The metaverse: a briefly popular oddity from primordial times (2022) that promptly died in the water.
Okay, virtual gaming platform Roblox is still going strong — but the rest of it is looking rather lonely at the moment. Data aggregator DappRadar reveals that there were fewer than 400 “active users” on Decentraland, another emerging metaverse platform, in a recent 24-hour period, which doesn’t seem like a lot for a company that was reportedly valued at over $1bn. Other platforms, including The Sandbox, have seen their user numbers plunge too.
It was likely the moment Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook (sorry, Meta) put his two arms around the “immersive virtual world” that it became categorically uncool; the moment it became the “meh-taverse”.
Undeterred, France wants to make the virtual world happen. The government just closed its call yesterday for public comment on how it should create its metaverse strategy — to the locals that's the "univers virtuels à la française”. It wants ideas for what tech should be prioritised for funding to create “an alternative to the virtual immersive universes currently offered by the international giants”.
Will it be metaverse or metamerde? I feel these government-led tech pushes are often a bit rubbish — more likely to churn out smoky steampunk contraptions than actually cool internet things.
Still, it’s not like the corporates are doing much better. Very few people are hanging out in virtual worlds these days. Over the last few months, companies like Meta, Microsoft, Tencent and Disney have decided to scrap their metaverse projects. Meta, for instance, lost $13.7bn last year on its virtual reality lab. That’s as much money as was invested in all of German tech in 2022.
So with everyone making an absolute casserole out of their metaverses, why shouldn't the French have a go?
We do, at least, have a rough sketch of what the French metaverse could look like. France’s president Emmanuel Macron, hoping to cement his reputation as King Tech, created his own virtual world last year in Minecraft, the blocky sandbox game, to get some publicity for his re-election. “France through its language, heritage, cities, villages and monuments must also exist in the metaverse,” Macron said in an interview last April.
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Visitors to the "Macronverse" were invited to mosy around a wobbly-looking town square, visit a handful of cafes or a kebab shop and gaze up at an enormous billboard with a photo of the president. You could also fall in a virtual river and drown.
So… will the French save the metaverse?
Actually I think it’s more likely French people wouldn’t care to visit their own virtual world.
Didn’t we recently see all those French restaurant diners not put off one bit by fiery protests in the streets of Paris ("This is fine...dining")? The metaverse is just another horrorshow to ignore.