The Metaverse – Matthew Ball (Liveright 2022)

The Metaverse Matthew Ball

I’ve had early-stage meetings with prospective clients who have introduced me to their new virtual business project, geared towards a metaverse-like world, and I have found it hard to ascertain whether theirs is a ‘pipe-dream’ or a ‘near-reality’ – and felt under-qualified to offer an opinion on how to best market their concept.

I have also had clients ask me for my view on whether their brand needs to have a marketing presence in ‘the metaverse’. So you can imagine that it was with some enthusiasm that I ordered and absorbed Matthew Ball’s highly informative book where he separates fact from fiction. 

What is truly fascinating about this book is that it is mostly about what is not currently possible – and why. The last few chapters then give us a glimpse as to how the world could be once we remove these blocks to development.

To be clear – and we need clarity as, to be frank, there’s a tonne of nonsense out there about the metaverse – let’s immediately dial up Matthew Ball’s definition of ‘the Metaverse’:

“A massively scaled and interoperable network of real-time rendered 3D virtual worlds that can be experienced synchronously and persistently by an effectively unlimited number of users with an individual sense of presence and with a continuity of data, such as identity, history, entitlements, objects, communications and payments.”

Got that?

Basically, a virtual world, open to all, that inter-relates – making the world of sci-fi possible. 

What will this ‘Metaverse world’ be like? Wild. Unlike anything we know today.

Are we close to inhabiting that world? In short: No. But we are closer than we have ever been. While most can agree we are not yet in the era of the metaverse, few can agree on when we might get there, though Ball promises that huge leaps in the direction of the metaverse will be made within the next decade.

To pinpoint exactly when the metaverse will arrive is largely missing the point. Ball argues that its arrival will be gradual and over time. Imagine trying to identify the specific date of adoption of the universal use of electricity, computers, the internet or smart phones. 

Each of those major technological shifts have phased in over a number of years or decades, and no single invention or historical event caused them – it was more of a cumulation of technological advancements and human needs. Where are we on our timeline towards the metaverse? Ball argues that we are ‘well on our way’.

At present, there are massive barriers to the arrival of the metaverse: technological (computing power and data transfer), compatibility issues (between rival platforms) and payment (a vortex of frankly out-dated nonsense). Over the top of all of this you need to sprinkle the role of powerful corporations, like Apple, whose stranglehold (via the iOS app platform) means they effectively control progress to a future metaverse through their devices.

Let’s assume we get beyond the aforementioned blockers (and blockchain technology may hold the key) – how will life change? This is where things start to get interesting. The world as we know it will change dramatically: education, lifestyle business, entertainment, sex and sex work, fashion and advertising, industry will continue to operate, just ‘not as we know them.’ Ideas that have only existed in science fiction movies and books will be possible, at least virtually, in this new digital terrain.

Should we be thinking about our individual or business’ role in the metaverse? Yes. Absolutely. To completely ignore the metaverse is luddite – like ignoring the arrival of the printed press, industrial machines or artificial intelligence. What can your business do about the metaverse right now? That answer is much more nuanced, and certainly not answered by this book.

To get a firmer grasp of the metaverse, one could do a lot worse than stay abreast of developments (and limits) by reading Matthew Ball’s opus. Will it tell you how your business will relate to these advancements? No. How could it? We are not there yet.

For en pointe collaborative marketing support and advice, book in for a zoom chat and we can discuss your business goals, challenges and hot priorities – and maybe even work out what the metaverse means for you.