The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reports that in the first six months of 2022, the word metaverse appeared in regulatory filings more than 1,100 times. The previous year saw 260 mentions. The preceding two decades? Fewer than a dozen in total. It increasingly feels as though every corporate executive feels the need to mention the metaverse—and of course, how it naturally fits the capabilities of their company better than those of their competitors. Few seem to explain what it is or exactly what they’ll build. The executive class also appears to disagree over fundamental aspects of this new platform, including the criticality of virtual reality headsets, blockchains and crypto, as well as whether it’s here now, might be soon, or is decades in the future.
None of which has constrained investment. Much has been written of Facebook’s name change to “Meta” and the more than $10 billion it now loses each year on its metaverse initiatives. But another six of the largest public companies in the world—Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nvidia, Tencent—have also been busy preparing for the metaverse. They are reorganizing internally, rewriting their job descriptions, reconstructing their product offerings, and prepping multi-billion-dollar product launches. In January, Microsoft announced the largest acquisition in Big Tech history, paying $75 billion for gaming giant Activision Blizzard, which would “provide building blocks for the metaverse.” In total, McKinsey & Company estimates that corporations, private equity companies, and venture capitalists made $120 billion in metaverse-related investments during the first five months of this year.
Nearly all of the aforementioned work has, thus far, remained invisible to the average person. Rather like the metaverse itself. There isn’t really a metaverse product we can go buy, nor “metaverse revenue” be found on an income statement. In fact, it might seem as though the metaverse, to the extent it ever existed, has already come and gone. Crypto has crashed. So too has Facebook’s market capitalization, which topped $900 billion when the company changed its name to Meta, but now sits around $445 billion. This year, the video gaming sales have fallen by nearly 10%, due in part to the end of the pandemic that forced many people inside.