Watch out Fortnite and Roblox: Facebook is building a metaverse all of its own

MBW’s Stat Of The Week is a series in which we highlight a single data point that deserves the attention of the global music industry. Stat Of the Week is supported by Cinq Music Group, a technology-driven record label, distribution, and rights management company.

Silicon Valley has long been obsessed with virtual worlds.

Over the past 18 months however, with the pandemic forcing global society into a phase of unprecedented remote work, communication and recreation, tech firms competing for audiences have been battling fiercely for ownership of the notion of a so-called ‘metaverse’.

The person who coined the term, Snow Crash author Neal Stephenson, may have only just been “making s**t up” when he wrote the metaverse concept into his influential 1992 science fiction novel, but in the current social media age, virtual reality has become big business, and increasingly so in music.

In fact, we’d be hard-pressed to find a month since the start of 2020 where a headline grabbing virtual reality-related news story didn’t make it on to MBW’s own digital pages.

Two of the biggest players in this space in 2021 are video game companies Epic Games, maker of Fortnite and Roblox Corporation, maker of kids gaming phenomenon, Roblox.

Back in March, having just closed a $520m Series H investment round that included Warner Music Group, Roblox went public on the New York Stock Exchange hitting a $45 billion company valuation.

In April, Epic revealed a $1 Billion funding round to support what it called its “Long-Term Vision for the Metaverse”, $200 million of which was contributed by Sony Group Corporation, parent of Sony Music Group. Sony had already pumped $250 million into Epic Games in July 2020.

Both Fortnite and Roblox attract vast audiences – with 350 million registered players as of May 2020 for Fornite and 43 million Daily Active Users as of May 2021 for Roblox – who can play games, watch concerts and communicate with other players virtually in each company’s own version of the ‘metaverse’.

As Snow Crash’s Stephenson told Vanity Fair back in 2017 however, “there’s only one Metaverse”, and new players brimming with investment are regularly entering the fold to stake their claim as the definitive developer of this virtual world.

In no particular order, these players include the likes of the Sensorium Galaxy, the-yet-to be publicly launched $100 million-backed social metaspace founded in 2018 by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, the Atari Metaverse, the new $7.5 million-backed ‘social metaverse’  Stageverse, and the Warner Music Group-backed Wave.

Now, Facebook, which generated revenues of over $85 billion in 2020 – and already owner of VR game Horizon Worlds, and owner one of the world’s most popular VR tech brands, Oculus – has also thrown its hat into the ring.

MBW’s stat of the week: Facebook is hiring 10,000 people in Europe over the next five years to build ‘the metaverse’.

Facebook revealed over the weekend that it plans to hire for a vast and “high-skilled” workforce within the European Union (EU) over the next five years to build its own version of the metaverse.

Today’s news follows FB’s announcement last month that it plans on pumping $50 million into this project, which it anticipates will take 10-15 years to be realized.

In a blog post published on Sunday (October 17), by Javier Olivan, VP Central Products, and Nick Clegg, a former Deputy Prime Minister of the UK and Facebook’s current VP Global Affairs, the tech giant claims to be at “the start of a journey to help build the next computing platform”.

Facebook defines ‘metaverse’ as a “new phase of interconnected virtual experiences using technologies like virtual and augmented reality”, and the company wants you to use this VR world to “hang out with friends, work, play, learn, shop, create and more”. Kind of like the internet, but in virtual reality.

“At its heart is the idea that by creating a greater sense of ‘virtual presence, interacting online can become much closer to the experience of interacting in person,” write Clegg and Olivan.

“Hopefully in the future, asking if a company is building a metaverse will sound as ridiculous as asking a company how their internet is going. So I think just in terms of giving a sense of sort of where this should go.”

Mark Zuckerberg, speaking to the Verge in July

Speaking to theVerge back in July, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that goal is for Facebook to transition from a social media company to a ‘metaverse company.

He further explained the scope of the ambitions for the project: “I don’t think in the future, people are going to call the work that individual companies do a metaverse, he said.

“Hopefully, if we’re successful collectively in building a system that’s more interoperable, and where you can teleport between things, it should all be the metaverse, each company should not have its own metaverse.

He added: “Hopefully in the future, asking if a company is building a metaverse will sound as ridiculous as asking a company how their internet is going. So I think just in terms of giving a sense of sort of where this should go.”

Facebook reiterated in its latest announcement that “no one company will own and operate the metaverse” and insists that “like the internet, its key feature will be its openness and interoperability”.

In order to bring its metaverse vision to life, Facebook plans to collaborate “across companies, developers, creators and policymakers”. Some of those partners include the Organization of American States,  Africa No FilterElectric South, Imisi3D and the Women In Immersive Tech.

 “As we begin the journey of bringing the metaverse to life, the need for highly specialized engineers is one of Facebook’s most pressing priorities.”

Nick Clegg and Javier Olivan, Facebook

Added Clegg and Olivan: “As we begin the journey of bringing the metaverse to life, the need for highly specialized engineers is one of Facebook’s most pressing priorities.

“We look forward to working with governments across the EU to find the right people and the right markets to take this forward, as part of an upcoming recruitment drive across the region.

“And as Facebook continues to grow in Europe, we hope to invest more in its talent and continue to innovate in Europe, for Europe and the world.”

Facebook’s ambitious plan has attracted criticism from various quarters, with political observers calling it a “distraction” from various problems at the company, including calls for the US government to regulate FB following recent whistleblower allegations. The Washington Post calls Facebook’s metaverse plan a “political strategy in Washington”.

Meanwhile, the firm’s plan to create the definitive metaverse has also been met with raised eyebrows from VR and AR industry.

The likes of Roblox and Epic Games, who have arguably already developed vast virtual worlds where people can “hang out with friends, work, play, learn, shop, create and more”, will likely be watching Facebook’s progress closely.

Cinq Music Group’s repertoire has won Grammy awards, dozens of Gold and Platinum RIAA certifications, and numerous No.1 chart positions on a variety of Billboard charts. Its repertoire includes heavyweights such as Bad Bunny, Janet Jackson, Daddy Yankee, T.I., Sean Kingston, Anuel, and hundreds more.Music Business Worldwide

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