiles open standards. We’ll also see more businesses focusing on creating and maintaining realistic renders of specific environments (e.g. Manhattan) or managing virtual information databases on these environments.
Roblox, Unity, and Unreal also have online marketplaces that allow developers to license virtual assets such as rough cut diamonds and undead pink Teddy Bears. There are many sources for these assets. Some assets come from independent artists who will not work directly on a film, game, or virtual world. A developer or animator may choose to resellassets that they created for their games, virtual realms, or films. These marketplaces can be used to find independent artists and commission work (see Epic’s acquisition of ArtStation in 2021).
These marketplaces and stores have a profound impact. A virtual world can be created much quicker, easier, and at lower costs. The virtual world that is created can also be sold, which can increase or decrease the upfront investment. Developers can also focus their efforts on the things that make their creations unique, such as story, character and gameplay. It’s not possible for construction companies to cut wood by themselves. Your interior designer won’t make chairs and Disney won’t design a new car specifically for Tony Stark.
These marketplaces and libraries will be hugely advantageous in the Metaverse era. Take the early 2000s mapping/geospatial efforts by Google. This included M&A (Keyhole), Waze, and a variety of licenses (e.g. Satellite data, roads, tens of thousands in labor (i.e. Driving vans down almost every city in the globe, machine learning (information processing), and manually training algorithmic (Google bought reCaptcha 2009 partly to allow Google users to help out). This information proved to be so valuable that it enabled companies like Niantic, a Google subsidiary, and experiences such as Uber and Pokemon Go. Apple’s Apple Maps product was released in 2012 and almost no one wanted to use it. Most consumers also disliked it. It is extremely difficult and expensive to compete with data platforms with multi-year headstarts, large ecosystems and developer lock-in.
This dynamic explains why most scanning/marketplace/virtual generation start-ups are acquired before they become late, or even mid-stage companies. Epic and Unity are two examples of companies that prefer to build up rather than start from scratch. It’s possible that we will see fierce competition in this category over the next few years with companies like Nvidia and Autodesk as well as Snap, Snap, Snap and Niantic choosing to build their databases, just like Apple and Uber did when they moved away from Google Maps.