Is the Metaverse Dead?

Or just having an identity crisis...
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Is the Metaverse Dead?

What's the latest?

It's been a couple of weeks now since Metaverse bashing headlines have been circulating, so we've taken a step back to understand why the Metaverse is having a PR nightmare...

After the initial hype and excitement around the Metaverse, recent developments have raised questions about its viability and potential. Big companies, such as Disney, have repositioned their focus away from exploring the Metaverse, leading many to wonder whether it is dead.

The truth is - it's not dead. It's that people just aren't ready for its full potential yet.

While the hope of a new reality during lockdown expedited excitement and adoption of the Metaverse, the desire for real-life experiences as the world regains its freedom has left it as a hinterland of brand experiences. So what has changed, and how can we understand the audience's insights around technology and these immersive realities?

Here's a breakdown of some of the latest news:

Disney Layoffs: Disney’s next-generation storytelling and consumer experiences division, which had been exploring how the company could enter the Metaverse, has been eliminated. The roughly 50-person-strong team was believed to have been cut in the company's first round of layoffs. This decision has raised questions about the viability of the Metaverse.

Zuckerberg quietly buries the Metaverse: Meta's Horizon Worlds, a social universe that Mark Zuckerberg insisted was more than a video game, was quickly dismissed as poor quality by users. Meta's accessibility made it subpar, and even tapping into the 13- to 17-year-old market could not save the product. US senators opposed the move to open the platform to teens. In October 2022, 42% of Meta employees surveyed did not understand the company's Metaverse vision. Cumulatively, Reality Labs, the division housing Metaverse projects, amassed a loss of $24 billion in 2021 and 2022.

Mark Zuckerberg showing his 'metaverse' avatar during Connect 2021

Are people using the Metaverse?

There is skepticism about the Metaverse's viability, and whether it is simply a hype or if anyone is actually using it. The reality is the Metaverse is a future facing concept that doesn't exist yet - what we have are platforms, technologies and experiences that users can engage with - in the virtual realm.

In a recent Yahoo! Finance podcast, Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn and a venture capitalist, expressed his doubts, stating that he does not see the signs indicating that the Metaverse will happen. Similarly, Bernard Arnault, the CEO of LVMH, has voiced caution about the Metaverse "bubble."

Gaming platforms such as Roblox, Minecraft, and Animal Crossing are often cited as examples of the Metaverse in today's conversations. Given that the gaming industry is leading the way in the Metaverse, it is not surprising that users of the Metaverse are mostly gamers.

Then virtual worlds like Decentraland which despite being well-funded and worth $1.3 billion, only had a measly 38 daily active users. Even though their attempt to save face and clapped back with a stat highlighting 8,000 daily active users, this number is still just a blip compared to the massive player base of games like "Fortnite."

Lacklustre gaming worlds dominated by brands

Virtual worlds like Decentraland and The Sandbox have become increasingly popular, allowing users to create, explore, and monetize their virtual experiences and assets.

Yet like many marketing initiatives - it's big brands dominating the space and taking the limelight. And we all know what happens when big brands take over without tapping in to real culture or what their audiences actually want. While these platforms are profitable, the reality is lack a cultural nexus and may be dominated by elite American and European norms – essentially suffocating.

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Here are three takeaways on how it can thrive:

  1. People and communities: Metaverse experiences need to come from visionaries with opinions and stories to tell. While brands can still be involved, they should champion voices and cultures to give the digital space more purpose.
  2. Bring it into the IRL: The Metaverse should not be just a place experienced on phones, laptops, and VR headsets. It should be integrated with physical spaces where culture lives, such as grassroots football clubs and underground music scenes.
  3. Find the right crowd: The Metaverse needs to offer more than just branded incentives. It should appear in Metaverse worlds like Roblox, Fortnite, NBA 2k, FIFA, or Call of Duty and be more integrated with those worlds where crowds already gather.

The Metaverse is missing visionaries to create immersive storytelling experiences. It is vital to bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds and create culturally significant experiences that appeal to a diverse range of people.

The Metaverse's success lies in its ability to offer more than just branded incentives and provide a space for creativity and culture to thrive.

Despite the challenges, the Metaverse is not dead, it's just having an identity crisis.