Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Friday, we’re taking stock of Mark Zuckerberg’s grand ambitions for digital commerce in the metaverse and the flurry of news his company announced in just the last week. Also, what to read, watch and play this weekend.
Zuckerberg is really excited about the metaverse
It’s been a big week for Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Facebook page. The chief executive of Meta has in the past few years transformed his social network account into a press release distribution center, featuring personalized messages about news, product updates and company announcements and usually only ones Zuckerberg himself is pretty excited about. And now hardly a week goes by without some major Facebook post detailing a new product initiative or update about the topic Zuckerberg is most passionate about: the metaverse.
Zuckerberg has been extremely active over the past seven days, posting four major company announcements about metaverse-related news.
- Last Friday, Zuckerberg announced a new store for Meta’s 3D avatars with virtual clothing from luxury brands like Balenciaga and Prada. On Monday, he debuted experimental headset designs from Meta’s VR group.
- Then, on Tuesday, there was an overhaul to Meta’s monetization system for creators, including news the company would hold off on collecting its share of revenue until 2024 and plans to expand its NFT test to include Instagram Stories and Facebook.
- On Wednesday, Zuckerberg said his company would be rebranding Facebook Pay into Meta Pay, with the goal of turning it into a “wallet for the metaverse.”
The Meta Pay news is a big deal. Before Facebook was Meta, the company tried and failed both publicly and spectacularly to get an ambitious digital currency and crypto platform off the ground. But it failed to woo regulators and eventually shut everything down in January.
- The remnants of that dream exist today only in the form of Facebook’s digital payments system, which lets users on Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp send money and shop online. After Wednesday’s rebrand, which the company first teased in May, the product is taking on new responsibilities.
- “Beyond the current features, we're working on something new: a wallet for the metaverse that lets you securely manage your identity, what you own, and how you pay,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page.
- “In the future there will be all sorts of digital items you might want to create or buy — digital clothing, art, videos, music, experiences, virtual events, and more,” he added. “Proof of ownership will be important, especially if you want to take some of these items with you across different services.”
- Not coincidentally, Meta is one of the founding members of the new Metaverse Standards Forum, an industry group that’s pledging to work toward platform interoperability for the metaverse. Not on the list of members right now: Apple, Niantic or Roblox, though Niantic told Protocol it’s “looking at it.”
Zuckerberg is envisioning a digital commerce empire. If Facebook the product became one of the world’s most effective and lucrative advertising machines, then the metaverse of Zuckerberg’s dreams will be the largest and most dynamic shopping mall ever made.
- “We hope to basically get to around a billion people in the metaverse doing hundreds of dollars of commerce, each buying digital goods, digital content, different things to express themselves,” Zuckerberg told CNBC’s Jim Cramer yesterday.
- “So whether that’s clothing for their avatar or different digital goods for their virtual home or things to decorate their virtual conference room, utilities to be able to be more productive in virtual and augmented reality and across the metaverse overall,” he said.
- Zuckerberg clearly sees Meta’s advantages right now — owning the most popular VR platform, investing in early AR hardware and operating social networks used by billions of people — as the reason the company needs to move fast lest it cede any ground to rivals.
- “We are at this point, you know, a company that can afford to make some big long-term research investments, and this is a big focus,” Zuckerberg said.
This isn’t anything we haven’t heard from the Meta CEO over the past nine months, since rebranding the company as Meta. But it does help contextualize many of this week’s announcements. The New York Times reported yesterday that since the metaverse shift, Zuckerberg has been notably less interested in what preoccupied him largely in the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. election, like election integrity, Facebook’s reputational issues and data privacy scandals.
Instead, the company and its most influential decision-maker are now laser-focused on the metaverse. It’s how Zuckerberg imagines Meta will build the next multibillion-user platform, how the company will make most of its money when or if Facebook and even Instagram’s user bases mostly move on to greener pastures and how it will avoid the pitfalls of building its business on platforms, like mobile, that it does not control.
— Nick Statt
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How to build an equitable and inclusive future
At the same time that the pandemic demonstrated all that is possible in an interconnected world, we saw in new and increasingly stark ways how certain communities continue to be marginalized and harmed by a persistent digital divide and how effectively that divide exacerbates our society’s other inequities.
#TGIF: How to spend your weekend
“To infinity and back: Inside Axie’s disastrous year” — Rest of World: To many casual observers, Axie Infinity looks like a wondrous success story, one of the first play-to-earn games to successfully deploy all the blockchain bells and whistles of Web3 like NFTs, cryptocurrency and virtual land. But the lesser-known story of its downfall over the past six months is a much more important tale, and one told in precise detail by Rest of World’s Darren Loucaides in an excellent feature published this week. The piece, flush with interviews with the company’s founders, tells the story of how Axie Infinity developer Sky Mavis rose to fame as a poster child of the blockchain gaming movement, and the perils of a fledgling industry rife with hacks and scams and intertwined with an uncontrollable and volatile financial market.
“Peaky Blinders” — Netflix: The sixth and final season of Steven Knight’s historical crime drama “Peaky Blinders” is here, having aired in its entirety on the BBC and appeared on Netflix earlier this month. Like prior seasons, season six can seem at first glance like a too-quick six episodes, especially given the length of Netflix’s many other series. But “Peaky Blinders” packs extraordinary amounts of depth into each of those hours as it explores the machinations of Thomas Shelby and his once-scrappy and now terrifyingly powerful criminal organization. If you’ve never watched it, now is a good time to dive in before Knight’s planned feature film wraps the series for good.
“Umbrella Academy” — Netflix: The adaptation of My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way’s peculiar superhero graphic novel series returned this week for a third season. After season two’s time travel shenanigans, “The Umbrella Academy” has officially strayed into alternate universe territory, rife with some headache-inducing paradoxes, and it’s all getting a bit overwhelming. Thankfully, the third season is grounded by some excellent performances, most notably by Elliot Page, who worked with writer Thomas Page McBee to incorporate his real-world transition into the fictional narrative.
Vampire Survivors — PC: Indie developer Luca Galante’s Vampire Survivors is one of the most unlikely breakout hits of the year. The influential roguelike shoot-‘em-up has been called a “bullet heaven,”' in contrast to the bullet hell-style manic shooters in which you must dodge a near-endless stream of projectiles. In Vampire Survivors, the projectiles come from you as you maneuver away from small armies of enemies. The game shoots for you, while most of the fun comes from traversing custom maps and unlocking and upgrading unique characters. It’s hard to describe the appeal without trying the game yourself, but at just $3 on Steam, it’s well worth a try. The game was also added to Game Pass for PC last month.
SPONSORED CONTENT FROM TRUSTED FUTURE
How to build an equitable and inclusive future
There is so much more we need to do to make sure our future is more equitable and inclusive and maximizes America’s potential. It is not enough just to ensure everyone is connected. We also need to extend the full scope of digital opportunity to the people, the communities, and the institutions.
Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy your day, see you on Tuesday.