Metaverse Weekly: Epic Battle Brewing for Control of the Metaverse


Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney went to war with Apple in 2020 over its iron grip on the iPhone ecosystem and with Google a year later over Android, and now he’s ready wade back into the fray to protect the future of the metaverse.

The maker of massively multiplayer online (MMO) game Fortnite leveraged its 70 million monthly players into an early metaverse proof-of-concept last year with a series of “live” concerts starting with avatars of Travis Scott and Arianna Grande, which attracted 12.3 million and 27.7 million attendees, respectively, and tens of millions of dollars in revenue.

See also: Gaming Platforms Betting On ‘The Metaverse’ As Next Internet

Since then, Sweeney has made very clear that he intends to turn his Fortnite fantasy role-playing world into an immersive, open-to-developers metaverse that happens to have a very large game attached.

And, he told the Financial Times on May 26, he has no intention of letting Apple and Google, or Meta, create a profit- and customer access-dominating walled garden around the metaverse like they did around smartphones and Facebook. The latter charged 30% fees for payments made through the smartphone app stores, while Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta Quest VR world — sort of a metaverse lite — plans to grab up to 47.5% of sales.

Read more: Meta Opens Its Metaverse Platform to Payments, and It Doesn’t Come Cheap

While Sweeney lost the iPhone payments fight in a U.S. courtroom, Apple’s victory may have been pyrrhic: The EU has recently made clear that it intends to force Apple to open the iPhone  ecosystem to developers outside the App Store as part of a new anticompetition law.

“I’m terribly afraid the current monopolies will use their power to become the next monopolies on new generations of platforms — and continue to use that power to exclude all competition,” Sweeney said. “If these practices continue on smartphone, they’re not only going to dominate digital commerce and digital goods on smartphones, they’re ultimately going to dominate the metaverse and they’re going to dominate all physical commerce taking place in virtual and augmented reality.”

See more: What’s a Metaverse, and Why is One Having a Fashion Show?

The one saving grace, he said, is that the tech giants have played this game before and developers are mad as heck and they’re not going to take it anymore. Or again, anyway.

All three “duped” major brands into handing over their customer relationships, and over time built higher and higher walls around those customers.

“Nobody’s going to sign up for more of this walled garden bullshit, as they did unintentionally in the past,” he predicted. “Every brand is going to go in and negotiate with every aspiring metaverse operator … [to] that ensure they can have a direct customer relationship.

Also read: Microsoft’s $69B Activision Blizzard Buy Begs the Question: Is the Metaverse Gaming, Commerce or Escapism?

We know this, he added, “because we were talking to all these companies and they’re all very consistent and adamant about remaining first-class citizens in the metaverse and not being intermediated.”

The key at this point in the metaverse’s development, Sweeney said, “is tearing down the blockades that enable Apple and Google to simply veto the metaverse.”

As Apple did to Fortnite when it kicked the game off the Apple Store for building in a way for users to make payments directly to Epic without giving Apple 30% off the top.

“They could do that with the metaverse,” he warned. “And stopping them from exercising that degree of monopoly power is the vital step. Otherwise, we’re all going to build this and they’re going to steal it from it us.”

The Metaverse Goes to Davos

The World Economic Forum’s annual Davos event included plenty of metaverse content, starting with plans to work with Microsoft and Accenture to build a “Global Collaboration Village” in an as-yet-undetermined part of the virtual world or worlds that will be the true next generation of the internet, according to believers like Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg — who foresees a $3 trillion web reboot.

Read also: Davos Jumps Into Metaverse While Bankers at Forum Blast Crypto Payments

WEF founder and CEO Klaus Schwab that the organization said on Monday, May 23, that the organization “is embarking on an ambitious new journey to harness the potential of the metaverse as a platform for collaborative, inclusive and effective international action,”

Meanwhile, speaking at a WEF panel on “The Possibilities of the Metaverse” on May 26, Lego Group Vice President Edward Lewin spoke about the need for a child-focused metaverse.

“One in three people using the internet are young adults and children, so I would really focus on building from kids’ perspective, given they are the future users,” he said, according to Cointelegraph. Pointing to the vast differences between learning about volcanoes via augmented reality rather than pictures in a book, he said “it could be a great way for learning for future generations.”

In April, Lego announced a tie-up with Sweeney’s Epic Games — whose market valuation climbed to $31.5 billion based on its metaverse aspirations — to build such a kid-friendly metaverse.

“We believe there is huge potential for them to develop life-long skills such as creativity, collaboration and communication in both, Lego Grouo CEO Niels Christiansen said at the time.

Also read: Lego, Epic Games Building Metaverse For Kids

Sony Jumps In

Another Epic partner, Sony, announced big plans for the metaverse last week, with Kenichiro Yoshida telling Reuters that with its movie, music and gaming projects accounting for two-thirds of revenue last year, Sony is shifting from a consumer electronics maker to a “metaverse-ready entertainment juggernaut.”

Among other things, Sony’s Playstation has allowed cross-play with Fortnite for the past four years, and recently allowed players who bought Fortnite’s V-bucks to spend them off-platform.

“The metaverse is at the same time a social space and live network space where games, music, movies and anime intersect,” said Yoshida.

See also: Sony Says It Is Ready to Enter the Metaverse