Recently, there has been extensive conversations about what exactly is the metaverse, a supposedly “new” buzzword that constantly pops up in the news, business proposals and on social media. However, it is in fact not an original concept and has been described in a novel published back in 1992, Snow Crash.
In spite of that, even that novel doesn’t do the metaverse concept justice, painting it as a dystopian and gloomy future, while platforms such as Second Life provide a much more favorable and practical example of what the metaverse could be. With its focus in UGC (user generated content) and rich creation tools, Second Life is the true experiment of the metaverse, one that has been around for nearly two decades.
The metaverse is the concept of an all-encompassing network of digital worlds focused on social connection that changes and evolves as participants play, communicate, and build. While this is a promising idea, there are too many companies jumping into the space looking to cash-in on the trend, creating their own versions of the metaverse.
From software developers and e-commerce outlets to network providers and social media platforms, investment into building metaverse technology and infrastructure managed to surpass $120 billion in the first five months of 2022 alone .
The alarming part of this advancement is that each company believes they are building the true metaverse, and soon enough there will be hundreds of closed off “metaverses” that are nothing more than regular digital worlds . These closed environments are the complete opposite of the openness and interoperability that a true metaverse requires.
With big companies in control of digital worlds, the recurring issues of communities having no voice or freedom will remain. To make matters worse, we see a trend in the game industry in which creators keep getting the short end of the stick, from not being able to own their creations (be it actual IP ownership or portability) to receiving a very low percentage of royalties .
We also can’t forget the other hot trend, NFTs and blockchain games, promising to revolutionize the industry. However, in most cases the implementation of these brought nothing new to players or creators, other than a speculation frenzy. The current NFT standards are poor, with data not being stored on-chain and missing utilities that are essential to game development. The current backlash from gamers towards NFTs is understandable as these assets offer no use other than being very expensive digital collectables with subpar user experience.
One tendency we are pleased to see is the growth in the number and quality of UGC (user generated content) in videos, music and games.
UGC is a key element in the game industry, giving longevity to games and even spawning completely new genres that took the world by storm . The MOBA genre was popularized by Dota, a Warcraft 3 custom map, and it led to standalone games like Dota 2 (Valve) and League of Legends (Riot). The Battle Royale genre became well known with Minecraft mods and Day Z, a mod for Arma 2, leading to standalone games like PlayerUnkown’s Battleground (PUBG Corporation), Apex Legends (Electronic Arts) and Fortnite (Epic Games).
Thanks to UGC we see games like Team Fortress 2 (Valve) with an average of a hundred thousand players per day, even though the game received little investment or content from Valve in the past 10 years. Players create items, maps and more, which are then traded in the marketplace and create a constant stream of new content for the game, breathing life to the game and its economy.
From modding to making assets for games, creators feel empowered because many players get to enjoy their work while constantly improving their craft and interacting with the community . Meanwhile, players get to keep playing a game they love thanks to the vast influx of new content, something that platforms without UGC might struggle to do.
While the creation and distribution of music and videos has improved tremendously in the past few years, games still have a long way to go because of the complexity that is creating a game. Oftentimes creators feel like their work isn’t fairly valued, get overwhelmed by the complexity of the development process and that there aren’t good alternatives for them to publish their content.
So why are creators and UGC having such a hard time in the game industry?
- 3.Cecilia D'Anastasio, Wired (2021, August 19). On Roblox, Kids Learn It’s Hard to Earn Money Making Games
- 4.Rafi Letzter, Business Insider (2015, July 20). Online communities are changing video games to make them better, weirder, and much more wonderful.