At the end of 2021, everyone was talking about the metaverse, but now it seems that interest is waning. Although one of the best-known companies in the world is fully committed to it (and has even changed its name), the metaverse does not have to be a great success. Could it even be a complete failure?
Sure. We’ve seen major projects die before. VR itself is known for saying every year that it will be THE year of VR, without ever truly becoming mainstream. Or think of the paperless office, for example: even in the most digital organizations there is a printer somewhere in the corner that is sometimes used.
This week, the former CEO of Nintendo of America spoke very negatively about the metaverse. During South by Southwest, he said that Facebook is not an innovative company because it mainly takes good ideas from the companies it buys (like Instagram and Oculus). On the metaverse specifically, he said, “I don’t think your definition of the metaverse is a hit.” He is not alone in this.
Those who oppose the metaverse are upset first of all by the fact that a lot of things that have never had a metaverse tag before are suddenly being saved that way. Minecraft is suddenly called the metaverse and the same goes for all sorts of VR apps that never had that title before. Also: virtual reality already exists, what will be the added value of the metaverse: it already works fine as it works now, only it is not yet accepted by the masses (which in itself also carries all the associated risks if everyone wanted to have in VR in that metaverse). That’s not the biggest criticism though, because that’s mostly the idea behind the metaverse.
The annoyance is how Meta presents it as a way to ‘connect’ people, when it is mainly about cleaning up the bad image of the social network, as well as being a new way to make users money. And no matter how loud Meta shouts that she doesn’t want to do it alone and that she should be a metaverse for everyone, the company (again with that name) puts its stamp on this ‘new internet’. Accordingly, another argument against the metaverse is that it shouldn’t be started by large, established companies, but that smaller, newer, fresher, younger companies should be given the opportunity to grow.
There are also people who think that the metaverse has no future, because it simply already exists. Of course, the internet is also a metaverse somewhere: a place where people meet online and where you can pretend to be a completely different person. The question is: is such a metaverse really necessary? Isn’t it nice to expand the Internet with more virtual reality experiences, instead of having to give it a whole new look? After all, everything the metaverse has to do is already possible on the internet, only now it’s a bit looser than Zuckerberg intended.
It may not be the best idea to rely so much on virtual reality. People still get nauseous when wearing VR goggles, and it’s not meant to sit on your head all day anyway. There goes your full day of work meetings in the metaverse. Plus, it’s also more taxing on your eyes and brain, which ultimately makes it less appealing as a very standard thing to do: live in virtual reality. Just an hour is fine, but with what Zuckerberg is planning, an hour a day is not enough. See how much time people spend on Instagram and TikTok, or how many commercials Meta is likely to add to their metaverse. After all, as the owner of Oculus, you’ve already taken such business steps within those VR headsets.
A brand renewal exercise
Obviously, the metaverse could fail completely, of course. Maybe because it comes from Facebook. The company has shown on several occasions that it does not always want the best for its users and the trust that people have is low. So it makes sense for it to rebrand, but isn’t the entire metaverse just one big rebranding exercise? That’s ultimately one of the biggest reasons the metaverse can’t pull it off: whoever pulls the cart might be the one who sits best behind that cart.
That’s the beauty of the metaverse, though: there are several, so anyone can create one. It also depends on the definition you use: are you talking about the metaverse of Meta or the metaverse in general? There are already metaverses that have been successful, such as Decentraland. So, at the same time, there’s a lot of hope that ‘the metaverse’ will be a hit and really represent the new way of using the internet. The evidence is there, but the masses are yet to come. People have to choose for themselves to step into that metaverse. And that is something that not even Meta can ultimately control.
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