It will be limited to an audience of tech-savvy gamers unless a decentralised immersive virtual world is created along user-friendly lines.
The metaverse is being touted left, right and centre as ‘the next big thing’. This is exactly what it has the potential to become - but only if it sorts out four major issues that continue to limit its progress.
Prominent individuals - from investors to politicians - are supporting the metaverse. Recently, British politician Matt Hancock unveiled a strangely unnerving avatar of himself and became the first MP to join the metaverse. Mark Zuckerberg has made no secret that the metaverse is the cornerstone of his plans for Facebook, which he has even taken the step of rebranding as ‘Meta’.
The hype surrounding the metaverse and web3, which is set to usher in the new ‘generation’ of the internet, has been deemed exaggerated and overblown by a number of skeptics.
The most exciting thing about all of this is that, if anything, people are underestimating the colossal potential that the metaverse has. It can be the pathway towards a decentralised and democratic form of the internet, in which everyone has ownership of their experience within it, and has the opportunity to build real-life wealth through the integration of NFTs.
The problem is that none of this potential will be realised if metaverses continue as they are today. At the moment, 68 percent of Americans report feeling uninterested in Zuckerberg’s ‘Meta’ vision, while 85 percent of Gen Z respondents to a recent survey shrugged and said they were ‘indifferent’ about brands building a presence in the metaverse.
It sometimes feels like web3, the metaverse and NFTs are all being treated as a niche, conspiratorial fad that is being championed by tech enthusiasts, but that won’t catch on in the long term. The metaverse can offer us so much, yet it seems to be failing to strike a chord beyond the gamer community.
We need to change this for two key reasons. Firstly, if people do not get involved, then they will miss out on this truly revolutionary creation. But equally, if the metaverse does not engage the broader population, then it will not be able to gain momentum and reach the heights that it is capable of.
Mainstreaming the metaverse
There are four central, deep-seated problems with the metaverse that are currently preventing it from flourishing.
The first issue - and perhaps the most crucial - is that today’s metaverses are metaverses in name and nothing more. For it to be a genuine metaverse, it must be community modifiable, which means that everyone can interact with the virtual world and be in control of those changes. Today’s metaverses are simply multiplayer games that are operated by the same centralised teams on centralised infrastructures, and that, somewhere along the line, someone has decided to call ‘metaverses’.
The second key issue is that these ‘metaverses’ are hard to play. They have complex and highly user-unfriendly interfaces, which often require people to sit down and wait as custom software is installed before they can play the game. If metaverses are to transcend its current demographic of gamers, then they need to be far more slick, streamlined and simple to access. Especially in today’s attention economy, complicated metaverses will not reach the wider audience that they are striving for.
Thirdly, not only are they difficult to interact with, but they are highly complex to build and plan for the web3 teams behind them. These teams are inefficient at building stable, long-lasting economies and developing engaging virtual worlds.
Linked to this is the fourth stick in the spoke of our current selection of metaverses - the fact that not only are they hard to build for web3 teams, but game development teams also struggle with their creation, particularly due to their general mistrust of NFTs.
Many view NFTs’ integration into games and metaverses as mere money-making schemes, and they point to the fact that $200 million has already been spent on virtual items in the metaverse as evidence of this. More than two-thirds of gamers stress their distaste for NFTs being included in their multiverses.
However, NFTs are a pivotal part of the solution for warding off the metaverse’s four e-horsemen. In order to create a genuine and widely accessible metaverse, it needs to be decentralised and community-run, thereby ensuring that everyone owns their experience of the virtual world. That way, even if one server goes down, the metaverse stays up and running, because it is not dependent on one centralised platform.
NFTs must then be integrated as a means of enhancing the user experience; this can be achieved through the use of multi-resource NFTs, for instance, which enable the player to use their downloadable assets across multiple worlds.
Furthermore, these platforms must be easy to interact with, open and hyper-casual. If metaverses are fogged by endless technicalities and complex interfaces, then it will not be long before the average, non-native gamer’s eyes glaze over. Unless the big metaverse-building corporations commit to this mission of creating user-friendly, decentralised worlds, then the metaverse will be limited to an audience of tech-savvy gamers.
The metaverse has the potential to completely reshape the economy, travel industry and so much more, and we cannot afford to stand by and let this opportunity slip through the hands of inept developers and web3 teams. Companies and creators must be more ambitious, and this means looking beyond gaming, centralisation and needless complications.
If they do not do this, the metaverse will not be the brave new world we all hoped it would be. Rather, it will just be the same old Playstation game that’s been draped in a shiny new coating.
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