A recent study by McKinsey & Company (1) revealed that investments totaling more than $120 billion have been made in Metaverse platforms, indicating a significant expansion happening and that the Metaverse has the potential to generate at least $5 billion in value by 2030.
Despite the assumption that most metaverse platforms have poor graphics, for example, Mark Zuckerberg (2) received criticism for posting a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower on Meta, where critics noted that Meta's graphics are of worse quality than those that were present in Second Life in 2007.
The mainstream was quick to criticize the graphics of various metaverses. Still, industry insiders point out that image quality is intentional, and other metaverses' content design and aesthetic decisions are typically stylistic. For instance, some metaverses build on the blocky appearance of Minecraft, which was a deliberate choice not to look realistic.
Blocky appearances over realistic replicas
With 20 years of archived Second Life (3) images scattered across the internet, users can see the incredible quality creators deliver today, far beyond that of even brand-new virtual worlds or metaverses. This focus on realism is one of the main differences between the Second Life community and other metaverse platforms.
While a realistic appearance may be attractive to some communities, platforms approach the issue in various ways. For instance, The Sandbox, one of the most well-known blockchain-based metaverses, purposefully uses boxy aesthetics. Due to the popularity of Minecraft (4), the platform picked voxels, which are like digital legos and don't need an instruction manual to operate. This gives The Sandbox access to a huge global audience.
Similar to how users do not consider Lego (5) as Lo-fi, 8-bit style, or retro pixel art but rather as another example of something trendy for what it represents, which the users acknowledge, boxy, voxelized images in The Sandbox are not any visual limitations but rather a style allowing collaborative design.
The Sandbox Reception
Since the metaverse is mostly made up of user-generated material that is always evolving, graphics make it possible for creators of all ages and backgrounds to access the tools they need to express themselves. The Sandbox and Loretta Chen, a co-founder of Smobler Studios (6), collaborated to build a wedding reception in the Metaverse.
The wedding venue was built by Smobler Studios using Game Marker and VoxEdit, two free programs that can be downloaded from The Sandbox website. According to Chen, she was pleased with the fantastical elements of The Sandbox's graphics, which created freedom in some aspects. She said it would be negligent if they tried to recreate a replica of assets without imagination or a fun element.
However, some proponents assert that high-quality images are essential for ensuring engaging metaverse experiences. Focusing on high-quality graphics is important for various reasons, including the fact that doing so allows users to participate in the Metaverse's economy and demand virtual goods with premium graphical fidelity.
According to Jacob Loewenstein, head of growth at Spatial (7), graphic quality is now becoming crucial. A McKinsey report notes that 79% of consumers active on the Metaverse have already made purchases. Given the company's focus on quality, it should not be surprising that it is partnering with major fashion outlets like Vogue Singapore to bring metaverses to the mainstream.
Aside from that, 3D artists provide a variety of avatar cosmetics, including physically based rendering materials that specify how items should physically appear in a gaming engine. Even though the procedure can be difficult, Read Player Me will open-source its graphics library to give developers a simpler environment.
Graphics quality depends on the decisions made by metaverse platforms and advancements like web3. For example, most of The Sandbox's resources are being spent on research and development, according to Borget (9), to ensure the next stages of the user experience.
Avatar expressions and emotions will make the experience more immersive and enjoyable for users. Users can tell how things have changed since two years ago by comparing them to how they were two years ago.
Although there is little doubt that innovation is taking place, technical obstacles will impede progress. For example, most of today's metaverse applications are browser-based, even though users expect frictionless access.
While some metaverses are concentrating on providing room for both the web and mobile, it should be noted that computational restrictions have been a concern. The need for metaverse accessibility on devices other than gaming PCs is growing.
Third, as high bandwidth internet becomes more widely available, cloud rendering is becoming more affordable. Developments are underway as new processors become more powerful while remaining lightweight and power efficient.
All things considered, it appears that the metaverse development is currently more concerned with community building than with the visual perspective necessary to go past the expectations of a photorealistic meta-human metaverse and focus on what motivates human interactions.
The focus should instead be on making creation and play highly accessible and engaging, which will create a new and more level playing field in the metaverse. Building a world that requires high-end technology and skills for building and running, it will exclude most of the world's population.
The majority of people on the globe hold a variety of perspectives and opinions about the metaverse, which has left the field quite vague for some. When building a metaverse, businesses should keep the user experience in mind. What counts is the user experience and accessibility to all, which is more like the metaverse, whether it is a blocky experience or a real immersive experience.