Is the Metaverse the Future of Gaming As We Know It?by@jamesking
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Is the Metaverse the Future of Gaming As We Know It?

by James KingNovember 17th, 2022
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Virtual worlds powered by Web3 aren’t quite as popular as some of us expected. Data aggregator DappRadar reported less than 40 daily active users on Decentraland and a little over 500 on Sandbox. The success of metaverses depends on mass adoption, and mass adoption could still be a long way away. The biggest Web3 projects to build out open worlds for exploration already enjoy billion-dollar valuations. But even going by these figures, the statistics relative to Web2 counterparts are far from encouraging.

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Since their inception, video games have allowed players to explore a massive variety of virtual worlds, which for the most part are designed to be as immersive as possible. Yet, because of the inherent limitations of 2D screens in representing 3D environments, full on life-like immersion has eluded both players and game devs since the dawn of video games.

Flat-screen hardware creates significant representational challenges that continue to limit how realistic video games can be for players.

Metaverses seek to change this paradigm. Enhancements in virtual reality and graphical rendering technologies promise to put gamers in fully immersive 3D environments. In addition, by integrating Web3, arguably the next evolution of the internet, these technologies are shaping up to bring a new level of playability, engagement and ownership to players and creators all over the world.

Thus, the metaverse has come to be accepted by a vocal group of believers (both individuals and corporates alike) as the format that will reshape video games as we know them. But is that really the case?

The current state of the metaverse in gaming

Projects working to bring fully immersive 3D environments into gaming have existed for at least a decade, since the advent of the consumer VR console. The biggest Web3 projects to build out open worlds for exploration, The Sandbox and Decentraland, already enjoy billion-dollar valuations.

Then, if you add case studies of Web2 analogues such as Minecraft and Roblox, there’s a signal that the market appreciates such open-world formats because of their replay-ability and expansiveness. At first glance, such high valuations would seem to imply that such games have been picking up steam rapidly, gaining new users, and doing what it takes to keep them coming back. While this is true for certain Web2 open worlds, it hasn’t exactly been the case in Web3.

In early October 2022, data aggregator DappRadar reported less than 40 daily active users on Decentraland and a little over 500 on Sandbox. Compared to the 43.2 million daily active users on Roblox, for example, things don’t look rosy for Web3.

This caused quite a stir in the Web3 community, casting doubt on its potential and the future of gaming. If such big investment platforms attract such low numbers, does Web3 really have a future?

It was later revealed that DappRadar only counted unique wallet addresses interacting with the platforms’ smart contracts as active users. It didn’t count users who logged in to explore, interact with other users, or attend virtual events. This offered some much-needed clarification for the vastly underestimated player figures.

Decentraland was also quick to defend itself with data from its platform. Creative director, Sam Hamilton, revealed to Coindesk that the platform averaged 8,000 users per day.

However, even going by these figures, the statistics relative to Web2 counterparts are far from encouraging. Virtual worlds powered by Web3 aren’t quite as popular as some of us expected. Why is that?

Issues facing metaverses

The success of metaverses, like most other technologies, depends on mass adoption. Data from The Sandbox and Decentraland has shown mass adoption could still be a long way away. In fact, the popularity of metaverses appears to be waning by the numbers.

One possible contribution to lackluster player engagement is the subpar user experience. The metaverses of today don’t offer a competitive user experience to attract the average gamer away from Web2 counterparts. Decentraland is the perfect example.

For years, its browser-based interface has been incredibly clunky and replete with bugs. Many viewed it as overly complex, without a core gameplay loop, and lacking replay depth. This poor experience not only made it difficult to play, but it also undoubtedly created a barrier to entry for anyone who wasn’t dead set on giving the platform a try.

There are always early adopters that are intent on spending the time to learn how to interface with something novel, but there’s a well-known chasm that exists between these early adopters and the early majority. .

Releasing a working product should be the absolute bare minimum. Decentraland has made considerable progress in the last few years which has led to an increasing player base.

Unfortunately, it still suffers from some of the big issues that hamper metaverse ecosystems today: a lack of imagination and poor interoperability.

A lack of Imagination

While immersive content certainly has a role in the success of a video game, the best games are usually the most creative and imaginative. 3D or not, they provide players with fun,  delightful visuals coupled with meaningful storytelling and engaging gameplay to deliver memorable experiences.

This is abundant in Web2 gaming, with powerhouses like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV. But unfortunately, it is exactly what is missing in Web3, especially in the metaverse scene.

Current metaverses are known for their uninspiring visuals. Even on the highest settings, the graphics are cartoonish at best, creating a barrier for players to immerse themselves in the world. The gameplay tends to be equally disappointing, characterized by clunky controls and unengaging game mechanics.

Furthermore, most of these games are created with a heavy focus on play-to-earn models. This obsession with earning prevents much-needed resources and efforts from going into delivering what actually makes gaming great – gaming.

Poor interoperability

There is also a lack of platform interoperability. While virtual worlds are predominantly built on blockchain technology, most exist as their own separate ecosystems. There really isn’t any way for a user to move from one metaverse to another with the assets they’ve accumulated.

For instance, users have to create new avatars for every metaverse game. Since an avatar is in some ways a reflection of one’s unique personality, it would be much more convenient if a user could create one avatar that they use across all their games if they wanted to, with protocols to transform avatars as needed for different games.

Not far off

Fortunately, projects are already embracing Web3 solutions to improve the metaverse. Catheon Gaming is one such platform. The project is building an ecosystem featuring an extensive portfolio of 25+ blockchain games featuring different genres, unique art styles, and engaging gameplay mechanics. All these can be accessed from Steam-like game launcher.

The project also has an open-world metaverse, the Catheon Metaverse, which it labels as “a single unifying meta-game.”

Potential solutions

Most players will only switch to Web3 if they’re assured of an experience that surpasses  what they’re currently enjoying in traditional gaming. Metaverses need to improve their product offering with respect to the visual, narrative, and gameplay elements of their open worlds. .

Of course, subpar graphics are in some ways tied to the current level of VR hardware, about which there is little metaverse projects can do to change.

Very few companies have enough resources to fund the level of research and development needed to push VR technology to the next level.

But other areas, like the gameplay and storytelling, can be improved upon. Projects should work to create playable games with an engaging story and/or intrinsically fun gameplay mechanics.

All that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of play-to-earn models.

These still have a huge role to play in the future of gaming. However, they shouldn’t be the only or primary focus of meta-games.