I have a Nintendo Switch because, like the OG Family Entertainment System and Super NES of years gone by, the console came with two controllers. Playing games with someone else is part of the fun.
But I have been playing Pokémon Scarlet and have once again seen the appeal of single player, campaign-based games. I’m also hyped for Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (Totk, for the cool kids).
As fun as slaving to build up skills while whittling away at a campaign on your own is a great way to escape the world, there is something magical in cooperative gaming that speaks to our human genetic code.
And that’s the bit that the various architects of the corporate metaverses are trying to capitalise on. They see the success of immersive gaming were people (not just children) are buying loot boxes and skins and think “yes, this is what everyone wants to do!”
Okay, there was that one time when my wife turned to me and said “can’t you go somewhere” but that was three months into the pandemic and things were still very much locked down. The world is open now and we can do things with other people.
One of those things is going to the Hollywoodbets Durban July (HDJ, for the cool kids – they’re trying to make it a thing) as an actual person.
Just that the sponsors, Hollywoodbets, have introduced a new event ambassador and they aren’t even a real person. Actual social media influencers are now going to great lengths to pose for pictures and create posts for designers to add yezi_starr in post production.
Like, make your paper – I’m sure Hollywoodbets is paying top dollar for this campaign – but let’s consider the meeting that spawned this effective campaign (also, it is hella effective because my dumbass is writing an entire blog post about it).
Someone (or a group of people) hatched the idea that paying for a design team, an entire supporting influencer marketing campaign, and advertising space was the best way to hype an event that is already a fixture on the South African social calendar.
What is going on?
I have a theory, and it gets wild.
First, we need to go back to 2014 when Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook finally buys a legit hardware company (Oculus) for $2bn on a promise that immersive media consumption is going to move to VR/AR.
At the time Microsoft was all-in on Hololens and the personal technology platform wars were largely decided with Apple and Google sharing the spoils. Facebook has already failed at trying a phone – the HTC First (aka the Facebook Phone) slashed its retail price from $99 to 99c within a month of debut in 2013 – and needed an “in” into personal hardware.
To be fair, the company made back its money with the excellent Oculus/Meta Quest 2, the planet’s best-selling VR headset that reportedly shipped 10-million units. By contrast Sony only managed to move five million PlayStation VR units over a longer hardware lifetime.
Apple scrapped production on the iPhone 12 Mini in its second quarter for achieving similar sales numbers. The only way for the Facebook hardware play to pay off is by increasing demand.
The answer to this question is simple: “what if everything happened in the metaverse?”
Meta – a name that simultaneously shifted focus from the disaster that was the Facebook brand disaster and co-opted the idea of the metaverse – then went on a global campaign to make the corporate misinterpretation of the metaverse.
Marketing agencies and the internet grifters then took what was once an organic evolution of human existence and hastily developed domains for businesses and people to buy space and items. Yes, they tried to create scarcity within the near infinity of the internet.
Suddenly there are countries like Dubai that want to become a top metaverse economy.
But the metaverse of Mark Zuckerberg’s mind will never really be a thing and Tim Cook’s Apple know it. Yes, the personal tech giant had to join the scrum for pandemic-era fads to please its shareholders, but have we actually seen the fruits of that labour? Even now there is historic dissent among employees who don’t believe in the rumoured product.
How convenient that Tim Cook’s Apple kneecapped Facebook’s revenue with a simple change to its app tracking mechanics on iPhones and is now the kingmaker for the metaverse.
Here’s the thing, though, WE’RE ALREADY LIVING IN MULTIPLE METAVERSES and Apple knows this. Look at the progression of the Worldwide Developer Conference invite away from the cartoonish memojis towards a more elegant invite.
We’re expecting to see the Apple AR headset and WWDC23, btw…
And I’m not even counting places like Minecraft and *cringes* Fortnite.
Almost every online interaction you have exists in a form of a metaverse.
Did you chat with someone on an internet connected service recently? Even if it was just WhatsApp or iMessage? Did that app have its own rules for interaction and an understood etiquette or culture that is similar, but not the same as your real world? Guess what: it’s a metaverse.
How many of your friends and contacts are still using their memoji as their avatar? When last have you seen them used by someone under the age of 30?
Tim Cook’s Apple spent a lot of money to try and make animoji a thing and saw how that turned out, now they’re letting Zuck and co. learn the same lessons the hard way, but have a quick on-ramp if the metaverse path leads to gold.
Yeah, Roblox is fun and all, but the kids are on to the fact that the custom skins and accessories are just a cash grab. Also, didn’t we just go on a crusade to teach every kid to code their own stuff?
It’s not a profitable business if even the computers can do it – trust me, I write words for a living in a world where ChatGPT exists.
I play games for fun and do like customising my in-game avatar, it would totally suck the fun out of it if that realm became work. What benefits does a virtual room and goofy avatars bring over a Teams call? Will it allow me to smell or taste my colleague’s new coffee when they live on the other side of the world? No.
The company wins because it has more reliable tools to track what I’m doing during work hours than when I have my camera off on the Zoom meeting. The network carriers win because they are selling higher priced data packages. And Meta (or any hardware manufacturers) win because there’s a reason for people to buy headsets and accessories.
Hollywoodbets wins because the primary face of the HDJ can’t go out and tweet something dumb without committee approval, and all the sponsorship revenue that other brands are willing to spend on Durban July adjacent marketing can flow straight to the influencer account with the biggest following.
Markie Mark and the Facebook bunch are quickly learning that the gig is up. When NFTs were exposed as a scam, the business of the metaverse died with it.
Now kindly get off my face.