Weekly take: What happened to the metaverse?
Barely a year ago companies and law firms were clamouring to get a foothold in the metaverse, but it is yet to live up to the hype
I’m old enough (only just) to remember the hype that swept the world in 1999 ahead of the widely predicted ‘Millennium Bug’.
There was extensive, and at times very serious, news coverage discussing the likelihood of computer errors that could potentially wreak havoc across the world the moment clocks turned to midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Many computer programs represented four-digit years with only the final two digits. This would have made the year 2000 indistinguishable from 1900, for example. Computer systems' formatting had the potential, we were warned, to bring down worldwide infrastructures for computer-reliant industries.
In the end, 1999 became 2000 without so much as a whisper. I was sleeping happily in my bed.
Incidentally, that’s how I have continued to spend New Year’s Eve, which remains one of the most overrated events in the calendar, but I digress and that’s a discussion for another day.
The point of this article is to ask whether we are heading for a similar anti-climax when it comes to another much-discussed trend – the so-called ‘metaverse’.
You remember the metaverse, right? Only a year ago it was going to transform how we all lived our lives.
The idea that a new immersive virtual world, or multiple virtual worlds, would soon become commonplace was a huge talking point.
Businesses, including banks and fashion stores, started to think about how they should adapt their strategies.
Intellectual property was no stranger to metaverse discussions too, and we at Managing IP have published a fair few metaverse-related articles ourselves.
Brands publicly discussed their metaverse strategies, including the notion of licensing their trademarked products or opening stores. Some law firms launched metaverse offices, and traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ firms started to advise on how to protect IP in this new world.
And then it all went quiet.
I may be alone in thinking this, but I can’t help but wonder if the hype is dying down (if it hasn’t perished already).
In the last few days, The Drum, a publication for the media and marketing industries, provided a rundown of how some brands have cut back their metaverse strategies.
Companies including Disney and Coca-Cola, which created roles for people to develop metaverse strategies, have either redeployed or axed these roles.
But the muted metaverse buzz is a trend I have noticed from a reporting and editing perspective too.
The law firms I mentioned that launched metaverse offices appear to have eased off on their marketing.
Perhaps I am wrong to say that, and if I am, I would be delighted to hear from those firms on how it is all going.
Rarely do we get proposals from law firms to write about or comment on the metaverse nowadays. At the start of the year and the end of last year, these were coming in thick and fast.
At Managing IP’s Innovation Summit held in London earlier this summer, one panellist, when discussing general IP trends, notably referred to the metaverse as “not over just yet”.
It was intriguing that this panellist was even considering that the metaverse may be on the way out.
From my perspective, the notion has only grown in the two months since the event.
I’m not suggesting the metaverse will never take off. But maybe the initial hype has been overblown?
It’s worth noting that many new and exciting technologies will attract a flurry of interest in the early stages before it dies down after a year or so.
The first thing that comes to mind from a new technology and IP perspective was the expansion of the new generic top-level domains programme back in the early 2010s.
For months and months, we heard that all brands would need to get involved and protect their IP with a new ‘dot brand’.
In the end, a few brands did, but most didn’t. The majority of companies opted to stick with what they knew.
It will be up to those companies and law firms that are already invested in metaverse technology to work on it and make it appealing.
If the whole thing really does turn out to be a dud, then those who at least attempted to protect and promote themselves in the metaverse have not really lost out on anything.
For what it’s worth, I always considered it a bit far-fetched to expect people who don’t usually enter online worlds to suddenly embrace that format.
There is already a market for online worlds and gaming, and I see no real reason why it is likely to expand beyond those people.
I may well be wrong, of course, and the metaverse could yet prove to be the next big thing.
Or perhaps by the time the clock ticks midnight to usher in 2024, it truly will have died a death.
Either way, you’ll find me in bed asleep.