There’s no denying that the metaverse is on its way. There are already countless takes on what shape and form it will take, including successful and ambitious virtual worlds such as The Sandbox, Decentraland and Avakin Life that are already making metaverse dreams come true.
The big question that remains however is how and if these distinct metaverse worlds will ever work together? i.e. Whether ‘the metaverse’ will ever become the singular interoperable metaverse that sci-fi imagines?
Opinions are divided but – according to auditing, consulting and financial management company Deloitte, there are actually three potential futures for the metaverse — low orbit, double star and big bang.
What is the Metaverse?
First, some basics. The metaverse is the next iteration of the internet in which users interact in a virtual space via avatars. The fashion industry is already cementing its place in the metaverse. Companies like Forever 21 and Gap are already launching VR experiences in the Roblox metaverse. Meta, Epic and Microsoft are currently collaborating on open metaverse standards, along with other metaverse contenders. Samsung recently announced it’s creating a virtual playground in Roblox called Space Tycoon. But will the metaverse ever live up to its hype?
Factors to consider include market fragmentation, user interface, governance and standardization.
According to Deloitte, the worst-case scenario is that the metaverse becomes a specialty marketplace that never reaches the status of general market platform. In this scenario – dubbed ‘low orbit’ – metaverse regulations would always remain inconsistent and the platform would mainly be used for gaming, sports and entertainment.
Basically things will remain as they are now. There’ll be interest from some fields, some brave and exciting new experiements, but due to ultimately a lack of real utility for the mainstream, and an inability to change its ways or engrained perceptions, the metaverse will always be a clever curio occupied and enjoyed by ‘fans’ alone.
The second potential future for the metaverse that’s predicted is a little brighter. In their ‘double-star’ scenario, there is never one interoperable metaverse but rather a handful of popular metaverses. Each metaverse would effectively self-govern and compete for user loyalty by offering exclusive content. However, users would likely need to commit to one metaverse due to the lack of interoperability.
It works a little like the current console market of today. Today you can be a fan of Xbox or PlayStation or Nintendo Switch, or you can be a fan of all of them, but will always (perhaps) have a favourite. The majority of users however will chose just one avenue for metaverse fun, and will invest their time and money almost exclusively in that one destination.
The big win
Finally, there’s the ‘big bang’ scenario – the biggest and best possible metaverse. Here ‘the metaverse’ is a fully interoperable platform that seamlessly melds virtual and physical reality. Just as there is one internet and all the countless service providers around it play fair and by the same rules, so it can be for the infinitely more complex world of the metaverse and it’s junctions with reality.
Take your pick. Each has its appeal and the steps to the next level will be fraught with the need for investment and ingenuity.
But how should companies plan for the metaverse? Deloitte suggests executives should right now focus on managing potential metaverse risks to create safe user experiences from the start. Any early dangers or inability to control and halt the actions of bad actors will forever impact on the take up of whatever they create.
Secondly, companies need to focus on creating a flexible metaverse strategy right now. Build it too permanently in your own image (fulfilling your own ends) and you’ll be throwing up barriers that will be impossible to tear down later.
Ultimately it all comes down to content and utility. Deloitte suggests that executives should determine what motivates users and what they will want and need and create content accordingly.
Who knows. If we can all collectively get the balance right and work together then there may be the biggest win around the corner.