Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Mark Zuckerberg on the metaverse, NFTs and the future of VR

Protocol Entertainment

Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Friday, we talked to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg about his company’s grand metaverse ambitions, as well as how he plans to compete with Fortnite and Roblox. Also: what to read, watch and play this weekend.

Zuckerberg on the metaverse: ‘I just think it's inevitable.’

Mark Zuckerberg has no regrets about rebranding his company. It’s been about seven months since Facebook became Meta and the company began the monumental shift from a social networking giant to a AR and VR-focused platform building what it thinks will be the future of computing. It’s been “going a lot better than I thought it would,” the chief executive told Protocol this week in an exclusive interview.

Read the full interview with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg is all in on the metaverse. “I want to live in a world where big companies use their resources to take big shots,” he said. The reception to the rebrand, he added, has been positive, and the early work on transitioning the company is underway.

  • “There's been a lot more interest and excitement about the idea than expected when we put our flag in the ground and [said]: ‘This is what we are going to work on for the next 20 years.’”
  • The move to the metaverse is going to require collaboration, and Zuckerberg said the rebrand has spurred some of his peers to think about how they can contribute. “I view our role in accelerating some of the fundamental technology, building out the social platforms around it and working out some of the creator pieces. But there's clearly all these other things that have to happen, we can't build the whole thing,” he said.
  • Zuckerberg said he’s not worried that the $10 billion to $15 billion per year spend on the metaverse is the wrong move. “Some people might think it's a good bet, some people might think it's a bad bet. But at the end of the day, I don't think that many people think we're at risk of going out of business because of it.”

It’s still early days. Meta has its VR social platform Horizon, but it’s just as closed as some of the major gaming platforms it’s competing against, like Fortnite and Roblox. Interoperability is supposed to be a major pillar of the metaverse, but right now it’s very far from reality.

  • Zuckerberg said it’s going to take time and resources for these closed ecosystems to open up and work together. The same is true of NFTs, he added, where the utility they provide may not become clear for many years and only after significant investment.
  • “There is often a trade-off in the early days between making something that is a tightly optimized product experience and building an open protocol,” Zuckerberg said. “For Horizon, it's early, and we need to right now focus on making sure that we get all the foundations of the product in place, and get some of the technical challenges sorted out.”
  • “I don't think the most exciting thing to do with NFTs is to display a few things in your Instagram profile. But I view that as a starting point,” he said. “It's not that far-fetched to imagine how being able to display some digital collectibles in your Instagram profile is a precursor to being able to have a shirt from your favorite brand that you can take from Horizon to then wear in Fortnite.”
  • On Fortnite and Roblox: “They've been doing some of this for longer, so they have some advantages there. But we also have a lot of people using our social platforms, and a good base to build on.” He said the concern there is more about leaning too much into one platform, like mobile, at the expense of new ones like AR and VR.

“I feel a responsibility to go for it.” For Zuckerberg, the shift to the metaverse is similar in ways to the looming mobile crisis the company faced during the rise of smartphones more than a decade ago.

  • “I think there were few things as dramatic in our history as the shift to mobile. At the time, we had one app that was the whole business, and we were not wildly profitable,” he said. “So it felt more like an existential question for the company.”
  • That experience, he said, informed why Facebook had to become Meta now, and not later: “I want to live in a world where big companies use their resources to take big shots."
  • “Obviously, if people invest in our company, we want to be profitable for them. If employees join our company, I want to make sure that ends up being a good financial decision for them, too,” he added. “But I also feel a responsibility to go for it. Use the position that we're in to make some bets, and try to push forward in a way that other people might not.”
  • It’s only because Meta is a “controlled company,” Zuckerberg said, that he can “make more of these decisions” than his competitors. “That gives us even more responsibility to push for it and do things that other people might not be able to do.”

—Janko Roettgers and Nick Statt


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Our weekend recs

“How Call of Duty turned war into a circus” — Polygon. Journalist Patrick Gill does the seemingly impossible in a new video on the outlet’s YouTube channel: contextualizes Call of Duty within the U.S. military industrial complex. Over 27 minutes, Gill manages to articulate in flawless fashion what countless members of gaming media have tried to explain time and again over the years: How did Call of Duty become the shooter series, and what does it say about games as a business and a culture? It's a really fine achievement in explanatory journalism rich in media history, and I suggest anyone who’s ever struggled with the nature of the shooter genre give it a watch.

“Barry” — HBO. The dark comedy from actor and writer Bill Hader entered its third season last month, and it’s starting to get very dark. “Barry” is at its best when it’s juggling the serious depravity and depressive depths of its main character, a disgraced military vet and assassin-turned-aspiring actor, with the borderline surreal subplots and larger-than-life criminal associates acting as comic relief. And in Season Three, Hader is taking Barry into new territory as he starts to evolve from a likable but compromised underdog into a truly irredeemable antihero in a delightfully horrific twist on the now-classic “Breaking Bad” narrative arc.

“Drive My Car” — Prime Video. This Japanese drama from director Ryusuke Hamaguchi, based on a Haruki Murakami short story of the same name, is an epic, three-hour-long exploration of grief that manages, remarkably, to be one of the most life-affirming films I’ve watched in a long time. Though actor and theater director Yūsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is still mourning the death of his wife, the film centers on a unique relationship between him and his personal driver (Tôko Miura), and how they process complex feelings of loss in different ways.

Salt and Sacrifice — PSN/Epic Game Store. If you’re fresh off Elden Ring and looking for another punishing RPG, the sequel to Ska Studios’ Salt and Sanctuary released on PlayStation and PC last week. It still features many of the Soulslike and Metroidvania influences of the most popular action indie games of the last few years wrapped up in a 2D side scroller. But this time around, there’s a Monster Hunter-esque hunt system that introduces a fair amount of replayability, alongside a co-op system for playing with friends that helps make the repetition feel more manageable.

—Nick Statt


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Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to entertainment@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you Tuesday.

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