Epic Games’ Metaverse explained – how it differs from Facebook’s vision

Steadily over several years, Epic Games has been acquiring assets and making strategic moves with the goal of making its metaverse vision a reality.
15 October 2021

What is Epic Games’ Metaverse like and how does it differ from Facebook’s vision? Source: Getty Images

  • Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has been one of the biggest advocates for the metaverse in recent years
  • Sony and other tech companies contributed a collective US$1 billion to Epic Games to effectively build the next evolution of the internet
  • Epic Games believes it is well suited to realize its metaverse vision through its own technologies and series of acquisitions

Metaverse — a term coined by sci-fi author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash, where a virtual world converges with physical reality. Almost 30 years later, the concept of a metaverse has gained more traction especially within the gaming and technology industries. One person who saw a huge potential in a so-called metaverse and has been its biggest advocate for years was Epic Games’ CEO Tim Sweeney.

According to Sweeney, people are tired of how today’s internet operates and for some time now, he has eyed a solution: the metaverse. In an interview with The Washington Post, he shared the simplest way to define the metaverse; “an evolution of how users interact with brands, intellectual properties and each other on the Internet.” 

Epic Games’ metaverse 

The metaverse, to Sweeney, would be an expansive, digitized communal space where real users can interact openly with brands, and one another. “It would be a kind of online playground where users could join friends to play a multiplayer game like Epic’s “Fortnite” one moment, watch a movie via Netflix the next, and then bring their friends to test drive a new car that’s crafted exactly the same in the real world as it would be in this virtual one.

It would not be, Sweeney said, “the manicured, ad-laden news feed presented by platforms like Facebook,” The Washington Post article elaborates. Sweeney’s point is that whatever the metaverse becomes, it will eventually break down barriers between closed systems, so that rather than having separate systems and accounts for things like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Fortnite, Call of Duty, and so forth, everything will just be interconnected in an open virtual world, working interoperably as one digital economy.

Given how Sweeney has been setting his eyes on a metaverse for years, Epic Games as a whole has been acquiring a number of assets and making strategic moves with the goal of making Sweeney’s vision a reality sooner rather than later. In fact earlier this year, Sony and other tech companies contributed a collective US$1 billion to Epic Games, to effectively build the next evolution of the internet.

And as Sweeney and Epic pursue their metaverse dream,  a number of massive, tech-centric companies follow suit. The most recent and attention-grabbing announcement had been from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who said he hopes that users stop thinking of Facebook as a social media company and more of a metaverse company. 

Facebook wants its piece of the metaverse

Earlier this year, when Zuckerberg laid out his vision to transform Facebook from a social media network into a “metaverse company” in the next five years, the social pioneer said he believed the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet, and creating this product group is the next step in Facebook’s journey. 

He describes it as “an embodied internet where instead of just viewing content — you are in it.”  In short, Facebook believes its users will eventually experience the social network not on a smartphone screen but superimposed over the real world, and seen through AR-enabled glasses. More recently, the company has been exploring how to create a map of the real world so that this digital, social layer can be placed over it, with certain digital items anchored to certain physical places

This means virtual meetings between avatars can happen within real-world spaces. Cameras on the glasses will detect and follow the user’s eyes movements. The idea of Facebook’s direction is far from new since it has been spoken and discussed for a while now

However, according to an article written by Jerod Venema on VentureBeat, the need for an open, cross-platform experience is “why Facebook’s metaverse initiatives will fail.” He attributes it to how everything Facebook does is inside a closed experience, controlled by their engineers and admins.

“Even if you want to use your Oculus headset to access a third-party virtual reality app, you must sign in with a Facebook account. I understand why the company does this, as its lifeblood is unfettered access to user data. Zuckerberg probably sees this metaverse expansion as a way to more fully immerse his userbase into Facebook and get even more data and dollars from them,” the writer noted.

A separate report by Bloomberg shared the same stance– that that other tech giants besides Facebook are in a better position to turn the hype into reality. “The two critical components needed for companies to take advantage of the opportunities that may arise from any potential metaverse are advanced semiconductors and software tools. Facebook is not strong on either front,” it noted.