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Metaverse May 21, 2022

Sony goes forward in the metaverse

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Sony Group Corp, a Japanese conglomerate, said it is well-positioned to take a leading role in the metaverse, or immersive virtual worlds, which analysts predict would disrupt industries and create new powerhouses.

The phrase “metaverse” refers to the assumption that people will spend more time in online virtual worlds. While the concept is still emerging, it has become a catchphrase in industry briefings and a driving force behind business deals.

“The metaverse is a social area and a live network environment where games, music, movies, and anime meet,” said Chief Executive Kenichiro Yoshida at a strategy briefing on Wednesday, pointing to Epic Games’ free-to-play battle royale game Fortnite as an example.

Under Yoshida and his predecessor Kazuo Hirai, Sony’s game, music, and movie operations provided two-thirds of operational income in the fiscal year ended March, highlighting the company’s metamorphosis from a consumer electronics manufacturer to a metaverse-ready entertainment behemoth.

With its PlayStation 5 console, Sony is a gaming gatekeeper, but observers warn that the rise of cross-platform, cloud-based games, and their ability to undermine the influence of proprietary platforms, poses a threat.

Sony has changed its strategy, allowing cross-play in Fortnite in 2018. Epic announced this week that in-game “V-Bucks” purchased on PlayStation would be transferable to other platforms

On Twitter, Epic CEO Tim Sweeney said, “PlayStation has played a big role in the social gaming revolution that’s nourishing the emergence of the metaverse as a new entertainment medium.”

Sony has also taken moves to diversify its portfolio beyond single-player games like “Spider-Man: Miles Morales,” with the acquisition of Bungie, the creator of the online multiplayer shooter “Destiny,” revealed in January.

“We anticipate it will serve as a catalyst to improve our live service game capabilities… (It) represents a significant step toward becoming multi-platform,” Yoshida added.

Sony already licenses its content to other platforms, benefitting from the value of popular American sitcom “Seinfeld” to streamers. Despite owning the Crunchyroll anime streaming service, the company has not pursued video platforms as aggressively as rivals such as Walt Disney Co with its Disney+ service.

Beyond the metaverse, Yoshida set out Sony’s position in mobility, with the company working with Honda Motor Co Ltd on an electric vehicle.

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Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.

Economy

Government-Backed NFT Scrapped By UK Treasury

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Government-Backed NFT Scrapped By UK Treasury

Government-backed non-fungible tokens (NFTs) were in the news last April, after the UK made a bold move to create digital collectibles to foster the country’s commitment to tech. While this was seen as a positive one year ago, a statement released on March 27 has thrown the once-innovative idea into complete disarray. 

The Treasury of the UK has nixed the idea of releasing a government-backed NFT which would have placed the country ahead of other crypto-friendly nations as a leading global crypto hub. 

Economic uncertainty across the entire decentralized finance (DeFi) sector due to a muddied regulatory picture was cited as one of the main concerns leading to the scrapping of the token. That’s according to statements made by Harriet Baldwin, Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, to the BBC. 

Current British PM proposed idea last year 

Last April, John Glen, the minister and economic secretary to the Treasury, told an audience at the Innovative Finance Global Summit that then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the current Prime Minister, petitioned Royal Mint to make an NFT before the end of summer 2022. 

According to Glen, the whole idea was part of the UK’s forward-looking approach towards utilizing the latest technology in the country’s development. 

While a government-backed “NFT for Britain” now appears off the table, economic secretary Andrew Griffith has made it known that the proposal will remain under review.

Shadow city minister Tulip Siddiq was quick to put the boot in, saying: “I’m glad the Royal Mint has finally made the Conservatives see sense, but we’ve been calling on the chancellor to drop this crypto gimmick for months.”

Global NFT market soars past $50bn in  sales 

Despite the negative market sentiment occasioned by the UK Treasury’s decision, the digital collectibles market remains the most profitable in the crypto-economy after the deepening of bearishness in the second half of 2022 due to the collapse of Terra and FTX. 

Global NFT sales in the past 24 hours stood at $41 million from the activities of 74,786 users involved in more than 180,000 transactions. Lifetime sales volume, meanwhile, has surpassed $50 billion.

Popular NFT project CryptoPunks holds the record for the four highest-selling individual NFTs, Axie Infinity remains the number one NFT collection by all-time sales volume with $4.2 billion, and Vitalik Buterin’s Ethereum remains the biggest NFT blockchain by all-time sales volume of about $38 billion

NFT users are spread throughout the globe, with the majority hailing from the United States, Thailand, Brazil, China, Vietnam, India, Canada, Indonesia, Germany, and South Africa

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Cryptocurrencies

Disney Dismisses Metaverse Division, Polygon Feels the Heat

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Disney Dismisses Metaverse Division, Polygon Feels the Heat

Disney has announced that it is abandoning plans to explore the metaverse, and the news has vibrated through many parts of the Web3 industry including cryptocurrencies. 

The animator, together with major fashion brands (Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Rolex, Yves Saint Laurent and Nike), automotive companies Mercedes-Benz and BMW, and fellow media company Warner Brothers, are the pioneer companies that have filed for NFT and metaverse trademarks with the United States Postal and Trademark Office (USPTO). 

According to the Wall Street Journal, around 50 employees in Disney’s metaverse division have been dismissed. The layoff in the AR and VR-powered division represents a modest fraction of the company’s downsizing that will see about 7,000 lose their jobs. 

While the mass media, multinational, and entertainment conglomerate has been experimenting with several technologies under the metaverse banner, including producing AR films, creating virtual stores, and integrating blockchain technology, the slow adoption of the virtual world has made the sector largely unprofitable for Disney and other firms. 

The latest development has not just affected Disney employees. Stakeholders of the crypto economy, particularly Polygon (MATIC) holders, have also seen a substantial reduction in their portfolios amid the layoffs.

Polygon (MATIC) is down by 12% in March 

In July 2022, Polygon was selected along with Red 6, Obsess, Lockerverse, Inworld, and Flickplay as the six participants for Disney’s Accelerator Program

The Program came with a vision of building the future of immersive experiences with a primary focus on artificial intelligence (AI) characters, NFTs, and ARs. 

As an integral part of the NFT industry, Polygon ranks 5th on the log of blockchains by all-time NFT sales volume with approximately $764 million from 1.05 million buyers involved in over 6 million transactions.

Disney’s association with Polygon at the time led to a 94% spike in the price of MATIC after opening and closing the month with trading prices of $0.4781 and $0.9283 respectively. 

Disney Dismisses Metaverse Division, Polygon Feels the Heat

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The opposite reaction has been felt in MATIC’s price due to the layoffs. MATIC is down by 12% in March after opening the month strongly at $1.1952 and declining to $1.0470, as of 09:30 UTC on March 28.

Disney Dismisses Metaverse Division, Polygon Feels the Heat

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NFT and metaverse trademarks continue to be filed 

According to USPTO data shared by licensed attorney Mike Kondoudis, a large number of companies have filed NFT and metaverse trademarks.

At a glance, these include Wynn Resorts, Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, FUJITSU, Nissan, Fallout, Lucasfilm, Samsung, Shutterstock AI, Grammarly, Amazon, Lacoste, and General Motors (GM).

Other firms to have explored opportunities via trademarks are Walmart, Sports Illustrated, Death Row Records, American Music Awards, and Disney. The latter’s latest application is for the new Marvel television TV show.

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Business

BAYC Owner Yuga Hosts Second Otherside Metaverse Experience

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BAYC Owner Yuga Hosts Second Otherside Metaverse Experience

This past weekend Yuga Labs, the owner of popular NFT collection Bored Ape Yacht Club, hosted the ‘Second Trip’ to its Otherside metaverse, with thousands of users taking part.

The maiden journey to the Otherside metaverse took place last July and Yuga Labs have sold over $1 billion worth of NFTs to digital land prospectors known in its ecosystem as Voyagers. So there was a good bit of hype ahead of this second voyage.

According to Otherside, some 7,200 users participated in the Second Trip and many more watched along on the official live stream. This compares to 4,500 for the First Trip, with refinements having been made to the 3D visuals and audio thanks to software partner Improbable.

Take a Walk on the Otherside

The Second Trip was an opportunity for Voyagers – holders of NFTs from supported projects – to explore the Otherside realm, complete challenges, and receive airdropped prizes. After joining from a web link, participants were divided into four groups led by influencers Jimmy Wong, Champ Medici, Brycent and Lowbellie.

After gathering in the game’s lobby Infinity Space, day-trippers were compelled to collect golden blobs for giant toads to win points for their squads – Jimmy Wong’s crew, Team Glacia, came in first and received Winged helmets as a reward. Later, voyagers were teleported into another mystic realm and given a tour by BAYC mascots Curtis and Blue.

Feedback has been rolling in for the experience.

VentureBeat writer Dean Takahashi, who participated in Second Trip, observed that it was “almost more like a virtual concert, a shared experience where you could marvel at how many people were there.”

He added: “We did busy-body tasks and sped around the environment. It was an accessible game where everybody got to contribute and it was akin to a kind of Subway Surfers experience in an open world… But it was a pretty amazing technical achievement, and it shows the kind of experiences that will come when the metaverse finally gets here.”

Ross Macdonald, CEO of web3 marketing company Focus Web3, said it was “a level up from the first trip” and commended “the smooth operation from my Mac mini M1” and the “special [sic] audio.”

Brent Bushnell, co-founder of LA-based experiential entertainment firm Two Bit Circus, was equally impressed, saying “Otherside might combine the organic landscape of Burning Man, the multiplayer collab of Warcraft, the questing richness of Breathe of the Wild, and the cross platform competition of Fortnite.”

Not all responses were positive, though. One user commented, “To be frank, I expected something better for the second trip. Yes it had us divided in 4 teams and gathering stuff, but after that many months, I think people expected more. A lot more.”

Showcasing metaverse potential

One person who seemed satisfied with Second Trip was Improbable CEO Herman Narula, who stated his belief that Second Trip was the “highest ccu (concurrently connected users) event in one spot with real humans in any game ever.”

A virtual world developed as a massively multiplayer online game linked to the Bored Ape Yacht Club ecosystem, Otherside remains under development and big things are expected given Miami-based Yuga Labs’ mammoth $450 million raise last March.

One of the investors was doomed exchange platform FTX, which subsequently went up in smoke after evidence of dodgy dealings emerged. BAYC Co-founder Garga, meanwhile, assured the community that Yuga Labs does not have any funds on FTX.

Whatever one’s thoughts are on the Second Trip, it definitely showcases the possibilities of bringing a large number of users together in a virtual space, at the same time. Given the aforementioned raise, of course, backers will want more than a showcase as they seek a return on their investments.

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