Metaverse is no longer just fiction from books and movies. In many ways, it’s already here, and everyone seems to be talking about it. And it’s not just tech blogs and startup founders – there are countless articles, interviews, books, and TV shows talking about the metaverse.
Even though the idea of immersive virtual worlds it’s getting more real, there’s still a long road ahead until it reaches wider adoption. We asked Ready Player Me partners about their thoughts on the current state of the metaverse and where it’s heading in 2023.
Where's the metaverse today?
2022 wasn’t an easy year for many companies building the metaverse. Both crypto and stock markets were hit by an economic crisis, making it harder for smaller companies to get their projects off the ground. Some bigger players and brands reevaluated their metaverse strategies altogether. “[A lot of companies and] potential clients lost their interest in the metaverse,” said Ethan Cohen, CEO of PolyLand. “They backed out of it due to the conditions compared to a year ago.”
Even the term metaverse didn’t have it easy. Sean Kauppinen, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at Hiber, said that “too many people coming in muddied the term. They tried doing a quick hype grab, often without having sustainable business models or even long-term goals. They only had ideas.”
Another problem highlighted by Ready Player Me partners is the lack of valuable use cases for the metaverse. “Users want to access virtual spaces for a specific reason,” said Andrew Sands, Co-Founder of PixelMax. “Some of our users are city planners and architects engaging avatar-to-avatar digitally instead of looking at a 2D drawing shared by one person or traveling all the way to the physical location.”
Despite the challenges of 2022, it was still a thriving and vital year for many companies building the metaverse. “This year was a building phase for companies that held on. Those companies will stay the longest and improve the most,” said Ethan. In 2022, Ready Player Me’s partner network grew 5x, from 1,015 to 5,135.
The biggest technical challenges of the metaverse
Some of the biggest problems that the metaverse is currently facing are technical, like restricted resources of consumer hardware. It limits how immersive and visually impressive the metaverse can be today. One of the potential solutions to this problem is Pixel Streaming, used by Yabal, PixelMax and PolyLand.
Pixel Streaming makes it possible to play graphics-intensive games through a web browser. It only uses as much computing power as a video call, making it accessible on any platform with the right browser stack. “I think a goal of traditional gaming companies is to have their games available on a web-accessible platform,” said Ethan Cohen. “It doesn't require downloading huge files and updating, which is the main issue with modern gaming consoles. Having everything ready in seconds will improve the gaming experience.”
Unfortunately, in its current form, Pixel Streaming is an expensive solution for businesses. As Eddie Aspden (Chief Architect at PixelMax) said, “there needs to be infrastructure that can sustain these kinds of experiences, often with bespoke hardware deployed close to users – as big companies do with CDNs.” In the case of PixelMax, they rely on their own infrastructure built to optimize their platform's performance and running cost.
But there are experiences where Pixel Streaming makes a lot of sense, like ticketed virtual concerts. “Just to enter Yabal’s virtual world, Pixel Streaming is not the right solution. But to enter shows and performances, the value is high enough that people are willing to pay for it,” said Dominik Faber, Co-Founder & CEO of Yabal.
Game developers can also look for ways to optimize their existing stack to fit a wider range of devices and network connections. With the Avatar API that we launched last year, we saw up to a 5x reduction in avatar file sizes with a 50% reduction in the poly count. Changes like this can have a major impact on a game’s performance, especially in multiplayer experiences.
The role of interoperability in the metaverse
As companies and brands are willing to work together on building the metaverse, interoperability is an often discussed topic. “Rather than having a lot of separate experiences, [the metaverse is] about connecting them together,” said Sean.
To set foundations for interoperability, companies need to come together to set standards. “We are already there with certain things like game engines. There are only a few solutions that almost everyone uses, like Unity and Unreal,” said Eddie. “File formats like glTF have come to their own. They make it possible to carry any 3D assets to any virtual environment. Formats like that are driving us towards making everything interoperable.”
Not following standards set by the rest of the industry makes interoperability hard to achieve. “We are trying to bring NFT projects to our platform, but it's very challenging since everyone is following different standards or doing things their own ways,” said Dominik. “The idea of using NFT profile pictures the same way as Ready Player Me avatars will never become a reality. There are optimized for the visual appearance, not for interoperability. It's hard to build a character system optimized for many platforms and engines.“
Ready Player Me is interoperable by design, allowing users to create avatars and import them to supported experiences. In 2022 alone, our users created over 3 million avatars and used them in 3,000+ apps and games.
Where’s the metaverse heading in 2023?
There are many predictions for the metaverse's future. Ethan and Sean agreed that brands will be one of the biggest players in the metaverse next year, driving user adoption on a much bigger scale. “The adoption within general consumers will be driven by great immersive experiences, like being able to visit virtual stores and try things on avatars or doing training in an immersive world,” Andy added. In 2022 alone, Ready Player Me worked with brands like Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger, and L’Oréal to bring their outfits to our avatar creator and partner apps.
Sean Kauppinen said, “Commerce [in the metaverse] is going to start in real because there will be a utility for it. If you have an avatar [like Ready Player Me] that works in multiple apps like Hiber, Somnium Space and Spatial and allows you to wear digital outfits – that's awesome. You have three different companies that don't have a business relationship, utilizing the same technology and tool to provide an experience to users who can do whatever they want. The more of that you can get, the more value there is to the consumer,” said Sean Kauppinen.
Add Ready Player Me avatars to your app or game
We are on a mission to break down the virtual walls to build a more open and connected metaverse. Our cross-game avatar platform is used by 6,000+ developers, including VRChat, Portals, Spatial, and Hiber.
Ready Player Me is free to use for users and developers. Sign up to become a partner and use our avatars in your commercial app or game.