The Metaverse is touted as the next big thing in digital. Here’s a high-level overview and what we think this means for your brand.
In the last quarter of 2021, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the rebranding of the popular social network company to Meta. Proclaiming that the company is shifting its direction to usher in a new era in providing digital experiences; particularly the metaverse.
“In our DNA, we build technology to bring people together. The metaverse is the next frontier in connecting people, just like social networking was when we got started.” – Mark Zuckerberg 
Metaverse has since been the latest buzzword, stirring a ton of early interest and getting major players to start claiming their stake in this still developing phase of technological evolution.
Being in its very early stages of development, a universal definition of the metaverse has yet to be defined and a platform that can truly call itself the metaverse has yet to come. But in principle, the metaverse is a combination of multiple elements of technology—including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and video—where users live within a digital universe. This allows a greater overlap of our digital and physical lives in wealth, socialisation, productivity, shopping, and entertainment.
Metaverse’s Roots in Gaming
One key characteristic of the metaverse is that it has to be a persistent virtual world that continues to exist and function even without the active participation of the player. And it can simultaneously be accessed by several players at any given time. Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games or MMORPGs have been around as early as 1997 spearheaded by the game 1 Ultima Online . MMORPGs gave us a glimpse of what vast virtual worlds can do and the experience they can offer.
Next-generation gaming platforms like Fortnite and Roblox have extensively elevated the experience. Enabling users to watch concerts, build their own games within the platform, socialise, and buy/sell in-game items.
What sets it apart from the metaverse currently conceived, aside from the inclusion of more technological elements, is that its existence does not centre on stories or specific gameplay. It is developed to give individuals full control of their virtual existence and experience. We believe we will however see how gaming and other day-to-day use will be integrated into the metaverse – maybe test drive a virtual Ferrari before work. As in Metaverse, you would skip the commute to work as you switch from entertainment to work on the fly.
Why Should Your Brand Enter the Metaverse?
Metaverses are in their infancy stage. When will it be grown-up? Not very soon. We will see how the graphics improve, and with that, every laptop will have to be built to ensure an immersive experience and get the benefits of the metaverse. In conjunction, we will see utility hardware for AR, VR, and similar experiences come down in price and sold as a package with your laptop or mobile phone. It will be a standard accessory.
More wearables will follow, and with that, more experiences and more real-world actions will be simulated. In time, this will replace the web as we know it today. It will not be sudden but done slowly, slowly, then suddenly. If you are a business and you are not in the metaverse, where will you be? We are at the same stage from the early 90s when every company was registering their web domains. We claim our spot on the web of the future, today. Speculators are buying land and selling it at huge mark-ups. Latecomers will pay the price.
These titles are examples of MMORPGs and those that offer an open world, but the main difference is that these MMOs still revolve around stories, only offering a more lax approach to following them. Users may still feel like they are in control of their story or quest, but it does not give them full authority.
On the other hand, the metaverse will give the public full control over their life, quests, missions, and entire virtual existence. There may be games available, but the reason for being in the metaverse does not revolve around the game, and people may come and go there, unlike games that are the entire world of the digital platform.
As most technologies started with games that eventually evolved, we believe the metaverse will be no different. We believe we will see how gaming and other day-to-day use will be integrated with the metaverse – maybe play a game on your way to your digital office and collect some NFTs on the way whilst eliminating a couple of thugs?
Which Metaverse to Choose?
Although it is early days and it is definitely possible for you to create your own metaverse with the audience you have (if you do have an audience), it is far more difficult and requires a lot more resources, financially and otherwise. Given that It is new and it is still evolving, we can not give an answer as to which metaverse to go for but we can help you decide by looking at several factors including but not limited to:
Start by having a look at the available platforms. Try to get a good understanding of the purpose behind its development. What do the creators envision with their platform? and does it align with your own? How is platform development progressing, and do they have a roadmap for ongoing and future developments? Then give it a run by experiencing the platform yourself. This will help you get a glimpse of how users actually experience the platform which will also indirectly translate to how they can potentially experience your brand in that virtual world.
Just like in the real world, we do not cater to everyone universally, but instead, work with defined customer segments. That will likely be the same when brands dabble in the metaverse and engage their communities. You would want to look at the people who make up the community, are significant in number, but most of all, are the right audience you want to engage with.
The third area for consideration is the metaverse itself; the virtual world where you would claim a stake for your brand. You would want to know who has control over it, including the level of development autonomy they will allow for participants and the tools available to enable this. Then, have a look at interoperability (or the potential of it) with other platforms, the intrinsic economy that will invigorate the virtual world and, of course, the financial costs of participation for your brand.
Is the Technology Ready?
The baseline hardware and software to create the metaverse are there, but not quite at the point where it is envisioned to be. With every major shift, there is a transitionary period where technology is upgraded and improved over time to enable a great user experience.
Accessories, as has always been the case with games, will improve and standards will be set to ensure interoperability between hardware, software, and across metaverses. The tech is evolving, and we will see a rapid replacement of what we have now and what will be needed to truly experience the metaverse at its fullest. There is no end point where we will say we truly arrived. It will continue to evolve and rapid innovation will grow and change the way we see and experience things.
The question you have to ask yourself is “how long will I wait to enter the metaverse and claim my space?” While there may be no “right time”, you do run the risk of being left behind and finding yourself scrambling to catch up with the front runners that will inevitably help shape the emerging experience.
Some Key Aspects of the Metaverse
Centralised or Decentralised
Everything starts centrally. Even Bitcoin was central in its early stages. It appears that most of these metaverses are creating a transition to decentralisation where the community eventually takes control through a foundation and decisions are made by the community.
A centralised metaverse will result in the same challenges we have with big platforms where they decide what can be said and who gets banned. It is our metaverse “constitutional” obligation to ensure that decentralisation is prevalent and that we do not end up with a metaverse god or a purported ruler who has absolute control of the experience.
Crypto and the Metaverse
The internet of money—crypto—will be our “passport” to the metaverse. No more login with either Google, Apple, Facebook accounts, or even email. Your crypto wallet will be linked to the relevant metaverses and you will be able to seamlessly transact peer-to-peer.
Your wallet will eventually house your NFTs, not only your ape avatar but your NFT ID, and a lot more. You will be in control of all your own data and you will even be able to sell it to whomever you want if you wanted to.
Metaverse Possibilities and Actualities
Now let’s get a glimpse of what businesses can possibly do in a Metaverse. Here is a simple first example.
Taking Virtual Meetings
Let’s reimagine the endless video calls and meetings we all had over these past two years with the pandemic. Imagine your next meeting with Hiroki:
You receive a personal (avatar) invite to meet with your boss Hiroki, who is based all the way in Japan, and others across the globe for a financial management meeting in the metaverse.
You, via your avatar, log in to Decentraland with your crypto wallet. On arrival, Hiroki arranged a concierge agent avatar (now still a new made-up job, but definitely something to consider) to meet you and take you to his office in the metaverse. You teleport to the office and are welcomed by his receptionist avatar and taken to the virtual boardroom with a 12-seater table where you meet the seven other participants in this meeting. You make some small talk and then eventually start the business discussions.
Now imagine all of this with all the accessories – that’s how it can be in real life.
Let’s take a Health and Wellness Scenario
An insurer builds a clinic in the metaverse. All health and wellness professionals approved by the insurer have a booking system in the metaverse where you can book some time to consult with any one of them. This can even be done in groups for large simultaneous sessions.
The consultations will remain anonymous and people that are especially feeling vulnerable to being ostracised by their peers can visit the clinic without any fear. Nobody sees the transaction that goes off from their wallets and they remain anonymous if they prefer.
Health care professionals will rent from the insurer based on revenue generated and all of this can settle seamlessly without the need for reconciliations and invoices.
The possibilities are indeed exciting, but there are actually a lot of activities happening in the metaverse as we speak. Decentraland, a user-owned virtual world, is already hosting large events in its realm.
Music festival with real artists: Decentraland had a Metaverse Music Festival headlined by Deadmau5, Paris Hilton and more.
Sporting events as it happens: Australian Open has collaborated with Decentraland for its 2022 season.
Art exhibitions with real artists. Sotheby’s has opened its own virtual gallery in Decentraland.
Check out more events here: https://events.decentraland.org/
Your next app and web development
When is the right time to migrate from web 2 to web 3? This is not a question for us to answer. What we do know is that you need to start planning now. Your page will get fewer hits and engagement as the transition to the metaverse speeds up. As a minimum, start all your research now, make sure you understand the metaverse (as it is now and where it may go) and be ready to make that transition rapidly.
Web 3 and dApps are maybe just terminologies you have heard of but do not really know what it means and how they will impact your brand. One morning this will all change and will leave you wondering why you did not engage with a technology partner that could have helped you keep pace with this digital transition journey.
Meta is centralised and we will have to see what Mark Zuckerberg and his team will deliver. We hope and believe that decentralisation will get preference from participants as they gradually understand the disadvantages of centralisation. As mentioned earlier, we need to avoid the creation of a meta god.
Jackie Du Plooy | Executive Engagement Director, Middle East
20+ years experience in digital transformation, strategy & innovation and commercial management across industries, including BFSI, in several countries in the role of Client Partner. Focus has been on building high-performing teams and sound strategic partnerships by bringing together delivery and commercial teams to drive the customer strategy and journeys of digital transformation.
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Coindesk.com, Decentraland Books Deadmau5, Paris Hilton and More for Metaverse Music Festival, 2021
Cryptotimes.io, Australian Open Enters the Metaverse in Collaboration with Decentraland, 2022
Decentraland.org, Sotheby’s opens a virtual gallery in Decentraland, 2021
Coindesk.com, What Is Web 3 and Why Is Everyone Talking About It?, 2022
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Wired.com, What Is the Metaverse, Exactly?, 2022
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