For most people, it is difficult to distinguish virtual platform, virtual world, and Metaverse. The definitions of these three are not completely and accurately outlined. According to former Amazon Studio Strategy Director Matthew Ball, virtual platforms are platforms similar to Roblox and Minecraft, or the online mode in GTA and the creative mode of Fortnite.
At the same time, the virtual platform is one of the subsets of the virtual world. Multiplayer online games like “Call of Duty” are virtual worlds, but they are not virtual platforms.
Of course, the article explains in detail the elements that Metaverse must have, and unlike Web 2.0, the design of Metaverse is interconnect-oriented. This article uses Omniverse, a computer graphics and simulation platform under Nvidia, as a background, to imagine the embryonic development and trend of Metaverse.
The original translation of the rhythm is as follows:
This article focuses on the role of virtual platforms in Metaverse. In the text, the virtual platform is defined as the development and operation of an immersive simulation environment or world, which is usually experienced in three-dimensional form. Players and companies can explore, create, socialize and participate in various activities such as racing, competition, painting, listening to songs in the world, and generate economic activities. Unlike traditional online activities and multiplayer video games, platforms defined as virtual platforms have a large ecosystem of developers and content creators. This ecosystem can capture a large amount of content for the underlying platform and may also capture a large amount of capital income.
In the foreseeable future, most of us will access Metaverse through an immersive platform with consumption and interactive attributes. These platforms can be accessed through various platforms, such as web browsers, VR headsets, and so on. We can go shopping, shop, display collections, study, etc. in Metaverse.
Today, the most popular virtual platforms are Roblox and Minecraft in a broad sense, and in a narrow sense the online mode in GTA and the creative mode of Fortnite. Just as the leading indicators of the mobile Internet are smartphone penetration and usage, the number of App developers and total revenue, the leading indicators of virtual platforms are total active users and participation, as well as total active user consumption and developer revenue. In the past decade, the leading indicators of virtual platforms have continued to grow. Even after COVID-19, it still maintains a growth trend.
It is no coincidence that all current head virtual platforms are derived from games. For a long time, the virtual scene experience built by games has always been the most complex, largest, and most diverse. No other consumer-level virtual experience requires such computing power. Of course, the ultimate goal of the experience presented by these virtual platforms is to be “interesting” and to attract users and allow them to spend more time and money, but this is not Metaverse.
Nvdia founder and CEO Huang Renxun stated in 2021 that it is very rare for a market to require powerful technology while having a huge scale. Generally speaking, the market size that requires powerful computers is relatively small, whether it is climate simulation, molecular simulation and drug discovery. Their markets are too small to afford huge investments. This is why we cannot find a company established specifically for climate research in the market. From this point of view, video games are one of the best strategic discovery decisions we have made.
Therefore, it must be emphasized that the virtual platform is a subset of the virtual world, not a synonym. Therefore, although the popular multiplayer online game “Call of Duty” is a virtual world and game, it is not a virtual platform. “The Legend of Zelda” is also an online multiplayer sandbox game with developer and UGC functions, and it does not belong to the definition of a platform. Similarly, “Animal Crossing” does not meet the definition of a platform. A virtual Disney theme park in which users can use prefabricated templates to make amusement facilities does not meet the definition of a platform, because it is a virtual city belonging to the brand.
Social Capital founder Chamath Palihapitiya once quoted Bill Gates as saying that a platform means that the economic value of each user who uses it exceeds the value of the company that created the platform. Epic founder Tim Sweeney believes that when most of the content people spend time browsing is contributed by other users of the platform, the platform is a virtual platform. Of course, whether it is based on games, or virtual worlds similar to fashion shows or galleries, you can connect to the Metaverse platform, integrate with Metaverse-based services and use Metaverse-specific technologies.
A virtual Metaverse platform must have:
·Relatively unconstrained ability to innovate technology, including engine, studio and tool direction;
·Supporting services, including prefabricated components, asset markets, voice chat tools, account systems, payment services, etc.;
· Control a multi-faceted economic system, such as the creators and developers on the platform sharing the profits contributed by the platform users, and the income distribution between the two.
If they can function, these platforms will form a virtuous circle. Better technologies and tools bring a better experience, which will attract more users and increase their willingness to pay. Then, the platform generates higher profits. Benefits drive developers to develop better technologies and tools to form a better user experience.
Outlook beyond the game
More importantly, the virtual Metaverse is not limited to games, just like Roblox no longer calls itself a gaming platform, and replaces the term “game” with “experience” for things built inside. Therefore, more and more other types of non-gaming Metaverse platforms, such as Snap, are trying to become a Metaverse platform based on location and augmented reality. The platform is built around Snap’s account and avatar system. Niantic also said that it is rapidly releasing an augmented reality platform suitable for current and future AR hardware, and may be integrated into the “Pokémon Go” game in the future to expand its UGC capabilities. Facebook is developing its own AR and VR platforms, as is Microsoft.
Nvidia’s Omniverse is a good example. This is a computer graphics and simulation platform that helps companies bring together various digital assets into a single virtual environment, regardless of its format and engine. Of course, this is a solution, not a platform in the strict sense. Because Omniverse is actually just solving the problem of companies using file formats and helping them to cooperate with third parties that use different technology stacks. However, you can see the prototype of Metaverse from Omniverse.
Hong Kong International Airport is modeled by the famous game engine Unity. Modeling with Unity is not his best tool for designing airports. On the contrary, he uses Unity because of his advantages in simulation. As a game engine, Unity can not only render unrealistic environments, but also simulate the flow of people in emergency situations such as fires, floods, power outages, and road congestion for stress testing.
This is a qualitative leap, and similar operations are being carried out from industrial engineering to movies. Just as cars are designed using simulators and game engines, and the same software is deployed in the final product, Hummer’s dashboard UI is developed based on the Unreal engine and used to simulate car conditions in real time.
This is the power of Omniverse. As the world shifts to the direction of digital twins, the previous independent analogues have begun to be connected. Just as the Hong Kong International Airport is connected to the local expressway in the virtual world, it can be used to test the local traffic scene simulation. And connected with the street light system, it may provide accurate information about the traffic flow on local roads.
The key to Omniverse is that you can realize the connection of virtual things without considering the file format and engine simulation technology. In other words, all this does not need to happen on Unity, Unreal or AutoCAD. Although Omniverse is only used for design and testing today, we can imagine NVIDIA using this technology, coupled with its own industrial computing power, to operate most of the entire mirrored world.
Other companies are seeking opportunities to enter the virtual world from other tracks. Matterport creates virtual copies of their properties for real estate owners. The most basic value is reflected in providing buyers, tenants and even construction workers and service providers with potential opportunities to understand. The 3D high-definition virtual model can function blueprints and information that photos cannot provide. In the future, real-time information data can be integrated to simulate the real-time information of the block system, including the store, safety, temperature, weather, and traffic, and look in a visual form. Then, many digital twins are connected to each other, which means that the value of floor plans and street views will gradually decrease. PTC hopes to achieve this goal through industrial AR.
Dozens of virtual platforms, including Decentraland, The Sandbox, Cryptovoxels, Somnium Space and Upland, etc., hope to use blockchain to replace Minecraft and Roblox. Compared with Minecraft and Roblox, these platforms differ in economic incentives. These platforms provide users and players with the ability to truly own the items or land in the game, and give them the ability to earn more income in the real world. Players have the ability to directly participate in the overall value growth of the platform, and sometimes even have part of the governance rights of these platforms. If done well, it can greatly motivate users to participate.
If users like to play Fortnite or Instagram, and can profit from it or participate in governance, players are more inclined to invest and use them. After all, millions of users spend a total of billions of hours farming in the Farmville game, which neither generates real-world income nor farm ownership. Today, Gala Games is reconstructing the game through blockchain, giving the game rights to gamers.
Although the most successful virtual platforms benefit from a virtuous circle, the possibility of other virtual platforms being born and popular is not small. In the past seven years, when Microsoft acquired Mojang in 2014, Minecraft sold more than any other game in history, and had more monthly active users than any Western game in history. Today, Minecraft has grown 5 times. But at the same time, Roblox’s monthly life has grown from 2.5 million to 200 million. Fortnite also has 70 million monthly livelihoods, and GTA Online also has 50 million monthly livelihoods, which does not count other blockchain platforms.
Tim Sweeney believes that it’s like every company created its own web page decades ago, but at some point, every company started creating a Facebook page. Now every company is cooperating with games for real-time 3D display. This situation has now begun to happen. This will be a bigger thing than these previous generational changes.
The gaming and technology circles believe that more things will happen, not just that. In early 2020, Riot Games acquired Hypixel Studios. Hypixel Studios previously operated a large number of private Minecraft servers to build its own sandbox platform, although it has since closed operations. Some well-funded startups, such as Mythical Games, Playable Worlds and Singularity6, have also begun to receive attention.
Crucially, the design of Metaverse is interconnect-oriented, which is not the case with today’s dominant social platform, Web 2.0 platform. If Facebook is not the “Internet” or even part of FAAMG, then Metaverse will also become rich. This brings us to the next and most important part.