According to a Bloomberg report, in mid-May 2022苹果公司 demonstrated to its board members the mixed reality (Mixed Reality, MR) headset that is in testing. At the same time, Apple accelerated the development of rOS (reality OS, “reality operating system”), which will be used for mixed reality hardware devices. Although Apple has not officially stated, but Bloomberg estimates that the set is likely to meet the conditions for public release in a few quarters.
If the above reports are true, it would be the first time since the Apple Watch was released in 2015 that Apple has opened a whole new product line. This would also mean that Apple has officially joined the “metaverse” after Meta (Facebook ), Microsoft and Google, has officially joined the “meta-universe” battle. After Apple’s entry, there are not many technology giants around the world who have not entered the meta-universe. Although the meta-universe has become less popular in the capital market, from the perspective of actual business, the situation this year is much better than the past two years.
There is no doubt that Apple is in a state of “growth anxiety”: iPhone growth is slowing, iPad growth has stalled, and no new hardware devices have been released for years. In the past two years, Apple’s highlights have been its own M1 chip (which is widely used in Macs and iPads) and the growth of its services business, such as streaming media and finance. However, for Apple with a $2 trillion market cap, these highlights are not enough to raise the mid- to long-term ceiling. MR technology, which encompasses both traditional VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality), has the potential to provide Apple with a much-needed new revenue stream.
Obviously, Apple’s ambition is not limited to selling hardware devices. Just like Meta, Microsoft and even ByteBeat, it definitely wants to build a “meta-universe ecology” covering hardware, software and services. Then, it will inevitably be involved in the ongoing “first line fight of the meta-universe”. So which side will it be on? It is impossible to tell yet.
There are now three main claims surrounding the future course of the metaverse.
The first comes from cryptocurrency circles, who are most concerned about speculation. Because the meta-universe definitely requires the use of blockchain and NFT technology, they rejoice at the prospect. The cryptocurrency community certainly wants to organize the metaverse around cryptocurrencies, but they don’t have anything concrete and actionable to do so. To put it bluntly, they don’t really care what the meta-universe develops into as long as it allows them to speculate on cryptocurrencies without restraint.
The second one comes from Meta (Facebook ), and perhaps byte-jumping, which has just entered the metaverse circle. Their definition of metaverse is “the VRization of social networks/social media”, that is, doing what they are doing again with VR technology. This is the most widespread view because Zuckerberg is particularly enthusiastic and vocal about the metaverse.
The third type comes from content companies represented by gaming companies, such as Epic Games in the US and MihaYu in China. Until recently, they have generally remained on the sidelines, not eager to express their views on the metaverse. However, just before and after theFacebook around the time of the name change to Meta, the CEOs of two heavyweight game companies made their statements and coincidentally stood in opposition to Meta.
This is the “first route struggle of Meta Universe”. According to Meta’s founder Zuckerberg, the metaverse is naturally designed to “do the job”, and the telecommuting scenario is its first application. Zuckerberg said, “We’re used to sitting in a conference room with other people, not looking at a long list of faces on a screen.” To solve this problem, the only way to rely on the most advanced VR devices. VR will revolutionize the way people communicate online, “communication” (Telecom) into “transmission” (Teleport).
Instant messengers like WhatsApp or video conferencing systems like Zoom are, in Zuckerberg’s view, worthless in the face of the great “teleportation” mechanism of the metaverse. When talking about the social significance of the metaverse, he emphasized that it “allows a large number of employees to work offsite”, thus freeing human productivity from geographical constraints. This is Meta’s metaverse route – allowing employees to meet, collaborate, and conduct business remotely while wearing MR headsets. This route may be practical, but it’s also tedious.
Now, let’s see the viewpoints of two game companies that stand against Meta – Epic Games and Take-Two.
On April 13, 2021, Epic Games announced that it had closed a $1 billion financing round, raising the company’s overall valuation to $28.7 billion. Of this amount, Sony contributed $200 million, with the remainder split between a series of financial investors. The purpose of the financing is to “support Epic’s long-term vision for the metaverse”; more specifically, to “build social experiences in games such as Fortnite, Rocket League, and Sugar Man,” and to strengthen the company’s Unreal Engine, Epic Games Store, and other infrastructure capabilities.
Among the mainstream games in the European and American markets, Fortnite is probably second only to Roblox in terms of its meta-universe overtones because of its extreme freedom and scalability. The game features three main modes.
Among the three modes mentioned above, the most popular and the one with the most players is Operation Airborne, also known as “Chicken” mode. In fact, before the launch of “chicken mode”, “Fortnite” was just a popular American tower defense + shooting game; after the launch of “chicken mode” in September 2017, it leapt to become one of the most popular end-game in the United States and the world, and its popularity It even surpassed the genuine game “Jedi survival”. In 2017-18, there were hundreds of games that imitated and copied the “chicken” gameplay, but only “Fortnite” achieved the greatest success, thanks to its freedom and scalability. Based on this scalability, it is perfectly feasible to imitate other popular games – for example, there is no technical difficulty in implementing MOBA or RTS gameplay in “Fortnite”, which many players have longed for.
In the United States, young people who have not played “Fortnite” is a minority
From a business perspective, Fortnite has been very successful: just over a year after its launch, it had more than 125 million registered users in the second quarter of 2018, and by the end of 2019, the game’s full-life revenue was $9 billion, making it one of the most profitable e-sports games in history. Unlike RoboForex, which is also part of the “meta-universe” concept, Fortnite is an all-ages game with a high percentage of adult players and a mature e-sports model. In the United States, a large number of entertainment and social celebrities are die-hard players of the game, bringing it a huge social impact.
The beauty of Fortnite is that it has not yet launched a mod mode, which means it has not yet allowed players to create secondary content. In contrast, RoboLex relies almost entirely on third parties such as players for content creation, so gameplay updates are far more frequent. However, as early as the second half of 2020, some media reported that Fortnite will launch a mod mode, so I believe this day will not be too far away; it will be a solid step towards the vision of “meta-universe”.
In an interview with The Washington Post on October 15, 2021, Epic founder and CEO Tim Sweeney gave the first full account of his understanding of the metaverse. According to him, the metaverse “is like an online playground where users can play a multiplayer game like Fortnite with their friends, watch a movie on Nifty, and then invite their friends to test drive a new car – a way to build cars in a virtual world that will be not unlike in the real world is no different.”
Immediately after, Sweeney emphasized that “the metaverse should never be a carefully trimmed, insert-ad-everywhere infomercial platform, i.e.Facebook that kind!” I believe that not only Zuckerberg will sneeze when he reads this statement, but Zhang Yiming will probably sneeze as well, because ByteDance also operates more than one “well-manicured, insert-ad-everywhere infotainment platform” and also wants to move such a platform to the metaverse.
Specifically, Sweeney believes that the general public is tired of the current way the Internet works; not only of the technical form, but also of the content form. Who wants to be in an open digital world where VR technology is widespread and still cling toFacebook Who wants to hold on to a “traditional information flow platform” like VR or Instagram in an open digital world? Moreover, the original Internet account model is also outdated, players should have a unified “metaverse virtual identity” to seamlessly log in to all metaverse applications, rather than holding a bunch of Google, or Twitter accounts to switch between.Facebook or Twitter accounts to switch between each other. Although not explicitly stated, the metaverse Sweeney hopes for is likely to be an expanded version of Epic’s game platform – with creators using the advanced Unreal engine for content development and users logging in using their Epic App Store accounts, with a large game like “Fortnite” serving as the hub for all content.
In response to Sweeney’s above point, Zuckerberg can of course backtrack: “Who says the meta-universe era ofFacebook will still be an infomercial platform with ads inserted everywhere?” In a media interview as early as July 22, Zuckerberg made it clear that in the metaverse era, the way people get information will fundamentally change, “Teleport” (Teleport) will replace “Telecom” (Telecom). The current mainstream information streaming media will definitely give way to immersive 3D images. Although no one knows whether the renamed MetaFacebook can realize such a vision, the least we can say is that Epic’s critique ofFacebook s critique is like firing into the void and not really hitting the mark.
It is no coincidence that shortly after, on November 4, 2021, i.e.Facebook a week after the name change to Meta, Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Take-Two, one of America’s largest gaming companies, detailed his views on the meta-universe in an interview with CNBC, and it just so happened that he also stood in denial of Meta! In my opinion, Take-Two’s rebuttal of Meta is much deeper and more technical than Epic’s, and more worthy of invoking and analyzing.
Take-Two is an all-too-familiar name to veteran game fans: the parent company of top game studios such as 2K Games and Rockstar, which owns a number of popular game IPs including Grand Theft Auto (GTA), Wilderness Safari, NBA 2K, Civilization, BioShock, No Man’s Land, etc. Take-Two develops and publishes The games developed and published by Take-Two not only have many fine products, but also have a high success rate and long life cycle, such as Grand Theft Auto
NBA2K” “Civilization” have decades of success, spanning several generations of hardware platforms and profoundly influencing generations of players.
Since Take-Two’s products mostly debuted on console platforms and often involved restricted themes such as violence and yakuza, they were historically not introduced to China in high proportion. However, the impact of Take-Two’s products on the domestic game industry has been comprehensive and profound: today, if we walk into the self-development department of any domestic game company and ask the producer or master planner “what is the ideal open-world game”, he will definitely mention the names of GTA5 and Wilderness Dart Hunter 2. Ask “what is the ideal sports game”, he will definitely mention the name of “NBA 2K”.
Unlike Epic Games, Take-Two has not embraced the transition to an inside-purchase pay model, and the vast majority of its products are still buy-outs. the success of 2018’s Drakengard 2 further cemented its dominance in the 3A game space. In the three years since, the company has continued to expand, setting up a number of new self-research studios and entering more game categories. Incidentally, in January 2022, Take-Two announced its acquisition of American social game developer Zynga for $12.5 billion in cash + stock, thus fully blowing the trumpet to enter the handheld game market. As the best learning object for domestic game companies, Take-Two CEO Zelnick’s view on the meta-universe is bound to get a lot of attention from the domestic game industry.
At the beginning of the interview with CNBC, Zelnick had no problem saying, “Take-Two has long been one of the largest meta-universe companies in the world by revenue or profit standards. We run GTA Online, which I think defines the meta-universe today; we also run Drakengard Online and NBA 2K Online, and countless people log into those games every day.”
Zelnick then defines the meta-universe: “That should be a digital scene that allows us to be entertained, to connect with other people, to talk, to drive, to engage in criminal activity, or to play police to stop criminal activity; you should have fun with that. That’s what we’ve been doing!” Veteran players will know at a glance that this is not the multiplayer mode of GTA5. Of course, Zelnick did not say that GTA5 is the complete form of the meta-universe; he just said that a large open-world game like GTA5 has everything needed for the meta-universe and will be the basic starting point for it.
SoFacebook Why is the meta-universe vision incorrect? Zelnick’s answer is simple: it’s not what consumers want. What Zuckerberg touts is a “strong social VR platform” primarily for telecommuting and business activities; it can certainly be used for entertainment, but entertainment is not a core function. Zelnick believes that this “virtual extension of real life” will not interest consumers; they prefer to have fun through game-like entertainment.
“I doubt we’ll ever get used to waking up every morning and putting on our VR headsets and deliberately sitting at home and going through our daily routines and lives that way. During the epidemic, we had to do it; but did we really enjoy it?”
Do we really like to “work from home”? Doubtful
Zelnick’s question above, I believe, will resonate with many people. This is the fundamental difference between him and Zuckerberg – the latter believes that VR-based telecommuting is the way to go for human society and can “free humans from the shackles of geography”; the former believes that this is a false proposition and that normal people will still The former believes that this is a false proposition, and that normal people still prefer face-to-face work, so the meta-universe is destined to have entertainment rather than work as its main mission. In addition, if Metaverse sells itself as work, it will only be a corporate service business, and only large corporations will take it, with a very narrow range of customers; if it sells itself as entertainment, it will be a consumer business, with billions of consumers all over the world.
There is a good way to determine who is right and who is wrong about Zelnick and Zuckerberg: to see if the telecommuting trend will ebb after the global epidemic subsides, and how employees and employers will actually choose the future of the office. However, I am afraid that the global epidemic will not be quelled in the near future, and even if it is, it will take a long time to reach a new state of equilibrium. This is not a problem that can be solved in the short term.
Therefore, the first line of struggle in the metaverse will probably continue for years and decades to come. From both an empirical and logical perspective, I agree with Sweeney and Zelenick that most people will look forward to having a “second life” in the metaverse, not just a continuation of their real life; therefore, whoever can provide richer entertainment content is likely to have a head start in the early stages of the metaverse. Games and Take-Two are confident in their own meta-universe prospects, which boils down to their belief in their own content ecology and content development capabilities. In their eyes, Meta, a platform company that doesn’t do its own content and doesn’t do content well, is unlikely to win the meta-universe battle.
However, Apple’s entry is another matter. It has far more financial power than Meta, has rich experience in hardware development, and has a complete integrated software and hardware ecology. In the past few years, it has made significant progress in the field of original movies, music and other streaming content, but it has not yet ventured into game development. Apple’s content attributes are far stronger than Meta’s, and it has rich experience in dealing with content developers; in addition, its presence is not small in the office scenario – just look at how many companies in Europe and the US have Macs as their main office computers.
There’s no evidence yet to suggest which side Apple will take in the “first line fight of the metaverse. I believe it’s more likely to be on the “entertainment content” side, but what’s its roadmap? Will we soon see Apple’s own VR games, as well as an MR version of the App Store? In any case, this will be another major transformation in the way humans communicate and entertain themselves after the mobile Internet era. There are so many new things waiting for us in the future that it’s exciting to think about.