Quote of the Day: “An Hour in the Metaverse…”

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Dana Cowley, who is the senior marketing manager at Epic Games (the makers of the phenomenally successful Fortnite), made a great observation about the metaverse that I wanted to share with you:

She said (or perhaps quoted), as part of her notes on the recent SIGGRAPH presentation by Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney:

An hour in the metaverse needs to be better than
– an hour on Facebook
– an hour on Instagram
– an hour on Twitter
– an hour on YouTube
– an hour on Netflix
– an hour in Fortnite
– an hour in anything we have now

In other words, the metaverse has to be so compelling—and offer something so different from what we have now—that people will inevitably flock to use it. It’s something to keep in mind as we look at the current landscape of social VR platforms and virtual worlds.

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What Drives People to Build an Open Metaverse?

Did you know that you can help support my blog (as well as the Metaverse Newscast show), and get great rewards in return? Here’s how.


One of the many people who participate in the discussions on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server is Jin, who is a passionate proponent of social VR platforms built on open, interoperable standards.

Jin has written up a document where he describes why he is so motivated to build an open metaverse. I strongly urge you to go over and read the entire thing yourself, but I will quote a few parts here:

We’re close to arriving into that universe of a massive, persistent, digital spatial reality adjacent to our own. These books have always inspired us from the beginning, it’s time now.

In these books the characters live a dual life between the physical and the virtual world. Ready Player One in particular has a pretty dystopian take on this potential future where their version of cyberspace is largely built and owned by a single company… We can not allow so much power to be in the hands of one company, especially with a medium like VR/AR which hoovers up more data about our surroundings, actions, and reactions to sensory information than any other technology before it. For this reason, Building the Open Metaverse is a Moral Imperative.

Jin takes a look at the current technology landscape, and there is plenty of gloomy news:

  • Five large companies (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google) are accumulating more and more control over people’s data.
  • Over half of all gaming titles and 60% of VR/AR experiences are made with Unity3D, a non-free gaming engine. 
  • High Fidelity and Decentraland absorbed 99% of venture capital funding for open source social VR. Decentraland has shelved VR support after seeing High Fidelity falter in its rollout.

But there are also some bright spots appearing on the horizon, as people create tools to support the building of an open metaverse:

  • WebXR, a device API specification for accessing VR and AR devices, that will evolve a metaverse from individual creators creating experiences that interoperate with other experiences
  • Exokit, a native 3D XR web engine which runs regular HTML+JS WebXR sites
  • Open source protocols: IPFS and Dat
  • Open source XR frameworks: Aframe / BabylonJS / JanusWeb
  • Open source compositors: Exokit and XRdesktop
  • Open source browsers: Janus / Firefox Reality
  • Filecoin, a decentralized storage network
  • Blockchain initiatives such as BitcoinEthereum, and EOS

As I said, it’s worth going over to Jin’s article to read the whole thing. He raises a lot of different issues relating to the open metaverse and the challenges that the endeavour faces. He concludes by saying:

Keeping the web open and free is the fight of our lifetime. I’ve given the past 6 of my best years to researching and building a decentralized metaverse because freedom f*cking matters. Nobody owns the internet or web, it just exists which is why they serve as an excellent foundation for spatial computing.

My hope is that together we can find a way to sustain development, through patronage or ethical monetization schemes, so that our work can reach and liberate the masses.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Thanks to Jin for writing this article! It is inspiring to see so much work being done in these areas. It will be an uphill battle, but a battle worth fighting, nonetheless.

Making Money Off the Metaverse

Did you know that you can help support my blog (as well as the Metaverse Newscast show), and get great rewards in return? Here’s how.


Recently I was approached by an entrepreneur who wanted me to work with him to expand and monetize my comprehensive list of social VR platforms and virtual worlds. I told him I would think about it and get back to him in a couple of weeks. I also was told by social VR researcher and consultant Jessica Outlaw that she used and appreciated my comparison chart of the 12 most popular social VR platforms (which I do need to update soon). This has made me realize that I am one of the few people out there who are actively compiling this sort of information about social virtual reality, and that people are finding it useful.

My comparison chart of social VR platforms (full-size version available here)

I think what I will do (rather than throw my lot in with the entrepreneur and try to make money off my labour) is try to work something up for publication in a research journal instead. Working for a university, I tend to have more of an academic than an entrepreneurial bent anyways. Then I could add it to my résumé for the next time I apply for a promotion at work (assuming I do so before I decide to retire).

Which beings me to today’s topic: people making money off the metaverse. I’m actually already making a little money in two ways:

  1. serving advertising from WordPress’ WordAds and Google’s AdSense on my blog (which brings in anywhere from $5 to $35 per month);
  2. my Patreon page (currently bringing in $13 a month from 7 supporters—thank you!).

This money earned goes toward my blog hosting costs with WordPress (I have their Business plan at $33 a month, billed annually). Every little bit helps!

Other people are generating income by creating content for the metaverse: mesh buildings, trees, and furniture, avatar clothing and attachments, animations, etc. In fact, some Second Life content creators actually are able to make a decent living wage from their work (but they are definitely in the minority; most creators earn only a secondary income from SL, and some do it just for the creative outlet).

I’ve heard that some people are making good money creating and selling custom avatars for VRChat, but I’m not certain that anyone is making a full-time living at it.

A few people like Bernhard Drax (a.k.a Draxtor Despres) have been able to parlay their video-making work into a lucrative side hustle, working for companies such as Linden Lab to help promote their products. Strawberry Singh, who is well-known for her pictures and videos of Second Life, even landed up getting hired by Linden Lab! And who’s to say that what happened to Drax and Berry can’t happen to you, too?

While I seriously doubt that anybody is making a living wage off the various social VR platforms so far (except for the people working for companies creating the platforms, like High Fidelity and Linden Lab), we can expect that at some point in the future, individual entrepreneurs will generate a good income from social VR. The big questions are where and when it will happen, not if. Many people are waiting on the sidelines, honing their skills and biding their time, to see which social VR platforms will take off in popularity. There’s no sense dumping a lot of time and money into a platform if nobody’s using it.

What do you think of all this? Do you think that we are still years away from people earning a living off the metaverse? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments section, or better yet, join the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, the first cross-worlds Discord where people discuss and debate the issues surrounding social VR and virtual worlds. We’d love to have you with us!

Is the Metaverse Going to Look Like Fortnite? Kent Bye Reports on Tim Sweeney’s SIGGRAPH Talk

Bugha and his trophy at the Fortnite World Cup (image from the Guardian)

My Twitter stream has been throwing up all kinds of blogworthy stories lately! The lastest is a series of tweets from Kent Bye, the host of the long-running Voices of VR podcast, who is attending SIGGRAPH 2019, the big annual computer graphics conference, in Los Angeles.

Kent attended a presentation today by Tim Sweeney, the founder and CEO of Epic Games, the maker of the phenomenally successful battle royale game Fortnite. Launched in 2017, Fortnite now has 250 million registered users worldwide, and made US$2.4 billion dollars in revenue in the last year. (Yes, that’s Billion, with a “B”.)

You may have read in the news that the recently-concluded Fortnite World Cup (the biggest computer game tournament in history) was held in New York City, where the company handed out US$30 million in prize money, including a top prize of US$3 million dollars to 16-year-old Kyle Giersdorf (a.k.a. Bugha). In other words, Fortnite is MASSIVE, a cultural phenomenon.

Picture from Kent Bye’s Twitter Feed

The title of Tim Sweeney’s SIGGRAPH talk was “Foundational Principles and Technologies for the Metaverse”, which is perhaps a surprising presentation topic for a game developer. Kent Bye tweeted his notes on Tim’s talk at length:

The future of [a] shared entertainment medium is to have meaningful experiences that people interact with and become a part of the larger world with open world compatibility and open interfaces. The Marshmello concert in Fortnite is one indicator of where it’s going. The metaverse is going to evolve from individual creators creating experiences that interoperate with other experiences.

Need virtual worlds to scale beyond a 200 players on a shard. Need 1 shared world w EVERYONE. Needs a programming environment to scale to unlimited sized. Not single thread C++. Large-scale concurrency w safe transactions that are consistent, durable, isolated.

A viable Metaverse is going to need a successful economy so that creators can make a living, which is absolutely essential. We need a rich set of different economic models. The app store with microtransactions is merely one model. Ad models are dysfunctional.

Kent concluded his series of tweets by saying:

I’m super impressed with Tim Sweeney’s vision of the open metaverse. It’s a breath of fresh air relative to other major players who are trying to own virtual worlds through walled gardens and app store ecosystems. A viable metaverse needs to be open and interoperable.

Wagner James Au, of the long-running blog New World Notes, is less impressed:

Who really needs this? Who actually wants this? I’ve yet to see a succinct, compelling answer to either question beyond the implicit one: Because it’ll be really cool. I’m certainly in that camp, but then again, I’m a gamer/science fiction fan. So yes, I’ve loved the idea of a unified 3D Internet where gaming is significant and meaningful for decades. But I’ve become convinced that metaverse advocates are mistaking their personal preference for a market need — a desire to institutionalize gaming culture as the fundamental, universal culture of the Internet.

In response to skeptical questioning from Wagner on Twitter, Kent Bye responded:

The metaverse was first conceived in science fiction before the modern explosion of 3D gaming and immersive and interactive environments. It was an active feedback loop between game dev architects, but the metaverse today is going to be more of a blend of Fortnite and the open web.

So, what do I think about all this? I must confess that, like Wagner, I am rather skeptical that Fortnite, as it is right now, would form a useful model for the future metaverse. Games are designed to be focused more on linear play-through and set objectives, while virtual worlds are meant to be more open-ended and less goal-oriented in nature (although you can certainly have games within virtual worlds). As well, you can have thriving social communities in MMOs like World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online, so there is a somewhat fuzzy boundary between games and virtual worlds.

I do agree with Tim Sweeney that open standards are critical to create a functioning metaverse, and I also agree with Kent Bye that walled gardens and app store ecosystems are going to hinder, rather than help, usher in a metaverse for everybody.

Tim Sweeney appears to subscribe to the strict definition of the term metaverse espoused by Will Burns: one huge virtual universe instead of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of separate experiences. I’m not 100% convinced that that’s how it is going to play out, either. I think it’s much more likely that we are going to have portals between numerous virtual worlds.

It sounds like it was a very interesting presentation, and I thank Kent Bye for reporting on it!