Ah, the metaverse. Countless articles have popped up in the last few weeks theorising its potential, as if it’s a foregone conclusion.
Part of the metaverse concept is that there will be a single, virtual place that connects disparate shopping, gaming and social experiences. You’ll be a single, persistent avatar that can move from one area to the next, from a virtual concert right to your virtual bank.
This works great in a book. But the real world is wildly different and much more fragmented.
Just look at the gaming world. I can connect with people on Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Nintendo Online and Steam, but they are all siloed platforms, with communities splintered across genres and franchises. Call of Duty, for instance, is becoming a metaverse of its own, servicing Modern Warfare, Black Ops, Warzone, and CoD Mobile at the same time — and struggling to keep it coherent.
And this is just a glimpse into console games! Mobile is much bigger and less centralized, not to mention all the social apps players use to connect for different purposes (forums, Reddit, Discord, etc).
A single metaverse is supposed to connect all of these platforms across devices, genres and communities. Anything less wouldn’t be the metaverse. But in reality, you have a trend of fracturing communities that is rapidly getting more splintered, not less.
Which is great! There are way too many games and people in the world, so finding more niche ways to connect is a big part of expanding gaming from the 250 million who buy consoles, out to the 3 billion who like to play.
So why have a singular metaverse when no one is asking for it?
It feels like we’re trying to make the metaverse happen instead of letting it happen. It’s like trying to stuff the whole internet back into America Online. But the future is diversifying, not unifying.
Look at the fragmentation in streaming services. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Peacock, HBO Max, Disney+, Paramount+ and on and on and on. People won’t choose just one platform to watch content. More importantly, there will always be challengers.
There are too many platforms to effectively connect them via one metaverse; people will never choose to live in one metaverse; and when it comes to creating real diversity and inclusion, there should never even be one metaverse.
Again, that is GREAT!
If you want to go virtually shopping and switch to a game of virtual laser tag before attending a virtual non-accredited lecture, cool. I’ll meet you for laser tag and then do my own thing, sans avatar because that is just not my thing.
And we can all be happy, because more people will be connecting through an infinites series of intersecting metaverses, doing their own things.
Josh Smutko is Partner/GCD at Omelet.