Tech companies have spent months hyping the potential of the metaverse, a platform that isn't yet real. Even still, Epic and Lego are already trying to make sure the concept is safe for kids — or at least that's what they claim. The announcement was light on details.
The companies said Thursday that they're entering a "long-term" partnership to make a "family-friendly" metaverse. The Lego Group CEO Niels Christiansen said in a statement that "there is huge potential to develop life-long skills such as creativity, collaboration and communication through digital experiences," and the partnership is aimed in that direction.
But the companies' metaverse for kids seems to be in very early stages. It's unclear when it will launch and what the platform will entail, exactly. The three principles driving the project, the companies said, are to prioritize childrens' safety and wellbeing, protect children’s privacy and give children and parents "tools that give them control over their digital experience."
"We are excited to come together to build a space in the metaverse that’s fun, entertaining, and made for kids and families," said Epic CEO Tim Sweeney.
While this sounds heartwarming, a metaverse for kids isn't a new concept. The virtual worlds in games like World of Warcraft, Minecraft, Roblox and Epic's own Fortnite provide a glimpse of what the Lego/Epic co-branded metaverse could look like, and could even use existing games as building blocks for a virtual social platform where players can dress up their avatars, buy virtual goods with digital currency and hang out with friends — similar to other metaverse concepts, just likely with more parental controls. Sweeney has been bullish on the concept for months, stating at a conference in Seoul in November that "over the coming decades, the metaverse has the potential to become a multi-trillion-dollar part of the world economy," Bloomberg reported.
Epic is also going up against other major gaming companies who have staked their claim in the metaverse, including Pokémon Go creator Niantic, which announced plans to build "real-world metaverse” apps in November, and of course Meta, which has pivoted in the last year to make developing the metaverse its entire identity.