What could Emmanuel Macron’s desired European metaverse look like?

It’s not enough to want, you have to act. During the presentation of his program for the 2022 presidential elections, the outgoing President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, on Thursday, March 17, revealed the main lines of his project for France for the next five years. A roadmap with an estimated budget of 50 billion euros per year. It is a question of full employment (and the name change of Pôle Emploi in France Travail), energy independence, extending the retirement age to 65… and the European metaverse (or metaverse).

Indeed, as surprising as it may seem, this idea of ​​a “European metaverse” is actually one of the “essential issues” mentioned in Emmanuel Macron’s campaign manifesto. Although many French men and women have never heard of this concept of metaverse or do not master it well, the head of state wanted to put it forward. As a way of indicating its importance. If the subject may still seem vague, some analysts believe in a meteoric development of these virtual worlds. According to the research firm Grand View Research, the metaverse market could thus reach 678 billion dollars in 2030. In less than 10 years therefore…

Avoid leaving the field open for the US and China

Faced with such potential, it may seem commendable not to want to reproduce what happened in social networks, e-commerce or online advertising in this still emerging market. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google, eBay, Paypal, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft … so many American companies occupying the front of the current Internet scene. Recently, China is also emerging globally with TikTok. In order for the story not to originate in the metaverse in ten years, it seems like a good idea to want to create a sovereign European world.

As Emmanuel Macron explained in his speech last Thursday, “This is a key issue both for creation, but also for the ability to allow all our creators, regardless of their cultural field and their field of activity, to create and not be dependent on actors or Anglo-Saxon or Chinese aggregators who will be able to completely circumvent the rules of respect for copyright or related rights. This is an important issue to defend the rights of our authors”. But what is the reality behind this desire?

European Metaverse: already concrete initiatives

What if Emmanuel Macron’s project already existed?! We can actually ask the question when we see the success of the metaverse of French origin, The Sandbox. The latter, born at the start of a video game, has continued to gain popularity in recent months. And to attract brands and companies that position themselves in this virtual world, to test the countless possibilities of this new concept. Their goal? Don’t miss the mark of being announced as part of Web3, the future of the Internet. These projects are definitely still in the works, like Meta (Facebook) or Microsoft’s reflections. In Europe… we are still looking for new players (The Sandbox is of French origin, but now based in Hong-Kong, editor’s note).

Following Emmanuel Macron’s speech, Cédric O, the Minister of State for Digital, told BFMTV that “it’s not a metaverse like you’ll see at Meta, it’s more that we have to create graphics engines from software”. The aim is therefore above all to support the creation of the underlying technologies. These will allow the metaverse to work, such as graphics engines such as Unreal Engine (Epic Games) and Unity. These are two American engines that allow you to create video games and virtual universes. Unity was founded in Denmark in 2004, but moved to an American flag (listed on the NYSE) based in San Francisco.

Cédric O’s clarification is not anecdotal: we are moving from a European metaverse project to… game engines. However, these are important. As Roselyne Bachelot, Minister of Culture, reminds us, “We must take our place on the digital continent to impose our imagination, at the beginning of the creation of metaverses.”

Develop European activities that underpin the metaverse

Other underlying sectors are also important to explore, such as the “industrial metaverse”. These are solutions to create ecosystems to work on massive projects (making a new plane, creating a virtual sister city to an existing city to better manage it, etc.). In this regard, France has nothing to be ashamed of with projects carried out by groups such as Engie or Dassault Systèmes.

The whole point of Web3 is its decentralization and the end of an internet era in the hands of a few companies, the GAFAs. But the main metaverse projects, if we leave out a few UFOs like The Sandbox or Decentraland (created by two Argentines), still and always remain in the hands of the mastodons of the current Internet. Starting with Meta (Facebook). Above all, the research and the main investments at the moment are clearly made by the American digital giants. In this respect, Europe is already very clearly behind.

Of interest to a European metaverse, or at least independent

Yet we can no longer talk about national sovereignty (or at least in terms of territory) when it comes to the metaverse. In fact, everyone is free to bring their bricks to the building to create their own world in these virtual universes. It is therefore up to the French and Europeans to seize it and create the virtual world in which they want to live.

And not to once again leave the pride of place to giants like Meta. The latter has already announced its intention to hire around 10,000 people – mainly highly qualified engineers – within five years in the EU to work on its metaverse…

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