Epic chief Tim Sweeney calls for an open metaverse
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney continues to see great potential in the Metaverse and believes it can be designed to be open.
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has been a proponent of the metaverse for years, perhaps out of private enthusiasm, but also out of economic interest: His company’s graphics engine Unreal, along with Unity, is already the backbone of the games and 3D industry.
If the metaverse takes off and the share of 3D content continues to rise in all areas of life, Sweeney’s company will be one of the big winners.
With Fortnite, Epic also has a digital platform for gaming and social events on its hands that plays an important role in the lives of millions of young people. Sony, for example, believes in Epic’s potential and recently invested $1 billion in a Metaverse partnership.
Epic Games plans to keep pushing for an open Metaverse
Although Sweeney has repeatedly criticized Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the past for Facebook’s aggressive XR expansion and fears a metaverse in Meta’s walled garden, the two executives’ statements sound quite similar. Both CEOs assume that the Metaverse will grow slowly over years and will emerge through the collaboration of many companies and technologies.
The Metaverse would arise “from a lot of different things coming together over time,” Sweeney says. One component is huge groups of players and friends. On Fortnite, Epic has 600 million registered accounts with 4.7 billion social connections, according to Sweeney.
Sweeney sees similar potential in Microsoft with Xbox Live, Playstation, Nintendo and Valve with Steam. He doesn’t mention Meta, but says, “We’d really like to work with other partners to connect them all together.”
The Metaverse is “monstrously complicated”; it won’t magically appear, Sweeney says. The point is to get a little closer to the networked ideal each year.
The Epic chief expects the Metaverse to take about ten years to build, and he sees VR and AR as “incredibly important facets” in the evolution of the technology.
“I think there’s a lot of magic to be had by converging both parts of this, so sometimes you’re in the physical world with virtual enhancements and sometimes you’re in the purely virtual world.”
Sweeney believes the Metaverse is currently overhyped
“We don’t want a dozen companies to fight each other to create the one monopoly that rules them all, and one wins and now everybody is locked into their proprietary thing,” Sweeney says.
In this context, he idealizes the early days of the Internet, before monopolization processes began and corporations created walled gardens. The metaverse, he says, can be built on the foundation of open systems, open standards and the willingness of companies “to work together on the basis of respecting their mutual customer relationships.”
“You can come in with an account from one ecosystem and play in another, and everybody just respects those relationships. And there’s a healthy competition for every facet of the ecosystem,” says Sweeney, describing his vision of the Metaverse.
What’s more, he says, it’s a shame that the Metaverse is so “overhyped” at the moment. In the Web3 context, the Epic boss even suspects a second dot-com bubble.
“I think it’s like 1999 [part] two and [there’s] going to be some reckoning with reality for the companies that are building things that don’t quite or don’t really work. But it’s also a renaissance. When the foundations for the future are actually being built right now.”
The full interview with Sweeney, which is well worth reading, is available at Fast Company.