Darren Bond

It’s been about 2 years since the Metaverse was announced by Mark Zuckerberg. We spent a year or more following the announcement getting asked over and over again – What do we need to do about the Metaverse?

Some more adventurous clients ran projects with us where we explored the possibilities and planned campaigns or experiences that they might offer users in this new digital space, and it felt like a very exciting opportunity.

Sadly, a couple of years on, it’s rare to even be reminded of its presence, let alone be running exciting campaigns.

So what exactly is the Metaverse?

It’s a virtual space, a bit like an online game, where people can socialise, play or interact with brands. The Metaverse launch created a lot of hype, and promised to revolutionise day to day life. It looked to be the future of entertainment, social media and everything in between.

A big ask right? That requires a big budget. Meta reported losses of around $10bn in its ‘Reality Labs’ division in 2021 while developing the Metaverse and a further $13.7bn in 2022. This is no hobby project, it’s a seriously chunky investment by Meta, one that shareholders have been shaken by, and one that’s cause Zuck’s number 2, Sheyl Sandberg, to step down – she “wanted no part of it”.

With all that investment it must be working right?

Well, Horizon Worlds, the game at the centre of this new digital revolution is estimated to have around 200 thousand active players per month, and reports are that that number is shrinking.

As a comparison, Second Life – remember that? – The similar digital world style game that celebrates its 20th birthday this year. Well it’s still boasting 200,000 DAILY users, and estimated that creators in Second Life earned more than $80m from the platform’s economy last year.

We can certainly see that search interest in the Metaverse has also petered out – actually according to Google trends there were comparatively more searches for Second Life than Metaverse back in July.

For perspective – Fortnite, a game that some lump into the “metaverse” category has an average of over 200 million users per month.

So what does Meta say about all this?

Well Meta’s VP of the Metaverse, Vhisal Shahm has recently said that “The metaverse hype is dead”. He explains that Horizon Worlds is focused on user retention—not growth, but without large user numbers surely this only last so long?

Mark Zuckerberg’s focus seems to have been taken away from the Metaverse, in particular recently annoying Elon Musk with Threads, and rivalling ChatGPT, Microsoft BingChat, and Google’s Bard with an AI language model called LLaMA 2.

If we haven’t already, is now the time to forget about the Metaverse?

It’s hard to say. As of right now, I don’t seem to have much more to say about it than 2 years ago. It’s certainly not revolutionised anything on my end, or for any of our clients.

One of the big challenges for me is the entry point. Playing Horizon Worlds requires an VR headset, that might set you back £300-£2000. If you’re the type to already have a headset like this then is Horizon worlds really the thing you’re going to play?

Experts are estimating that the VR Hardware market is expected to grow in the coming years, and penetration is expected to reach 1.7% by 2027 . More tech in more homes, means more potential Metaverse users. But is that going to be enough?

We’ve recently had Apple’s announcement about their foray into this space too, and we know typically when they make a play, adoption is likely to become more mainstream, but even their product – the vision pro – best described as a scuba mask with a battery pack, doesn’t seem particularly accessible at a minimum entry point of $3500.

I can’t see how any of this is going to significantly increase uptake on the Metaverse. Horizon Worlds needs to up its game to stay relevant.

  • Ease of access for Players – Horizon worlds seems like a platform suitable for everyone, but the reality is if you don’t have a headset in the house (98% of the population) won’t event get to see what the fuss is about.
  • Fun – the experience needs to be seamless, and most importantly fun. On average most player created worlds have never been visited by another player and it’s rumoured that only 1/10 users returns to Horizon Worlds after a month.
  • Ease of access for Brands – brands need to be able to access and build on the platform easily, and at costs that are on the same playing field as other digital touchpoints. Huge development costs are likely to put an end to most ideas. Loyal customers and fans will follow a brand anywhere for a unique experience though, with the right implementation surely this can help grow user numbers overall.

In Summary

The metaverse is alive and kicking. Just recently they announced Super Rumble , offering better graphics and gameplay, and the horizon team are also reportedly developing a mobile app which might deal with the access issues I’ve mentioned.

Although I’m intrigued by these developments, the hype train for me – at this stage at least – is very much still sat at the station. I’m watching and waiting eagerly for anything that I think will change that…



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