While the word “metaverse” pops up so often in my inbox is basically the equivalent of a white noise email, when Epic Games has made a specific metaverse investment is when you want to start paying attention to it. Epic is investing in metaverse infrastructure developer Hadean as part of their latest $30 million funding round, and it could have big implications for the company’s future.
Epic Games, maker of Fortnite, is the owner of one of many video game-based metaverses that existed before the term even became popular, along with other games such as Roblox and Minecraft. Unlike the mostly sterile blockchain-based metaverses that made headlines for selling NFT plots a while ago, games like Fortnite have thriving ecosystems and have massively participated in virtual events for their communities.
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Now it seems that Epic wants to increase these events even more and make sure that its metaverse ambitions are not limited to the 100 players that we usually see from them. Here’s Epic’s Vice President of Unreal Engine Ecosystem, Marc Petit, on the investment:
“Hadean’s computing power will provide the necessary infrastructure as we work to create a scalable metaverse,” Petit said. “The company’s technology complements Epic’s Unreal Engine by enabling large numbers of concurrent users and unlocking new tools for creators and developers. We are excited to help grow Hadean and look forward to continuing to work together to lay the foundation for the metaverse.
So while this may affect Fortnite directly, it implies that it can be used to extend Unreal technology more generally, as games using Epic’s engine want large-scale community events and more and more players at that time.
You can see the current issue in Fortnite itself. Epic can have a live event on the Fortnite map, a Travis Scott concert or a scripted monster battle, but it must be split into instances of only 100 players each, the map max. In pursuit of greater scalability, Epic believes Hadean’s “open platform for distributed cloud computing” could help solve this problem. And I have full confidence in Epic’s plans to expand Fortnite significantly beyond its battle royale focus in the future, creating a more complete metaverse-like world for players to exist in, although they have yet to announce any specific plans for this. This technology may be part of how that comes to fruition in the long run.
While Hadean has worked with Web3 metaverses and partially uses blockchain technology, it’s unclear how much blockchain might play into all of this for Epic. While Minecraft banned NFTs and Steam doesn’t allow blockchain games, Epic Games has been a bit more open to the concept, allowing at least a few Web3 games in the Epic Game Store. But it wouldn’t appear that this technology would represent a massive shift to blockchain or anything like the introduction of NFT into the Fortnite ecosystem. The main point here is to achieve scalability beyond what Fortnite and the Unreal Engine as a whole are capable of now.
“Today’s virtual worlds are a limited experience – small scale, siled and insecure,” said Craig Beddis, co-founder and CEO of Hadean. And he’s right, given the limits we see on the number of players, which means large virtual events have to be split into hundreds of thousands of instances for everyone to experience the same thing. This may be the way to go to change that, but it’s unclear how long it will take to see the fruits of this investment for Epic in particular.
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