I’m getting very excited about our awesome GamesBeat Summit: Into the Metaverse 2 event coming in just six weeks. And it feels like the metaverse — the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One — is becoming a lot more real.
We started talking about science fiction becoming reality years ago, and we staged an early metaverse event in January 2021 with 30 talks on the metaverse. And after a whirlwind year of metaverse and blockchain announcements — culminating with Facebook changing its name to Meta — we are coming back for another helping of metaverse thought leadership.
I never thought we’d be doing online events for so long in the pandemic, but here we are planning our fifth such event. We’ve set up a good slate of speakers for our second annual GamesBeat and Facebook Gaming Summit on January 25, and we are following that with excellent speakers like metaverse visionary Cathy Hackl at our January 26 and January 27 GamesBeat Summit: Into the Metaverse 2 online event.
A lot of people think the metaverse is a bunch of hype, or that it’s already here in the form of Grand Theft Auto Online or Second Life. I don’t think that truly captures the imagination of what could happen with a real-time metaverse, as Subspace‘s Bayan Towfiq likes to call it. The skeptics are the same sort that doubt the impact of blockchain on gaming, even as $4 billion has been invested in nonfungible token (NFT) companies this year and $26.9 billion in NFT sales have been generated.
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The pace of change has thrown all of us off our feet. I also didn’t expect so many metaverse developments this year. It started in March with Roblox‘s $42 billion public offering and its rapid growth for its user-generated content platform, which now draws 49.4 million people every day. Dave Baszucki, CEO of Roblox, will speak at our event for a second time and articulate his company’s plan to make the world of Ready Player One a reality. Back in January 2020, he talked about all of the infrastructure and tools the company was building to bring that reality to life. Now Roblox is worth $55 billion, more than Electronic Arts or Activision Blizzard.
Mark Zuckerberg shook up the world of big tech as he announced Facebook would become a metaverse company and he changed the company’s name to Meta. That raised fears that Meta’s Oculus virtual reality and augmented reality tech could create a walled garden metaverse. But Zuckerberg said he supported the open metaverse and that it would not be built by a single company. He said Facebook was investing $10 billion a year in the metaverse, and his goal was to bring a billion people into the metaverse.
Jason Rubin, a longtime game developer and one of the leaders at Meta on that metaverse effort, will speak at the end of our first-day event. You can bet that the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon, and even Netflix — which is making games now — are watching closely and making their own investments. It’s like the race to build an atomic bomb in World War II. After all this investment, it should bear fruit.
But while VR holds the crown as the most immersive metaverse experience, it will face competition from augmented reality glasses that you can carry with you on the move, as envisioned by Niantic. We’ll also hear from Varjo’s Urho Konttori, whose company in Helsinki is making high-end headsets and the Varjo Reality Cloud, where people can use the internet to visit the places their friends are seeing in VR.
We’ve seen so many visions of the metaverse, and the ambitions have skyrocketed so fast. When Nvidia started talking about the Omniverse in the fall of 2020, it described it as a “metaverse for engineers,” a place where engineers at places like BMW could simulate factories as “digital twins” before building them in real life. Nvidia standardized the 3D data format, invited thousands of enterprise creators to use it, and invested huge amounts in the project.
Then, just a few weeks ago, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang — who often says we are living in science fiction — talked about Nvidia’s ambition to use the Omniverse to build the Earth-2 simulation, which will use the world’s best supercomputers and AI visionaries to create a digital twin of the earth. I asked Huang about this. He said that if they succeed in building a digital twin of the Earth, we get the metaverse for free.
The implications of that kind of investment are staggering for developers, who can start with a huge base of landscapes and other content as the baseline for their creations. Brendan Greene, another speaker and the creator of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, wants to build a planet-scale metaverse dubbed Artemis. He figured he would need a combination of human game design, user-generated content, and AI to build out the content for that world. But he could start with Nvidia’s Omniverse creations.
And Nvidia isn’t the only one offering this kind of free metaverse technology. Epic Games showed off its amazing The Matrix Awakens demo of a virtual city with highly realistic global illumination, realistic cars, 7,000 highly detailed buildings, and 35,000 MetaHumans that could be mistaken for real people. Kim Libreri, who helped create the famous “bullet time” scene from The Matrix so many years ago, spearheaded the creation of the demo for Epic’s upcoming Unreal Engine 5. Libreri, the chief technology officer of Epic Games, will speak at our event about the technology. And, by the way, Epic is going to give away that virtual city, which is bigger than downtown Los Angeles, to customers of Unreal Engine 5 next year.
Carrying on with the theme of The Matrix films — the latest of which The Matrix Resurrections is coming on December 22 — Riz Virk of MIT’s Gamelab will talk about the metaverse and the notion that we will be living in a simulation.
We will also have talks from veterans of the metaverse dreams like Philip Rosedale, CEO of High Fidelity and founder of Second Life, as well as Second Life’s current overseer Brad Oberwager. Raph Koster of Playable Worlds will talk about his vast experience with online games to talk about what works and doesn’t work. And Matthew Ball will bring his thoughtfulness about the metaverse to our audience once again.
That makes me think we’re going to see the metaverse a lot faster than then skeptics think. I hope we do, because the metaverse has stayed science fiction for too long. We’ll have a number of blockchain experts like John Burris of Together Labs talk about nonfungible tokens (NFTs), which would authenticate digital ownership and allow people to take their avatars from one game to another. NFTs — and the true believers who create them — could pave the road for the metaverse. It won’t be easy, as Chris Hewish of Xsolla will remind us with a panel on the regulations of the metaverse.
The diversity of our speakers and their ideas is going to be fascinating. Jeri Ellsworth will tell us about a metaverse-like application where you can play tabletop games with friends. Jace Hall and Rick Fox of HiDef will be able to speak to the creation of an accessible and inclusive metaverse. Nicole Lazarro will discuss designing the metaverse. We’re going to have our third (online) Women in Gaming breakfast that will feature Debbie Bestwick, the longtime CEO of Team17.
Hiro Capital’s Ian Livingstone and Luke Alvarez will talk about the chance for startups to create the open metaverse. And Ryan Gill of Crucible will also lead a discussion about the open metaverse, and why we will have to consider decentralized technology, known as Web 3, to create a peer-to-peer internet that bypasses the controls of big tech. We’ll hear from Nvidia about non-game industrial metaverse applications, and Admix will talk about brands and the metaverse, as those brands will be crucial for mainstream adoption.
And not to be forgotten, we’ll have speakers addressing the topic of the ethics of the metaverse.
If you’ll notice one thing about all of these speakers, you’ll see one common theme for the technologies associated with the metaverse, which will be the next generation of computing and the successor to the mobile internet. Games will lead the way, and that’s why GamesBeat Summit is at the sweet spot.
I hope you’ll join us there. And here’s one more thing. I also hope you’ll become part of our metaverse forum — where we’ve partnered with Subspace to bring a series of public and private events to bring thought leadership and community to the idea of the open metaverse. More on that to come.
Thanks to our sponsors that include the Entertainment Software Association, Subspace, Tipalti, Genvid, Xsolla, Admix, Star Atlas, Scuti, Crucible, Together Labs, and Hiro Capital.
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