Who will win the race to the metaverse?

by Boaz Feldman

Just like winter in Westeros or Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the metaverse is coming for us all. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when, a future date that seems largely dependent on how fast the powers that be can incorporate ultra-fast, low-latency speeds to basically the entire planet.
The big telecoms have spent the last few years and billions upon billions of dollars trying to push out 5G, but that might not be enough for what Facebook and some of the other trend-setters have in mind.
6G might be just a gleam in some tech engineer’s mind’s eye right now, but it is probably the lynch pin currently separating us from those 3D virtual worlds hinted at in works of fiction like “The Matrix” and “Ready Player One”.We all know we’ll get there, but who will lead the way towards adoption? Answering that question is like watching the world’s greatest and longest rally race across all seven continents 24 hours a day.  

The general consensus seems to be that the metaverse will be like combining Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google, YouTube, and every other essential Internet service you can think of, cranking the volume knob up to 11, and turning the world loose on what results from it. And like Parzival or Neo or Morpheus, your avatar will be you. You are on the inside of the Internet instead of just looking at websites. You play games, interact with peers, even working for real paychecks inside a virtual world, or more appropriately, a virtual universe. 

Billions and Trillions

The ‘b’ word gets thrown around a bit more casually in 2021 than it did at the beginning of the millennium, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less impressive to see huge investment figures working towards making the metaverse into a reality.
According to the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, the virtual and augmented reality markets, which will combine to form the metaverse at some point, were worth $46.4 billion in the US alone in 2019. They are expected to grow to reach $1.5 trillion in value by 2030 - an increase of 3,132% in slightly more than a decade. It is not just the United States making headway into them metaverse, either. 

In South Korea, powerhouse investment firm Samsung Asset Management launched a metaverse fund earlier this year that is investing in eight core themes: the luxury goods industry, mobility, platform businesses, 3D design tools, online payments, online gaming, virtual reality, and cloud computing. The idea of entire worlds with virtual gaming opportunities is music to the ears of the world’s biggest gamer region - Southeast Asia, where the popularity of esports in countries like Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia was a major driver of the 5G investment. The Shibuya Data Count estimates that the gaming market in Southeast Asia will leap 8.5% over the next five years as immersive experiences become more and more commonplace.