Metaverse was a name not synonymous with public interest, until Mark Zuckerberg announced last year that his $500bn company; facebook will now be Metaverse first and would be known as Meta. With the announcement, interest in the word, skyrocketed.
What is Metaverse
There is no clear way to define metaverse, as it basically connotes the virtual world. It generally refers to digital environments, made lifelike by the use of augmented reality (AR). Some people use metaverse to describe gaming worlds, where users have a character that can move about in a lifelike manner, and interact with other players, and can buy digital assets like land, through the use of blockchain technology; using cryptocurrencies.
The rise of the metaverse theory, might also be attributed to the increasing reliance on virtual activities, as opposed to the traditional way of doing things prior to the Covid pandemic. Work and schooling can now be done virtually, and so there is increased demand, for online interaction to be more lifelike.
History of Metaverse
It was reported that the first VR machine was created in 1956 and that in the 1970s MIT created the Aspen Movie Map that allowed users take a generated tour of the town of Aspen, Colorado. Fast forward to 2022, and Apple is currently working on headsets that could potentially replace our smartphones, as the interface into the metaverse of the future.
However, the term “metaverse” was first used by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 published novel Snow Crash. 30 years later, the word will become a chosen name for Mark Zuckerberg’s company and will generate massive interest and influence, in the tech sector; with everyone else rushing to get on board.
Metaverse and the Gaming Industry
As the gaming/gambling industry embraces technology as the future of gaming, the hype around metaverse, has quickly established itself as a key reference point. It has been touted as a game changing technology for the industry, even though more real metaverse gambling products are yet to materialize as expected.
The gambling industry like other sectors, are looking at how they will factor in, and benefit from the metaverse. Major gambling companies like Entain earlier in the year, announced the launch of a new “global innovation hub” that will invest £100m in “disruptive technologies”, including those for the metaverse. The World Poker Tour also claimed that by its launch of an NFT poker club, it had taken the poker world’s first step into the exciting metaverse etc.
Is Metaverse a Novelty?
Going by the definition of metaverse, and some of the changes it is touted to bring, it is quite obvious that it is not as unique as it is advertised to be. Digital spaces have been going towards this direction, for much longer than the hype surrounding metaverse. Almost all video games these days are rooted in virtual reality; from Fortnite to Minecraft.
It seems that after facebook changed its name to Meta, and outlined all the vision of making the multi- billion dollar company, a metaverse first company, that the value of the word, and all it signifies (known & unknown) seem to have crystallized. Now Bloomberg Intelligence in their report, estimated that the value could reach $800bn by 2024; while Morgan Stanley’s analyst claimed that the value could peak at $8tn.
One wonders if it is the power of the facebook brand or is the concept of the metaverse all that it is hyped to be. When you ask questions about the metaverse, one will notice that a lot of people, even those investing in it or clamoring to get on board, truly don’t understand the true concept of it. So the question would be, is there a difference between the metaverse at play in games like Fortnite or Minecraft where users can socialize and play with themselves and the metaverse envisaged to change the future of technology for good?
The Difference between Today and the Future:
According to Stefan Kovach, the founder of the gaming company; Rarerthings, the key features that might separate the current metaverse from what is obtainable before, is the fact that the metaverse here now, will increasingly be built on Web3; on blockchain technology, whereby players can ‘own’ certain items within their virtual world, through technologies like NFTs.
This means that merchandise can be created, sold and interacted (like buy a property) within a metaverse environment, as in real world. Therefore the current metaverse will allow economies to be decentralized and controlled by the community instead.
Kovach stated that metaverse could also be able to change the gambling space, through the use of the potential offered by certain types of NFT. The metaverse may offer a chance to reward casino’s loyal customers, who lose the most money through play-to-earn gaming. Through metaverse, a player could be given the ability to walk into different casinos and be recognised as a VIP and also would be able to, in effect, earn a bit of the house edge by holding one of these NFTs.
Limitations for the Gaming Companies
A lot of gaming companies are now dipping their toes, into the metaverse phenomenon, in order to set their business apart from the pack. However, beyond the appeal, though, there’s the question of regulation.
A lot is going on now in the gambling industry especially in Africa, that taking on metaverse might just not be feasible; particularly when you think of regulatory uncertainty in these climes. There are still challenges with KYC, AML, Player and minor protection, and even Intellectual Property; plus the advent of novel products like cryptocurrency, all intertwining with gambling.
At The End of the Day:
When it comes to new technology, there is need to apply some brakes here and there. If the gambling industry, is just angling for new technology to gain mass appeal, then it may need that new technology to improve to the point where it’s more acceptable, to a wider range of people, before everyone jumps in.
At the end of the day, it boils down to regulatory authorities, the governments, consumers and the community as a whole, and what can and cannot be accepted. We have heard what the metaverse vision is, for facebook, Fingers crossed on whether the gaming industry will have similar vision, and how it can all be achieved in the long run.