Last month, I met a friend for the first time since the second quarter of 2019, before Covid. We celebrated on the terrace of a West End restaurant in London, surrounded by customers devouring their steaks and chips, before the shows began at neighboring theaters. With the arrival of new friends, the overwhelmed waiter quickly prepared a second table to join ours, but he stumbled upon an irregular tile and poured wine down my pants.
If you want to compete with this particular dose of real-world fun and comedy — the combination of the warmth of a reunion and a cold wine bath, accompanied by a salty bill — the metavers will have to work very hard to catch up. control of the $ 13 trillion economy that many people predict. The current hype about the new market, at least for now, could turn out to be a phenomenon associated with the pandemic.
That $ 13 trillion figure, according to a report released this week by Citi Research, is the highest end of the hypothetical economic range for the broader definition of metavers, later this decade. The term is being used with increasing frequency to encompass all future routes that may be covered by the Internet and by each company, institution, and person involved. The manager of a large international investment fund tells me that he loves the idea of metavers, but that he is unable to point out a single share of his portfolio from a company that operates exclusively on metavers.
However, a number of similar projections have reached the desks of fund managers in the eight months since Facebook fueled general excitement by declaring its commitment to metavers, which even included changing its name to Meta. Inevitably, when customers eager for ideas ask for the best way to handle it, the instinct of stock traders has been to stretch the package of company names associated with metavers to the fullest, and with that its scope is it has become astronomical, almost incomprehensible. . At the moment, the best bet for investment seems to be the companies that work with shovels and pickets (that is, they handle the digital infrastructure and hardware) and, theoretically, will build the platform on which the user base of metavers will expand to, who knows, billions. of the people. The corporate world (especially intensely in Asia) has met these expectations with grandiose strategies for metavers that, in most cases, have so far cost almost zero and have not forced companies to make any commitments.
This extension of scope was facilitated by the complexity involved in defining the metaverse. When a panel of renowned international experts attempted to address this challenge in the global meeting room, an event hosted by the Financial Times on Tuesday, participants did an excellent job. But they recognized that fundamental history — the convergence of physical and digital life — was a mixture of the genuine migration of work and leisure into the digital world (which is partly already underway) and speculative fantasies. We are talking, remember, about an investment issue that allowed JPMorgan to tell investors in January that “a next-generation financial company could turn to digital clothing as collateral for mortgages on land and real estate.” statement like a total nonsense.
The Citi report, along with other studies that preceded it, describes metavers as “a three-dimensional virtual space that is interoperable with the physical world, and represents a change of pace from current Internet content, which is based on a two – dimensional web. ” Morgan Stanley, in a February report, expressed a more limited view of a “next-generation social media, streaming, gaming and shopping” platform.
The Internet is clearly on its way to a new phase in which much of what we now think of as “online” will be presented in the form of a virtual world. Games, entertainment, and parts of the workplace will be the first in transition, but technology will evolve to attract everything else, and ultimately the risk of being left out of the metavers will outweigh the risk of joining. yes, for companies.
But there is a serious timing issue related to all the hype about a $ 13 trillion market. The concept of both the metavers and a distinctive transition to a new phase of the Internet may have existed for a long time, but the truly explosive speculation on the subject reached its peak at a time when the world felt especially receptive to the idea of life in a virtual world.
The October announcement of Facebook and the events of the following months came when much of the world had been forced by the pandemic to replace the rules of the social world and working life with their digital versions. The prospect of finally coming out of this phase seemed, at the time, to be under serious threat by the omicron variant. Therefore, it was especially opportune to plant the idea that this forced transition from the real world to the digital would become a regular cycle, and therefore millions or even billions of people could decide, quite logically, that the world virtual was the refuge. .
That the world will emerge completely from the pandemic is not an inescapable conclusion, but the places that have advanced the most towards a return to normalcy are a reminder that the real world, with all its splendor and disasters, will always be a fierce competitor. difficult. for the world, virtual world.
Translation by Paulo Migliacci