What will Meta mean for Online Gaming?

Echoes of the past?

Meta seems to be the buzzword on everyone’s lips and even Facebook has recently changed its name to Meta, suggesting that this is the next big thing. In a fast-moving world, sometimes it is easy to get caught up in jargon and hype.

Will the Metaverse really become our new reality or will it be the 21st century’s dot-com boom and bust bubble which saw the tech giants getting their fingers badly burned? In the late 1990’s share prices of companies with .com in their name grew at an unsustainable rate due to speculation caused by the excitement of the largely unknown internet age. With a huge amount of venture capital available and insufficient due diligence internet firms were massively overvalued compared to their actual value. When the bubble burst, their value fell even lower than any residual value and it is estimated that investors lost $5 trillion. 

However, there were some real successes from that time with Amazon, eBay, and Microsoft all still going from strength to strength. It could be argued that the dot-com crash was not caused by the tech but by the investors who inflated the reality and failed to grasp the actual possibilities and drawbacks of the new worldwide web. 

Will the new world of the Metaverse manage to avoid the outrageous speculation that threatened to destroy the nascent tech industries back in 2002 and will the current giants be able to transform themselves to flourish in the metaverse?

What is the Metaverse?

Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snowcrash introduced the concept of the Metaverse. He described a computer-generated world where the protagonist of the novel spends a good deal of his time, moving between virtual experiences. 

The Metaverse that is envisaged today is a virtual world where people’s avatars will be able to interact with their friends and make new ones. It will offer a much more complete social experience than what is currently offered by social media. With the use of VR technology initially, they will be offered a totally immersive experience feeling as though they are in the same location as the other people around them. In the longer-term headsets and VR glasses will probably be replaced.  In reality, people will just be sitting at home or in a cafe accessing that virtual world.

They and the people they interact with will have realistic animations or avatars of themselves. They will be able to go to social events, gigs, and even work environments together.  Social media influencers will be able to have ‘real’ interactions with their followers offering exclusive experiences and mesmerizing narratives. People will play a game and escape from their real lives. Just as people currently aim to do in games and on social media, only this time it will be in a hyperreal setting.

Gaming In the Metaverse

Gaming seems to be ideally adapted to what the Metaverse is promising. Games such as Roblox,

Minecraft and Fortnite have already made social gaming a mainstream phenomenon. Players interact on servers that can scale up to thousands of users per world. This computing power is relatively new and companies can get 10,000 players on the same server simultaneously. Metaverse companies are now talking about hosting sporting events or concerts with 50,000 attendees. This was unimaginable until very recently. 

Over recent years gaming has completely changed. Once regarded as the domain of the lonely boy in his bedroom, it is now regarded as a sociable experience to be enjoyed with friends. It is not a big leap of the imagination to envisage avatars existing in the realm of the game, moving naturally, fully immersed in whatever world they choose to explore. Imagine that all the other characters in the game are real too, and they interact with each other.

Think about the game Among Us – a team game of 4 – 15 players where players have to work out who the imposter is before it kills everyone. Now rather than a colored blob representing the online friends, they are 3D avatars moving amongst each other able to sense which character might not be acting in everyone’s interest. Or maybe you are the imposter. How will your avatar keep a straight face?

All of this might seem futuristic to us, but it’s not so far away. 

Gambling in the Metaverse

Online gambling is already a huge part of the gaming world with online casinos offering virtual games-tables for Blackjack, Texas Hold ‘em, Roulette to name a few. Online slots are only limited by the imagination of the developer. Sports betting and mobile betting accompanies sporting events in an increasing number of US states.

US gambling statistics show clearly that this is a growth market. Now imagine all this in the Metaverse. Without leaving home, travel to a glamorous Casino in Monte Carlo, play Baccarat with James Bond. Will your Bond be Sean Connery or Daniel Craig – or perhaps a 007 of entirely your own imagination? If the sports scene is more your thing, the metaverse will allow you a front-row seat at the World Series alongside your favorite people. 

Is Meta the future or another bubble?

The talk around Meta feels very different from the inebriating days of dot-com. The tech giants like Meta (ex-Facebook) and Microsoft (who own Minecraft) have the knowledge, expertise, and resources to create the future they are imagining. Already immensely wealthy, they are effectively investing in themselves rather than needing to entice venture capitalists to invest in the unknown. If dot-com was a revolution, Meta is an evolution.

Companies that are already hugely successful are opening up this world. Undoubtedly, it will also pave the way for new innovative pioneers to exploit this realm in ways that currently seem unimaginable. 

What will be the game changer is when we can move seamlessly between apps, taking our winnings and purchases (be that in terms of cryptocurrency or non-fungible tokens) from one server or app to another.  Investors, for the most part, are currently playing a wait-and-see game. 

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