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Metaverse Gaming: What is this Video Game Industry Trend?

This year, one of the biggest video game trends is metaverse gaming, which is gaming that virtually transports players into an immersive 3D world, akin to something that comes from a sci-fi novel.

That this idea jumps straight out of sci-fi is quite literally true. But in the past years, metaverse gaming has gradually moved from fiction to fact as major tech companies rush to pioneer the virtual world closely resembling the one described in the novel Snow Crash (1992).

Take Meta (formerly Facebook), for example. In an effort to show its commitment to bringing “a metaverse to life”, where interconnected VR-based socializing and gaming are possible, the big-time social media company Facebook had rebranded and changed its name to Meta in 2021.

Then, there’s Microsoft buying Activision Blizzard Inc. for a staggering $68.7 billion. A post in Microsoft’s official website says their acquisition of Blizzard will not only help Microsoft ease into gaming but also “provide building blocks for the metaverse”.

These major steps have made metaverse gaming a hot topic that leaves people feeling exhilarated or confused. So we’re here to thoroughly examine this trend and give you the lowdown on exactly what it is.

What is Metaverse Gaming?

But before going into it, we’ll first tell you what a metaverse is not. At present, what it isn’t is existing — or at least, not how technologists and tech enthusiasts envision it to be. 

Technically, a metaverse involves a “centralized virtual world”, says an article in Time, where you can engage with other users via your avatar. 

In a metaverse, everything is ideally connected, from environments to assets. There, people can gather, communicate, play, trade, and own digital property as though they were in the real world.

Second Life (2003) is an oft-cited example of a metaverse-adjacent platform. Real-world activities, including trading with legitimate money, already take place there. However, it appears what giant tech companies want in the future is the inclusion of virtual reality (VR) technology.

This practically sets up the stage for metaverse gaming, which is, as the term suggests, is gaming within the metaverse. 

Image credits to Canva

The Elements of a Metaverse Game

A ton of things can go into a metaverse game, but we can pare them down to the essentials. Here are the basic elements of a metaverse game.

  • An interoperable 3D virtual environment
  • Players participating and interacting through their avatars
  • Ownership of in-game assets material or immaterial to the game’s objectives
  • Game mechanics and objectives
  • VR hardware to enable players to join

When you look at them, they have a lot of similarities to video games and the idea of a metaverse as separate concepts. If a metaverse is a virtual environment where people can interact, socialize, and play, isn’t that the same for video games and games taking place in a metaverse?

How is traveling around the metaverse so different from playing a highly immersive adventure game? What separates metaverse gaming from existing games and from the metaverse itself?

Metaverse vs Games vs Metaverse Gaming

Microsoft CEO and chairman Satya Nadella says, “Metaverse is essentially about creating games,” according to a report in PC World by senior editor Mark Hachman. Given the current goals tech companies have for building a future metaverse, Nadella seems to be correct.

Grand Theft Auto, Fortnite (2017), and Roblox (2006) are all considered video games taking place in a metaverse-like environment. Yet, at the same time, players can socialize, create things, and own in-game assets in that digital space. So, if we’re going to take the definition of a metaverse and compare it with metaverse gaming, they’re oddly similar.

While play is a predominant feature in an ideal metaverse, not everyone will agree it’s the primary goal. In a CNET interview with Zuckerberg in mid-2021, he talked about then Facebook’s plans with the metaverse. Zuckerberg said he principally envisions it to involve productivity and virtual get-togethers, among other non-gaming activities.

Their Differences

It’s undeniable there are overlaps among the three, and their definitions differ depending on who you ask. But judging by what we know so far, these are their core differences:

MetaverseGaming Metaverse Gaming
Virtual reality technologyIdeally requires VR technologyGood but not necessary for gamingIdeally requires VR technology
3D graphicsA 3D environment is necessaryPopular in gaming but unnecessaryMay or may not require 3D graphics, depending on the execution of the metaverse-based game
GameplayNot necessary for all technologists and metaverse enthusiastsGameplay is necessary for any type of gameGameplay is necessary for metaverse-based games
SocializingInteracting with other players is necessaryPossible but not necessary for video gamesMay or may not be necessary, depending on the execution of the metaverse game
Interoperability(the ability of virtual platforms or environments to be crossed by players with ease)Interoperability among virtual worlds appears to be necessaryInteroperability is not necessary for gamesAs it takes place in the metaverse, interoperability appears to be necessary

Current Developments in Metaverse Gaming

Now that we can delineate the differences between metaverse and metaverse gaming, we have to ask — are we any closer to seeing these turn into reality? 

Besides mobile gaming, NFT in video games, and augmented reality games, metaverse gaming is predicted to be one of the biggest trends in 2022. We may not see a fully fledged metaverse this year, but what we will see are efforts geared toward this VR-enabled space.

Image credits to Canva

Companies Bracing for a Future Geared toward Metaverse Games

Aside from Meta and Microsoft, other companies beginning to invest in metaverse gaming include:

  • Unity
  • Epic Games
  • Roblox

Late last year, Unity acquired VFX company Weta to expand its array of visual effects capabilities. Weta’s responsible for the effects in award-winning films and series like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. A report in Variety says Unity’s ultimate goal for this move is to create “the next generation of real-time 3D content for the metaverse.”

As for Epic, they announced in a post last year that the company “completed a $1 billion round of funding”. With this, they plan to pursue the company’s vision for a metaverse, Epic CEO and founder Tim Sweeney said.

“We are grateful to our new and existing investors who support our vision for Epic and the Metaverse. Their investment will help accelerate our work around building connected social experiences in Fortnite, Rocket League and Fall Guys…” he said.

Roblox, on the other hand, has a slightly different tactic, hoping to build a metaverse made up of its current user base. Because its players are predominantly composed of teens and children, the company underlined greater safety protocols on its platform.

The technology involved in making metaverse gaming a real, tangible thing rather than a theoretical ideal will be tricky. But it’s safe to say the company that crosses the line first is set to make waves in the future — whether or not their attempts will have been successful.

In Summary

While metaverse gaming in the way tech enthusiasts envision it to be isn’t existent right now, big companies are rushing to be the first to make this technology a reality. 

Metaverse gaming is gaming within the metaverse. It combines the key elements of video games and a metaverse, which involve an interoperable 3D world, players as avatars, in-game assets, gameplay, and VR hardware.

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