Thank you all for coming to our second annual GamesBeat and Facebook Gaming Summit and our GamesBeat Summit: Into the Metaverse 2 online event this week. I hope you review the opening speech that I made about the choices we face — the blue shirt or the red shirt — about the metaverse. I also wrote a piece on how I believe gaming will lead us to the metaverse.
We had planned for 3,500 registrants for the three-day event, and we got more than 5,800. Woohoo! Across three days, we had 49 sessions with 130 speakers. And 50% of them were from diverse origins. I look forward to getting started recruiting speakers for our GamesBeat Summit 2022 hybrid event in Los Angeles/online on April 26-28.
You can offer your own feedback for the event here. I thought I would spend this column pointing you to some fun moments at our event. Our VentureBeat team also did a special issue on the metaverse, with pieces such as Kyle Wiggers’ story on the environmental impact of the metaverse.
As for some of the event highlights, here goes.
Three top investment pros open up about what it takes to get your video game funded.
Watch On Demand
Jason Rubin, head of content at Meta, kicked off the metaverse discussions on day one with a reinforcing comment that gaming will lead the way in the metaverse. He noted that the game engine will be critical to building the metaverse, and he said that those who are most familiar with using it are game developers. He also reiterated a believe in building an open metaverse created by many companies. Facebook Gaming’s Rick Kelley pointed out how gaming is coming down to earth after Apple’s privacy changes and the post-pandemic behaviors slipped a little in 2021.
Kim Libreri, the fast-talking fountain of knowledge and chief technology officer at Epic Games, got a lot of kudos from the whole GamesBeat writing team. He told us that we’re about five years away, perhaps another console generation, away from having perfect graphics for a realistic metaverse. He dreams of having a simultaneous concert with a live physical performance as well as a mo-capped performance in the metaverse. And he thinks one of the toughest problems to solve is the “sniper in the metaverse.”
Dave Baszucki, the CEO of Roblox, did a live talk where he talked about how we’re remaking social in the metaverse and how it’s going to be really tough to achieve interoperability in the metaverse. Whatever happens with the walled garden or open metaverse, he expects the path that favors creators is going to be the best one.
Brendan Greene, creator of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and director of PlayerUnknown’s Productions, talked about his plans to build a massive digital world called Artemis. And he believes machine learning will be key to automatically generating graphics for the world.
Kate Edwards, CEO of Geogrify and executive director of the Global Game Jam, moderated a very interesting panel on the ethics of the metaverse. The panel included Kent Bye, Voices of VR; Micaela Mantegna, Berkman Klein Center affiliate at Harvard University and the cofounder of Women in Gaming Argentina; and Jules Urbach, CEO of Otoy. They all warned of the dangers of the immersive metaverse when it comes to privacy concerns. They worry that new biometric tracking technologies like the Brain Computer Interface and the immersion of the metaverse could lead to chilling surveillance capitalism, and they suggested new governance policies around the world to contain the threat.
Another panel — with Chris Hewish, president of Xsolla; James Gatto, Shepherd Mullin, co-head of blockchain and games team; and Emily Stonehouse, Linden Lab/Tilia — offered warnings about the regulations of the metaverse.
Things got a little weird with Rizwan Virk, head of the MIT Gamelab and author of the book The Simulated Multiverse. He believes that, within decades, we will complete the ten-step journey to build a simulation around ourselves that we will not be able to distinguish from reality. Virk has studied the sci-fi question, “Are we living in a simulation?” and he addressed all of the different theories that have developed over time.
He had a very philosophical discussion in our Q&A room with Herman Narula, CEO of Improbable. Narula noted that humans have been creating artificial realities for a long time. He brought up the example of sports teams, which are like a substitute for warfare. We create these meaningless rivalries between cities that are completely artificial for the sake of a soccer match, but they retain enormous value because we care about them so much. We will these things into existence, and we are doing the same thing with the metaverse. It will have value because we want it to.
Narula also said he had a solution for the sniper problem that Libreri brought up. Improbable’s Morpheus software will be able to put 10,000 people in a single place, with 300 million networking operations per second, enough to deal with the low-latency interactions required when a sniper zooms in on one person in a giant crowd and takes a shot.
Three of our speakers, including Narula, Cathy Hackl and the team at Upland, and Matthew Ball are all writing metaverse books. And Reality+ author David Chalmers just published a title on the metaverse.
We dove deep into the subject about whether the road to the metaverse is paved with nonfungible tokens (NFTs). Randy Pitchford, CEO of Gearbox Entertainment, offered a not-so-subtle warning. He said that games as a hobby should trump games as a service, as gaming should be all about fun and not be so transactional. Chris Akhavan, chief business officer at Forte, led a talk about how blockchain gaming could become mainstream. The key is that it has to be less complicated and involve real game developers. That sentiment was echoed on other NFT panels.
Ryan Gill of Open Meta, Sarah Austin of Qglobe, and DAO expert Chase Chapman talked about how decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) could be the wave of the future that will bring us the open metaverse. And Subspace’s William King and Gather’s Kumail Jaffer talked about making the metaverse into a real-time service.
Benjamin Charbit of Darewise spoke about how not everybody needs to be a hero in the metaverse, and why it’s OK to take on other roles, like being a farmer. In that case, you could make money as a farmer, but you need a hero to defend you want villains come in to steal your crops.
And Raph Koster, CEO of Playable Worlds and a veteran of online games for 25 years, brought us down to earth with an amazingly concise 13-minute talk about things we already learned about online worlds and should not forget. He noted that interoperability is going to be really hard to do, and he noted that Unreal Engine and the Unity Engine don’t even agree that the Y axis means up in computer graphics. Koster has a wealth of material on his website, and he highly recommends the works of Edward Castronova, a new book from Richard Bartle on How to be a god, and a video that Koster did on what AR/VR can learn from MMOs.
Our Women in Gaming Breakfast featured a panel moderated by Andrea Rene of What’s Good Games, with speakers Tiffany Xingyu Wang of Spectrum Labs and Oasis Consortium, Debbie Bestwick of Team17, and Laura Sturr of Amazon Games. Thanks to our room moderators Joanie Kraut, Swatee Surve, and Serena Robar. Our newest GamesBeat writer Rachel Kaser attended and she moderated a session later on fighting toxicity in the metaverse with Rachel Franklin of EA, Tiffany Xingyu Wang, and Laura Higgins of Roblox.
We closed the event with a fun podcast of the GamesBeat team with me, Rachel Kaser, Jeff Grubb, and Mike Minotti. Our poll for the favorite GamesBeat writer also had results in that order. Sorry Mike, but Jeff kind of steered the audience to vote for him in an electoral violation.
Our next event on April 26-28 should also feature another Women in Gaming Breakfast, as well as our annual GamesBeat Visionary Awards. If you’d like to sign up as an adviser or to help, let me know via DM on Twitter via Deantak. And women speakers can continue to apply here. Again, thank you for coming and see you in April.