Attractive technology, customer interactions, business opportunities… The metaverse arouses the envy of high-tech heavyweights and major brands. The keys to understanding its dazzling breakthrough in the discourse of companies.
Since October 28, 2021 and the name change from Facebook to Meta, the metaverse is on everyone's lips. A concept with still porous borders, it is one of the elements of the ongoing technological and economic revolution.
What is the metaverse?
Metaverse is a term that first appeared under the pen of the American author Neal Stephenson. In "The Virtual Samurai", published in 1992, he describes an online world where individuals wear the appearance of their avatars in order to escape a post-apocalyptic reality. Contraction of "meta" (beyond) and "universe", the portmanteau word designates an immersive world that has the particularity of being at the same time virtual, persistent and interactive.
The metaverse reappeared in the eyes of the general public in the early 2000s with the video game "Second Life". The 3D software allows players to play as virtual characters in a world they help create. Already at the time, brands opened virtual shops there.
The soufflé falls and the metaverse disappears for a time from the radars before making a smashing return in 2021. Record transactions follow one another, from virtual Nike sneakers resold for $8,500 to the court purchased for $450,000 on The Sandbox platform, which allows users to create a virtual world using non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
What is the interest of the metaverse?
The interest of the metaverse is above all technological and responds to a utopian vision of the digital. By freeing himself from the limits of everyday life, the user can go to discover virtual worlds, put on the appearance of an avatar, build another reality. If this ideal seems enticing, it should be noted that some accesses of the metaverse are reserved for the wealthiest, which contributes to its reputation as a club of the rich.
Marketing experts, in any case, have understood the interest of this new playground. The metaverse is a way of responding to a fundamental trend: that of the explosion of the cost of acquiring new customers for companies. This innovative medium is thus an opportunity to evangelize a younger and less captive audience, that of Gen Z and Alpha, who grew up with digital.
Many jobs will be created by what looks like a new technological paradigm. Jérémy Lamri, HR tech entrepreneur and CEO of Tomorrow Theory, imagines jobs such as real estate agent of the metaverse or stylist for avatar.
Who are the main actors of the metaverse?
In reality, there is not one, but metaverses. Ideally, all users will be actors of these metaverses, open worlds in continuous construction. For the moment, it is the Gafam who are the pioneers of the metaverse. For example, Facebook has spent $13 billion to build its metaverse and is already selling virtual reality headsets.
Microsoft offers avatars and spaces in 3D on its Teams app. Amazon has also positioned itself with a "serious game" to guide its customers through its cloud service. Apple, more discreet, should release a headset combining virtual and augmented reality by 2023. Google, which has already rubbed shoulders, without success, with augmented reality with its Google Glass, remains more cautious. The Mountain View firm should however offer a new version of these connected glasses.
In addition, video game publishers are particularly invested in the metaverse. Roblox, a world under construction where it is possible to create your own games, claims 320 million active users. Its competitor "Fortnite", the game published by Epic Games, is the other giant in the sector with 250 million active users.
Among the other video game players who are building the metaverse, we can also mention the French The Sandbox or the virtual world of Decentraland.
What is the difference between the metaverse, Web3 and blockchain?
Metaverses are virtual media while Web3 (Web 3.0) is the new technological paradigm that encompasses the notion of metaverse by integrating the concept of interoperability between these different media. This connection is made possible thanks to NFTs and cryptocurrencies, exchange values of these new universes.
Web 2.0 is that of Gafam and digital as we understand it today while Web 3.0 is a form of ideal of a more autonomous Web built thanks to the blockchain, this fully decentralized protocol validation technology.
One of the ambitions of Web3 is to allow a total interconnection between these different metaverses. But the sometimes divergent interest of the major players involved risks making the task more complex.
What opportunities for companies in the metaverse?
We are currently witnessing a race to the metaverse. Brands want to position themselves so as not to miss the turn of the Web3. They offer immersive experiences and virtual showrooms and mobilize their communities, allowing them to attract a younger audience. Proof of the current craze for the metaverse, Carrefour and AXA have for example bought virtual land on The Sandbox.
Luxury houses also saw the metaverse as a business opportunity. To celebrate its 200th anniversary, Louis Vuitton (whose parent company LVMH owns the "Echos")) proposed a game where NFTs were hidden. Dolce & Gabbana earned €5 million by selling its NFT collection while Ralph Lauren launched its winter sportswear collection on Roblox.
Blockchain Blockchain technology that secures and verifies transactions.
Cryptocurrency Blockchain-based virtual currency.
Metaverse Immersive virtual world consisting of a set of virtual universes, connected thanks to the blockchain.
NFT (non-fungible token) Token resulting from the association of a non-fungible asset (image, music, work of art, etc.) to a digital certificate.
Augmented reality Immersive technology to add virtual objects in interaction with the real world.
Web 3.0 or Web3 New version of the Web. Internet users can move their data from one platform to another thanks to the blockchain.