Two weeks ago, EDM DJ Marshmello gave a live concert in the virtual world of Fortnite. While virtual concerts are nothing new, with more than 10 million people tuning in simultaneously, the magnitude of this event was unprecedented. And, surpassing 200 million players in January 2018, Fortnite has quickly become one of the most popular videogames ever and it now is a regular hangout for a significant number of youngsters. The end of digital spaces is not in sight, as EA’s Apex Legends is on track to become even bigger than Fortnite. It is clear that the scale of virtual worlds is expanding massively, which means that more types of daily activities (e.g. live entertainment) will take place there and a new economic space will emerge.
What does this mean?
Virtual worlds are scaling up in many different ways. It is estimated that 2.2. billion people are now active gamers (nearly 70% of Americans play videogames). Meanwhile, with higher processing power, network capacity, and lower latency, the number of people that can simultaneously interact with each other in a single virtual space is rising (Fortnite places 100 players in the same space, while some servers in other games can fit thousands). Furthermore, immersive virtual worlds such as Fortnite have found their way onto mobile devices, which have become the most popular gaming interface. Perhaps most importantly, cross-platform play is becoming a reality for the first time (i.e. iPhone users can play against Playstation users).
Companies will try to build virtual metaplatforms that include all kinds of games and activities of daily life. This is the next step of expanding virtual worlds. These companies will include developers (e.g. Epic Games) and publishers (e.g. EA) that are trying to produce “the next Fortnite”, but also the platforms that provide access to their content (e.g. Apple’s iOS store, Microsoft’s Xbox Live, Sony’s PSN). It is notable that Microsoft wants to bring Xbox Live to Android, iOS, and Nintendo Switch, scaling up its virtual space through cross-platform play. In the not-too-distant future, virtual metaplatforms will result in something like the OASIS of the 2018 movie and novel Ready Player One (i.e. a virtual world to spend all of our time in). As such, a new economic space is being built, which, as it will include many activities of daily life and integrate different senses (e.g. heartrate, biometrics, eye tracking), will be radically different from the platforms of Google, Facebook and Amazon. It is thus very possible that new tech giants will emerge in this space.