Welcome apple to the meta universe war... But which side will it stand on in the route struggle?

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Source:"Internet mob" (ID: tmtphantom)

Author: Pei Pei, head of the strange thief group

According to Bloomberg, in mid May 2022, apple demonstrated the hybrid reality (MR) helmet being tested to its board members. At the same time, apple accelerated the research and development of ROS (reality OS, "real operating system"), which will be used for hybrid real-world hardware devices. Although apple did not make an official statement, Bloomberg estimated that the product is likely to meet the conditions for public release in a few quarters.

If the above report is true, it will be the first time Apple has opened a new product line since the release of Apple watch in 2015. This will also mean that Apple will officially join the "meta universe" after meta (Facebook), Microsoft and Google. After Apple entered the game, looking around the world, there are not many technology giants who have not set foot in the meta universe. Although the popularity of metauniverse in the capital market has declined, from the perspective of actual business, the situation this year has made great progress over the past two years.

There is no doubt that apple is in "growth anxiety": the growth of iPhone is slowing, the growth of iPad has stagnated, and no new hardware devices have been released for many years. Over the past two years, Apple's highlights mainly lie in its self-developed M1 chip (which has been widely used in MAC computers and iPads), as well as the growth of streaming media, financial and other service businesses. However, for apple with a market value of $2 trillion, these highlights are not enough to raise the medium and long-term ceiling. MR technology, which covers traditional VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality), may provide apple with a much-needed new source of revenue.

Obviously, Apple's ambition will not be limited to selling hardware devices. Like meta, Microsoft and even byte beating, it certainly wants to establish a "meta universe ecology" covering hardware, software and services. Then, it will inevitably be involved in the ongoing "first route struggle of the meta universe". So which side will it stand on? At present, it is impossible to judge.

There are three main routes for the development of the universe in the future:

The first comes from the cryptocurrency circle. What they are most concerned about is speculation.Because the metauniverse definitely needs to use blockchain and NFT technology, they are excited about this prospect. People in the currency circle certainly hope to organize the meta universe around cryptocurrency, but they have no specific and operable way. To put it bluntly, as long as the yuan universe allows them to fry money freely, they actually don't care what it develops into.

The second comes from Internet platform companies such as meta (Facebook),Perhaps we can also add the byte beat just squeezed into the metauniverse. Their definition of the meta universe is "VR of social networks / social media", that is to do what they are doing again with VR technology. Because Zuckerberg is particularly enthusiastic about the metauniverse and makes frequent remarks, this view has the widest spread.

The third comes from content companies represented by game companies,For example, Epic Games in the United States and MIHA tour in China. Until recently, they were generally in a state of watching fire from the shore and were not in a hurry to express their views on the meta universe. However, just before and after Facebook changed its name to meta, the CEOs of two heavyweight game companies made statements one after another, and stood on the opposite side of meta.

This is the "first line struggle of the meta universe". According to Zuckerberg, the founder of meta, metauniverse is naturally used to "do business", and telecommuting scenario is its first application scenario. "We're used to sitting in a conference room with others instead of looking at a long list of faces on the screen," Zuckerberg said To solve this problem, we can only rely on the most advanced VR equipment. VR will completely change the way people communicate online, turning "Telecom" into "teleport".

In Zuckerberg's view, instant messaging tools such as WhatsApp and video conferencing systems such as zoom are not worth mentioning in front of the great "transmission" mechanism of the metauniverse. When talking about the social significance of the meta universe, he emphasized that "a large number of employees can be allowed to work in different places", so as to liberate human productivity from geographical constraints. This is meta's meta cosmic route - let employees wear Mr helmets to hold remote meetings, coordinate and handle official business. This route may be practical, but it's also boring.

Now, let's take a look at the views of two game companies, Epic Games and take two, which stand on the opposite side of meta.

On April 13, 2021, Epic Games announced that it had completed a $1 billion financing, raising the company's overall valuation to $28.7 billion. Among them, Sony invested $200 million, and the remaining amount was divided up by a series of financial investors. The purpose of this financing is to "support epic's long-term vision of metauniverse"; More specifically, "build a social experience in games such as fortress night, rocket alliance and sugar bean man", and strengthen the company's infrastructure capabilities such as fantasy engine and epic game store.

Among the mainstream games in the European and American markets, fortrite's metacosmic color may be second only to roblox because of its high degree of freedom and scalability. The game has three main modes:

  • Guarding the home, i.e. PVE mode,Players need to build their own fortress, upgrade their characters and fight against monsters (i.e. zombies) that attack at night. This is the earliest classic model.
  • Airborne operation, PVP mode,In fact, it is the "chicken eating" play method carried out by 100 players, which can compete with one person, two people in a team and four people in a team. This is the mode added after the popularity of "eating chicken".
  • Hi PI Island, the free construction mode,Similar to the playing method of my world, players can develop maps according to their own creativity and invite their friends to visit. This is a new model added in December 2018.

Among the above three modes, the most popular and most players are airborne operations, that is, the "chicken eating" mode. In fact, before the launch of "chicken eating mode", fortress night was just a popular American Tower Defense + shooting game; After the launch of "chicken eating mode" in September 2017, it has become one of the most popular end games in the United States and even the world, and its popularity even exceeds the genuine chicken eating game "Jedi survival". In 2017-18, there were more than hundreds of games imitating and copying the playing method of "eating chicken", but only fortress night achieved the greatest success, which must be attributed to its freedom and scalability. Based on this scalability, it is completely feasible to imitate other popular gameplay methods - for example, there is no technical difficulty in implementing MoBa or RTS gameplay in Fortress night, which many players have long been looking forward to.


In the United States, young people who haven't played fortress night are a minority


From a commercial perspective, fortress night was very successful: just over a year after its launch, there were more than 125 million registered users in the second quarter of 2018; By the end of 2019, the full life cycle operating revenue of the game has reached US $9 billion, which can be called one of the most profitable E-sports games in history. Unlike Robles, which belongs to the same concept of "meta universe", fortress night is a full-age game with a high proportion of adult players and a mature E-sports model. In the United States, a large number of celebrities in the entertainment and social circles are loyal players of the game, which has brought great social influence to it.

The drawback of Fortress night is that mod mode has not been launched so far, that is, players have not been allowed to create again. In contrast, "Robles" almost completely relies on third parties such as players for content creation, so the update frequency of playing methods is much higher. However, as early as the second half of 2020, some media reported that fortress night would launch mod mode. I believe this day will not be too far away; That will be a solid step towards the vision of "meta universe".

On October 15, 2021, in an interview with the Washington Post, Tim Sweeney, founder and CEO of epic, fully expounded his understanding of the metauniverse for the first time. According to him, metauniverse "is like an online playground where users can play multiplayer games like fortress night with their friends, watch a movie through Netflix, and then invite friends to test drive a new car - the way to build a car in the virtual world will be the same as in the real world."

Next, Sweeney emphasized:"Metauniverse should never be an information flow platform carefully trimmed and inserted with advertisements everywhere, that is, Facebook!"I believe that when I see this sentence, not only Zuckerberg will sneeze, but also Zhang Yiming may sneeze, because byte beat also operates more than one "carefully pruned information flow platform with advertisements inserted everywhere", and also wants to translate such a platform to yuanyuzhou.

Specifically, Sweeney believes that the majority of users are tired of the current operation mode of the Internet; Tired of not only the technical form, but also the content form. Who is willing to hold on to the "traditional information flow platform" such as Facebook or instagram in an open digital world with the popularization of VR technology? Moreover, the original Internet account model is also outdated. Players should have a unified "meta universe virtual identity" to log in to all meta universe applications seamlessly, rather than switching with a bunch of Google, Facebook or twitter accounts. Although not explicitly stated, the metauniverse that Sweeney hopes for is likely to be an extended version of the epic game platform - creators use advanced fantasy engines for content development, users log in with epic app store accounts, and use a large-scale game similar to fortress night as the hub to connect all content.

For Sweeney's above views, Zuckerberg can certainly retort: "who says that Facebook in the meta universe era will be an information flow platform with advertisements everywhere?" As early as in the media interview on July 22, Zuckerberg made it clear that in the meta universe era, the way people obtain information will change fundamentally, "report" will replace "communication", and the current mainstream information streaming media will certainly give way to immersive 3D images. Although no one knows whether Facebook, renamed meta, can realize such a vision, we can at least say that epic's criticism of Facebook is like firing at the void, which has not really hit the ground.

Coincidentally, shortly after November 4, 2021, a week after Facebook changed its name to meta, Strauss Zelnick, CEO of take two, one of the largest game companies in the United States, elaborated on his views on the meta universe in an interview with CNBC, and just stood in the perspective of negating meta! In my opinion, take two's Refutation of meta is more profound and technical than epic, and it is more worthy of our citation and analysis.

For senior game fans, take two is a familiar name: the parent company of 2K games, Rockstar and other top game studios. It owns a number of popular game IP, including Grand Theft Auto (GTA), wilderness escort, NBA 2K, civilization, biochemical wizards, ownerless land and so on. The games developed and released by take two are not only high-quality, but also have high success rate and long life cycle. For example, Grand Theft Auto, nba2k and civilization have decades of successful experience, spanning several generations of hardware platforms and deeply affecting generations of players.

Because take two products are mostly launched on the host platform, and often involve restricted themes such as violence and gangster, the proportion of introducing domestic products is not high in history. However, the impact of take two's products on the domestic game industry is comprehensive and profound: today, when we go into the self-research Department of any domestic game company and ask the producer or chief planner "what is the ideal open world game", he will certainly mention the names of gta5 and wild escort 2; When you ask "what is the ideal sports game", you will also mention the name of NBA 2K.

Unlike Epic Games, take two has not accepted the transformation of inward purchase payment mode, and most products are still buyout. The success of wild escort 2 in 2018 further consolidated its dominant position in the field of 3A games. In the following three years, the company continued to expand and set up a number of new self-research studios to enter more game categories. Incidentally, in January 2022, take two announced the acquisition of Zynga, an American social game developer, with $12.5 billion in cash and stock, thus sounding the horn of entering the mobile game market. As the best learning object of domestic game companies, take two CEO zelnik's view on metauniverse is bound to receive high attention from the domestic game industry.

At the beginning of the interview with CNBC, zelnik said impolitely:โ€œAccording to the standard of income or profit, take two has long been one of the largest metauniverse companies in the world.We operate GTA online. I think this game defines today's metauniverse; We also operate wild escort online and NBA 2K online, and countless people log in to these games every day. "

Then zelnik defined the metauniverse: "it should be a digital scene that allows us to have fun, connect with others, talk, drive, participate in criminal activities, or act as a policeman to stop criminal activities; you should have fun. That's what we've been doing!" Senior players know at a glance that this is not the multiplayer mode of gta5? Of course, zelnik did not say that gta5 is the complete form of the meta universe; He just said that large-scale open world games like gta5 have all the conditions required by the meta universe and will become the basic starting point of the meta universe.

So why isn't Facebook's metacosmic vision right? Zelnik's answer is simple: that's not what consumers want. Zuckerberg strongly advocates a "strong social VR platform" mainly used for telecommuting and business activities. Of course, it can also be used for entertainment, but entertainment is not the core function. Zelnik believes that this "virtual extension of real life" will not arouse the interest of consumers; What they prefer is to have fun through entertainment activities similar to games.

"I doubt we will ever get used to wearing VR helmets when we wake up every morning and deliberately sitting at home to complete our daily work and life in this way. During the epidemic, we have to do this; but do we really like it?"


Do we really like "home office"? Questionable


Zelnik's above questions will resonate with many people. This is the fundamental difference between him and Zuckerberg - the latter believes that VR based telecommuting is the only way for human society, which can "free mankind from the constraints of geographical location"; The former believes that this is a false proposition, and normal people still prefer to work face-to-face,Therefore, the meta universe is destined to take entertainment rather than work as its main mission.In addition, if yuanuniverse takes work as its selling point, it can only be an enterprise service business, and only large enterprises will accept recruitment, and the range of customers is very narrow; With entertainment as the selling point, it will become a consumer business, and the customer range will include billions of consumers all over the world.

To judge who is right and who is wrong between zelnik and Zuckerberg, there is actually a good verification method: see if the trend of telecommuting will ebb after the global epidemic subsides, and how employees and employers will choose their future office methods. However, the global epidemic may not subside in the short term; Even if it subsides, it will take a long time to reach a new equilibrium. This is not a problem that can be solved in the short term.

Therefore, the first line struggle of the meta universe will probably continue in the next few years or even more. Both empirically and logically, I agree with Sweeney and zelnik: most people will expect to have a "second life" in the meta universe, not just the continuation of real life; Therefore, whoever can provide richer entertainment content is likely to take the lead in the early stage of the meta universe. Epic Games and take two are full of confidence in their own meta universe prospects. In the final analysis, they believe in their own content ecology and content R & D capabilities. In their eyes, meta, a platform company that doesn't do content and can't do content well, can't win the battle of meta universe.

But Apple's entry is another matter. Its financial resources are much higher than meta, with rich hardware development experience and a complete software and hardware integration ecology. Over the past few years, it has made significant progress in the field of original film and television, music and other streaming media content, but it has not yet been involved in game development. Apple's content attributes are far stronger than meta, and it has rich experience in dealing with content developers; In addition, in the office scene, its sense of existence is not small - just look at how many enterprises in Europe and the United States use MAC as the main office computer.

At present, there is no evidence to show which side Apple will take in the "first route struggle of the meta universe". I believe it is more likely to be on the side of "entertainment content", but what is its roadmap? Will we soon see the VR game developed by apple and the MR version of the app store? In any case, this will be another major transformation of human communication and entertainment after the era of mobile Internet. There are many new things waiting for us in the future. It's exciting to think about it.

Part of the content of this article comes from the book metauniverse: the imaginative revolution of human space migration published by the strange thief group in May 2022, with a few changes.


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