A screenshot of Facebook’s Connect 2021 keynote featuring Mark Zuckerberg.
Image: Meta

The metaverse in 2022

Protocol Entertainment

Hello, and welcome to Protocol | Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Friday, we are exploring how companies will lay the groundwork for the metaverse in 2022, and what you should read, watch and play this weekend.

Four big themes

Late last year, hardly a day went by without someone sending me an email about a product or service that was haphazardly rebranded as being somehow related to the metaverse. Spoiler alert: 2022 will be meta-worse.

The industry’s buzzword obsession was on full display at CES this week, where VR veteran Nima Zeighami captured photos of all sorts of absurd metaverse products. My favorite: Metaverse City, which, from what I can tell, is just a single tent in a real parking lot.

Hype cycle froth aside, the metaverse will undoubtedly be a big deal for many companies this year.

This might just be Horizon’s year. After finally opening its doors to the Quest-touting public in late 2021, Meta will have to prove that its social VR world, Horizon, is worth a virtual visit. And to achieve that, Meta will do what it does best: throw tons of money at a problem.

  • Expect a lot more investments into virtual concerts and events. But to really compete with Fortnite and Roblox on this front, Meta will have to move beyond just playing immersive videos of live concerts, and actually put performers in 3D spaces.
  • We should also expect some significant investments in user-generated content, including both grants for creators to build games and experiences for Horizon as well as development of better content creation tools.
  • Meta will also keep buying VR startups to realize its vision of the metaverse. This will likely include studios focused on casual gaming, non-gaming content creators and other social VR experiences.

Others will spend big, too. There’s a lot of money to go around in this space, thanks in part to the fact that some of the biggest players already have hugely profitable gaming businesses.

  • Roblox and Epic will be among the biggest competitors for metaverse talent, and they’ll snap up startups left and right. Other buyers could include Microsoft, Sony and even Niantic.
  • Some of the biggest investment areas will include creation tools that allow people to easily build and trade their own 3D assets, including better avatars.
  • Don’t be too surprised if Rec Room sells for more than $4 billion this year.

All eyes will be on hardware. One of the biggest enablers of the metaverse will be immersive hardware, with Metas’s Quest being the big breakout hit.

  • New app store numbers suggest that people activated around 2 million Quest headsets since Christmas alone.
  • The Quest’s first real competitor for metaverse hardware could be Sony’s PlayStation VR2. Sony executives didn’t actually mention the M word when they revealed the headset’s new name at CES this week, but they did refer to social apps as one key reason for adding an eye-tracking feature.
  • Don’t expect a big metaverse push from Apple anytime soon. Even if Apple does release a headset this year, it will primarily target developers, not end users.

The big story no one is watching: infrastructure. With the metaverse still in its infancy, everyone is looking at games and social VR apps for clues where things are going. Just as important could be the pipes, chips and servers powering it all.

  • Chip vendors like Intel and Nvidia are already betting that the metaverse will be a big boon to their business.
  • Just as important could be cloud vendors, who host not only virtual worlds, but also resource-intensive content creation tools for the metaverse.
  • As cloud rendering of VR games and experiences becomes more popular, we should also expect a new push for fast, low-latency connectivity. 5G will be a part of this, but we should also expect a big push to promote Wi-Fi 6, as well.

— Janko Roettgers


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TGIF: How to spend your weekend

“Money in the Metaverse”: The New Yorker staff writer and “Uncanny Valley” author Anna Wiener tackled the economics of the metaverse in this feature published on Tuesday, using video game business models as a starting point to discuss the financial perils of a fully embodied internet fusing the web as we know it with modern social networks and online games.

“Station Eleven”: Based on the award-winning novel from author Emily St. John Mandel, HBO’s “Station Eleven” miniseries has been quietly amassing critical acclaim since its Dec. 16 premiere. Now nine episodes in with a finale arriving next week, the series’ unique take on the postapocalypse, featuring an acting troupe called The Traveling Symphony, makes for an often haunting but also strangely hopeful pandemic-era meditation on human perseverance.

“Odd Taxi”: One part slice-of-life and one part crime drama, “Odd Taxi” lives up to its name. It features the sardonic cab driver Odokawa and a sprawling cast of characters, all of whom are of course talking animals who at one point or another rotate through his back seat in the streets of Tokyo. It’s funny, frequently bizarre and one of the best new anime I’ve watched in recent memory. You can check it out on Crunchyroll.

“The Lost Daughter”: Maggie Gyllenhaal’s feature directorial debut arrived on Netflix on New Year’s Eve, and it features an excellent Olivia Colman portraying a lone traveler on a remote Greek island traversing echoes of her life as a young mother. The performance is already attracting a fair amount of Oscar buzz, as is Colman’s younger self played by Jessie Buckley.

Deathloop: Arkane Studios’ long awaited Hitman-style stealth game came out back in September, but it’s 50% off on PlayStation 5 through Friday. I just began playing Deathloop this week, and it’s a fascinating and complex sandbox that lets players experiment with time, cause and effect in endlessly creative (and often violent) ways. Fans of Dishonored should waste no time picking it up.

Outer Wilds: Time loops and roguelikes are all the rage in gaming these days. And like Deathloop, Outer Wilds uses those elements to create a unique storytelling experience across many, many iterations of an imploding star system. The game, released in 2019, is now free on Xbox Game Pass starting this week, and its fantastic score, clever writing and tricky narrative make it a must-play.

— Nick Statt

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

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