So, for a second there the release of the Metaverse had us all thinking we’d soon enter a budget version of Ready Player One – only this time it would all be run by Mark Zuckerberg. Yet Meta’s stock has plunged and the initiative still seems to be floundering, despite billions being poured into the Reality Labs division behind it all. Overall capital spending is said to be surging up to around $39 billion next year. In short, the utilitarian dream is in trouble.
It’s easy to understand why some shareholders have reservations, given that the audience seems to be limited to a handful of very tech-skilled gamers. Instead of the immersive online simulation OASIS everyone surely had in mind.
Is It Really The Next Big Thing?
While Zuckerberg could be distracted by a foray into the MMA world, his project continues to struggle, failing to draw in prominent support from cultural icons and influential figures. It just hasn’t been able to entice the younger generation. In fact, British politician Matt Hancock is pretty much the best they’ve done so far – famous for drunken hallway fumblings with a co-worker at the height of the pandemic. Hancock released his own creepy avatar and was revealed as the first MP to be found on the Metaverse.
Meanwhile, Facebook (now rebranded as ‘Meta’) seems to be waiting in the wings as a future playground for anyone willing to don goggles and enter the digitalised town square. It was said that this would be the next generation of the internet – so far, it feels like an abandoned arcade of unattended shows and unappealing games, riddled with expensive skins and premium services.
The Unevolved Internet
Initially, there was talk that everyone would have autonomy within the Metaverse. This would be a more democratic experience of online exploration in which real wealth could actually be attained from integrated NFTs. In order for that to work though you need a high level of repeat visitors. Instead, around 68% of Americans have expressed their disinterest in Zuckerberg’s ‘Meta’ dream. 85% of Gen Z survey responders were simply unsold on the idea as well.
In the end, you’d need a much longer article than this one to uncover the deep-rooted problems stopping the Metaverse from taking off. Maybe it just has the flavour of a fad best left to the insular genius of tech enthusiasts. It certainly doesn’t seem to be drawing in members of the gamer community and the broader population continues to shrug as glitchy avatars pop up in various cringey adverts – some starring a withdrawn Zuckerberg, looking like a despondent ticket salesman at Neverland Ranch.
Maybe the day will come when the Metaverse transforms into a modifiable world populated by our very own avatar community. A multiplayer interface that doesn’t repel the user, but offers new-gen gaming experiences and streamlined access to catalogues of our favourite content. Somewhere we can attend pixelated concerts together and ride 3-dimensional water parks, or whatever it is we’re apparently not getting enough of in the real world. Then perhaps we can herald Zuckerberg as the living incarnation of James Donovan Halliday – for now, we’ll just have to wait and see if he fares better in the MMA octagon.