While the word “Metaverse” appears so often in my inbox, it’s now essentially the electronic equivalent of white noise, when Epic Games makes certain investments in the Metaverse, that’s when you want to start paying attention. Epic is investing in metaverse infrastructure developer Hadean as part of its latest $30 million funding round, and it could have big implications for the company’s future.
Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, is the owner of one of the many metaverses based on video games that already existed before the term became popular, along with other games such as Roblox and Minecraft. Unlike the mostly barren blockchain-based metaverses that were in the NFT land sale headlines some time ago, games like Fortnite have a thriving ecosystem and attend virtual events en masse for their communities.
Now, it looks like Epic wants to scale these events even further and make sure their metaverse ambitions aren’t limited to the 100-player battle royale total we usually see from them. Here’s Epic VP of Unreal Engine Ecosystem Mark Petit on the investment:
“The computing power of Hadean will provide the necessary infrastructure as we work to build a scalable metaverse,” Petit said. “The company’s technology complements Epic’s Unreal Engine, enabling a huge number of simultaneous users and opening up new tools for creators and developers. We are excited to contribute to the development of Hadean and look forward to continuing to work together to lay the foundation for the metaverse.”
So while this could directly affect Fortnite, it is implied that this could be used to expand Unreal’s technology more generally, as games that use the Epic engine need large-scale community events and more and more players at the same time.
You can see the current issue in Fortnite itself. An Epic can have a live event on a Fortnite map, a Travis Scott concert, or a scenario monster battle, but it must be broken down into instances of only 100 players each, maximum per map. In the pursuit of further scalability, Epic believes Hadean’s “open platform for distributed cloud computing” could be part of the solution to this problem. And I have every confidence that Epic plans to expand Fortnite significantly beyond its battle royale focus in the future by creating a more complete metaverse-like world for players, though they have yet to announce specific plans for that. This technology could be part of how this comes together in the long run.
Although Hadin has worked with the Web3 metaverse and uses blockchain technology in part, it’s not entirely clear what role blockchain could play in all of this for Epic. While Minecraft has banned NFTs and Steam doesn’t allow blockchain games, Epic Games has been a little more open to the concept, allowing at least a few Web3 games on the Epic Game Store. But it doesn’t look like this technology represents some kind of massive shift to blockchain usage, or something like NFT’s introduction into the Fortnite ecosystem. The point here is to achieve scalability beyond what Fortnite and Unreal Engine in general can do now.
“Today’s virtual worlds are limited experiences – small, fragmented and insecure,” says Craig Beddis, co-founder and CEO of Hadean. And he’s right, given the limits we’re seeing on the number of players, which means big virtual events need to be broken up into hundreds of thousands of instances so everyone can experience the same thing. It could be a path to change that, but it’s unclear how long it might take to see the fruits of this investment specifically for Epic.
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