You might be forgiven for thinking the Metaverse started with Facebook’s change of name to Meta. Certainly, the unexpected move by Mark Zuckerberg helped bring the term “metaverse” into mainstream dialect, but the roots of the metaverse go back much further. Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash” first coined the term “metaverse” and the potential of virtual reality became universally known with the 2011 dystopian movie Ready Player One. The Metaverse is set to be the next generation of the internet and platforms funded by billionaires are scrambling for popularity.
Second Life released in 2003 was an early forerunner for the metaverse worlds you see today. Players immersed themselves in 3D virtual worlds and it even had a virtual economy. Although Second Life’s user base waned it still has over 500K active users today and just announced the return of its founder Philip Rosedale. Roblox another pioneer of the metaverse was born in 2006 and introduced the ability for players to create games and play the games developed by other users. It has its own currency and Roblox is a massive hit with over 202 million monthly active users.
It was the gaming industry that first proved the potential profitability of the metaverse. Fortnite from Epic Games hosted interactive virtual concerts from DJ Marshmello, Travis Scott, and Ariana Grande to great aplomb. Travis Scott raked in over $20 million for the Fortnite performance and Ariana Grande is rumoured to have made a similar amount. Perhaps it is such phenomenal success that has attracted Big Tech to the metaverse. Epic Games have attracted $2 Billion in Metaverse investment from Sony and Lego.
Meta has pledged to invest $70 billion in developing its metaverse and gateway to the Metaverse, Oculus. Quite simply Zuckerberg has bet the house on the metaverse’s potential as a disruptive technology. Microsoft has also invested heavily, purchasing AltspaceVR in 2017, Minecraft, and developing Mixed Reality Platform Microsoft Mesh. With the recent acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Microsoft is creating a Metaverse empire.
Although dwarfed by the investment of Microsoft and Meta, decentralised Metaverse platforms including The Sandbox, Decentraland, and VR Enabled CEEK have benefited from the rise to the popularity of the Metaverse during the Covid era. CEEK has partnered with Universal Music and has raised over $7 million from investors. Decentraland has raised over $25 million in funding and The Sandbox raised $93 Million in its last round of fundraising.
As the battle of the metaverse intensifies speculation surrounds companies such as Apple and Google which are said to be developing mixed reality headsets. Headset technology may unlock the key to interoperability of the Metaverse.
Whilst Metaverses are competing to attract celebrities and brands to their platforms. Competition is largely about the user base, the Metaverse with the largest amount of users will receive a windfall in advertising in the future.