Metaverses are fluid entities, constantly reshaped and redefined by multiple players. The technologies propelling these virtual universes today might be starkly different from those in use a decade or so down the line. This article discusses five public companies – Nvidia, Unity Software, Meta Platforms, Microsoft, and Roblox – that are making significant strides in shaping the metaverse.
Passive observers of the metaverse may ostensibly be prone to perceiving this buzzword as a destination, or an end-game, with a “winner-takes-all” ethos serving as the overriding motivation of competing entities in this space. The reality, though, is that metaverses are still very fluid, with multiple entities altering and shaping their contours by the day. Besides, the optimal mix of underlying technologies that buttresses a paradigm of the metaverse in 2037 could be very different from what’s deemed as credible in 2023. Thus, in the context of what we’ve just laid out, we think the following publicly listed entities may be worth considering for the medium term.
Nvidia specializes in the design and development of high-performance 3D graphic processing units (GPUs) that will be instrumental in proving the necessary processing power to ensure seamless interactions with the virtual environments of the metaverse. Crucially, Nvidia’s Omniverse platform gives users a gateway to metaverse applications and is already being used by auto and defence stalwarts in areas such as virtual factory planning, simulation, etc.
Having great plans for the metaverse is one thing, but Nvidia also has the necessary financial chops to fund its transformative metaverse ambitions; for context, this is a business that has generated positive free cash flow (FCF) every year since 2010.
One of the biggest hindrances to further metaverse adoption lies in the interoperability deficit of this universe. Put another way, we have a lot of metaverse platforms that offer immersive experiences in isolation, but the interconnectedness of these experiences across platforms is still a challenge.
Unity Software could play a key role in bridging that deficit as it already provides a developer platform called UDP, which enables gaming developers to construct one version of a game that can then be distributed and managed across multiple platforms. Unity’s IP, which has a high flexibility quotient, isn’t limited to gaming alone and can be used in a range of industries encompassing the film industry, manufacturing, construction to name a few.
It’s also worth noting that Unity is one of the founding members in the establishment of the Metaverse Standards Forum and will likely play a key role in establishing consistent standards that could facilitate interoperability in the open metaverse.
Meta Platforms, Inc.
Meta Platforms is currently in the process of building VR- and AR-related hardware that could be integral to accessing and interacting with the metaverse. Separately, this hardware could also be used to conduct immersive work experiences or conduct court hearings virtually.
While a number of mega-caps are making a splash in the metaverse, it is arguable whether there are too many of them that share the heightened level of fidelity that Meta Platforms has to the metaverse. From rebranding itself to Meta in 2021, to burning over $10 billion a year ($13.7 billion in 2022) in Reality Labs (the metaverse division) alone, there is an inherent seriousness with which the company is tackling its ambitions in this space.
Microsoft will have its foot in the door across multiple facets of the metaverse. Key applications include gaming, networking and enhancing 3D virtual environments with low-latency cloud support.
Microsoft’s inherent financial muscle shouldn’t be played down and will enable the company to engage in big transformation projects in the metaverse, either organically or inorganically (something akin to Activision Blizzard). For some context, Microsoft’s cash on its balance sheet has consistently exceeded its level of debt, whilst its operating profits have comfortably covered its interest bill by 30x over the last decade.
The metaverse needs non-physical, immersive platforms where humans can create, socialise, transact and engage in various virtual experiences at ease. This, in a nutshell, is what Roblox offers, and what’s key is that it has already amassed around 58.8 million daily active users on its platform.
This isn’t just a platform where one gets to engage in traditional gaming applications; rather, users also have the option of programming games, creating content and monetizing their efforts via a virtual currency called “Robux.”
In conclusion, the metaverse is not a distant reality but a rapidly evolving space. Companies like Nvidia, Unity Software, Meta Platforms, Microsoft, and Roblox are not only contributing to its development but also actively shaping its future. Each company brings unique capabilities, from high-performance GPUs and developer platforms to immersive hardware and engaging social platforms. With their financial strength, technological prowess, and forward-thinking strategies, these companies are poised to play pivotal roles in the evolution of the metaverse. As we move ahead, watching how these entities further their metaverse ambitions will provide a fascinating insight into the future of this exciting digital realm.