Metaverse 101: Guide for beginners

By Calum Smith, Client Director Calendar Icon 22 October 2021

Aurora's Chief Strategy Officer, Valerie Bounds, dancing at he Roblox Insomniac World Party festival

 

If you’re into gaming in tech and have opened an article related to those topics, you’ve probably come across the term ‘metaverse.’ Admittedly, the term metaverse is a bit intimidating on the surface. Still, we’re going to break it down so you can feel confident in knowing what it means, who is creating it and why everyone is talking about it.

What’s in a name? 

A fun fact, the word metaverse didn’t come from a software engineer working in a secret CIA bunker, as you may assume. It was, in fact, coined by Neal Stephenson, a science fiction writer and first appeared in his 1992 book, Snow Crash. In this book, humans acting as avatars interact in a 3D space based on the real world. If you’re thinking of the Matrix, you’re not that far off. The actual word itself takes its cue from this scenario; ‘meta’ meaning beyond and ‘verse’ coming from the end of the word universe. So think of the metaverse as a virtual world beyond our universe. 

Isn’t the metaverse just VR?

No, not exactly. While the metaverse may draw upon VR technologies, a very specific set of criteria makes a metaverse. First, a metaverse must be some kind of shared arena where users can interact with one another. So unlike a VR headset video game where a user is able to play in an immersive environment but still is playing solo, the metaverse is built around the interaction between users. Next, a metaverse must be three dimensional and digitally driven. This differentiates a metaverse from an open-world game like Minecraft, where users can interact with each other but only in a 2D environment. Some earlier front-runners to the metaverse included games like Second Life in the early 2000s. Lastly, a metaverse should combine physical and online elements. This blurring of reality is what makes the metaverse such a seismic shift from the technology we’ve had in the past. 

Who’s building the metaverse? 

When the metaverse comes up in conversation, one brand’s name has often is attached, Facebook. Just recently, Facebook announced it would change its name to reflect its endeavours into the metaverse space. They’ve also recently announced plans to hire 10k people in the EU to develop its metaverse. This comes off the back of their investment into their Oculus VR headsets which are cheaper than rival products, and investment into VR apps for hanging out with friends or meeting with work colleagues.

While Facebook is leading this space, it’s not the only big player to show interest. Epic Games, the makers of Fortnite, have been strong advocates of developing the metaverse and recently this past year announced the close of a 1 billion dollar investment round to see their vision realised. Other companies like Roblox, Unity and Nvidia have expressed interest in the metaverse. 

The Future of the Internet:

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the metaverse feels and sounds like a fad. After all, look at what happened to Second Life – and do you remember Google Daydream? Didn’t think so. 

What makes the metaverse more than just a fad is one, the significant investment behind developing it, and two, its potential application to our everyday lives. We’ve seen that it isn’t just Facebook leading the charge, other big players are looking to get in on the metaverse, and they’re putting their money and reputations at stake in the process. More so, the technology to enable a metaverse to function now exists. Facebooks’ Head of Experiences Product Marketing for Facebook Reality Labs says this; “I think one of the reasons this is so important right now is we’re at a turning point in how people can think about relationships across distance.” Last but not least, there’s demand for a metaverse. Games that operate like a metaverse, such as Fortnite and Roblox, had a combined 387.1m users in 2020, and that number is only trending upwards as players seek to build friendships and communities online. 

Brands also stand to gain new opportunities to reach their customers in never before ways through the metaverse. Many of the headline-making examples have come through Epic’s Fortnite. Brands have experimented with offering players specially branded ‘skins’ that users can use on their online avatars. A great example of a brand using this tact was Samsung Galaxy’s 2019 campaign with Fortnite. The skin they created became buzz-worthy news and generated 2.6 billion related impressions. Another example was the Gucci Garden on Roblox, a branded environment where users could experience the house’s collection through the game. 

Hopefully, this short beginners guide has given you a better idea of what the metaverse actually is and why you see it all over your feeds. If your next thought is ‘how can your brand get into the metaverse?’, Aurora offers a full range of strategic and marketing services aimed at helping brands jump into the brave new world of the metaverse. To get in contact with our team, click the contact button in the menu.

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