Execs Seemed Confused About the Metaverse on Q3 Earnings Calls

Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images
  • The concept of the metaverse is still vague.
  • That didn't stop dozens of executives from speaking about their metaverse strategies.
  • Executives at Roblox, Tencent, Bumble, Bilibili, Coinbase and other companies weighed in.

Online dating apps, a crypto exchange and a professional wrestling brand are among the many companies that tried to weave their disparate and seemingly unrelated businesses into the metaverse discussion this quarter.

The concept was on the top of analysts' minds after Facebook changed its corporate name to Meta last month in preparation for "an embodied internet where you're in the experience, not just looking at it," as defined by Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg is betting the metaverse, a computer-generated world, is where people will work, play and socialize using the company's virtual reality headsets.

But executives around the world have lots of differing opinions on what the metaverse is and when we can expect it. Some view the metaverse as something that already exists, such as worlds created by Roblox. Others see it as a vague futuristic concept.

When questioned on their plans for the metaverse after earnings this week, the executive's answers were everything. And nothing. Most didn't shy away from brainstorming forward-thinking business opportunities that could boost stock values. It's unclear whether or not they'll actually materialize — or if the ideas even make sense.

"All I can do is kind of sit back and watch it in amazement," Neal Stephenson, who popularized the term in his 1992 book "Snow Crash," told CNBC in a recent interview.

Here's what we "learned."

It's the human co-experience

Roblox CEO David Baszucki: "It's been called the metaverse today. We've called it human co-experience," Baszucki defines the metaverse as a place where technology combines high-fidelity communication with a new way to tell stories, borrowing from mobile gaming and the entertainment industry.

"This new category of the metaverse or co-experience is predicated on eight fundamentals," said Baszucki: identity, social, immersive, low friction, variety, anywhere, economy, and civility.

It's already here

Warner Music Group CEO Stephen Cooper: "I think within these large scale metaverses, Fortnite, Roblox and others, that we will begin to see an opportunity where providing content and distribution converges. And when you begin to look at the global reach, the number of people that spend meaningful amounts of time in these new worlds, I think it provides a universe of opportunity for Warner."

It's not here yet

Vonage Holdings (cloud communications) CEO Rory Read: "I think it's the next 5, 7, 10 years."

It's too late to get in

Bilibili (Chinese video-sharing site) CEO Rui Chen: "Metaverse is a concept, it's not a product. And before this concept emerges, actually many of the elements associated with metaverse already existed. Whether it's virtual reality, a tight social community or a system social system or a self-reinforcing ecosystem, it's already existed, and there are a lot of companies already developing product on those concepts, for example, Facebook and Tencent, and actually, Bilibili is one of them.

So that's why I think, that if someone hears the concept of metaverse and decided to get into this business probably would be a little bit too late. That is because those elements such as social system, self-reinforcing ecosystem, all of which cannot be done in a couple of months or even in years."

It's vague

Tencent President Chi Ping Lau: "On metaverse, I think this is actually sort of a very exciting, but a little bit vague concept."

Dolby Laboratories CEO Kevin Yeaman: "I think the metaverse, I guess, can take many forms, but ultimately it is an audiovisual experience."

Whatever it is, NetEase will be a 'fast runner'

Chinese game maker NetEase Head of Investor Relations Margaret Shi: "The metaverse is indeed the new buzzword everywhere today. But then, on the other hand, I think nobody has actually had firsthand experience in what it is. But at NetEase, we are technologically ready. We know how to accumulate the relevant know-how, the relevant skillsets when that day comes. So, I think when that day eventually comes, we'd probably be one of the fastest runners in the metaverse space."

It has something to do with crypto

Coinbase co-founder and CEO Brian Armstrong: "I think with the tens of millions of Americans out there that are now using this asset class for all kinds of things, not just financial services and unique payments and things like that, but also art and new forms of governance and identity and the Metaverse. And it's just so exciting that the millions of young people, the talented young people all over the U.S. are coming into this field."

It's the digitized Game of Life

Chris Cocks, CEO of Hasbro's Wizards of the Coast: "The first step to be participating in the metaverse, you have to have digital games. I think the metaverse is shorthand for, hey, entertainment is digitizing and entertainment is the Game of Life."

It's...something where Bumble will be

Bumble (dating company) president Tariq M. Shaukat: "On the metaverse piece, we're really taking a Web3 lens on this in particular, meaning we are... I'm sure somebody will build a more virtual experience and we will happily engage and be there when they do that with avatars, etc. But what we really think is really interesting in the near term is the application of blockchain and crypto in general to the experience that our communities have. Fundamentally, we are not just an ecosystem, but we are a community of people. That is true on Bumble and Badoo, but it is particularly true as we think about the kind of reimagine Bumble BFF."

"And the opportunities to really engage our members and really think of them as members who are participants in this community is really, we think, really just super exciting. And so we're continuing to experiment. We've got a couple of tests that we're very excited about that we will be rolling out in the upcoming months around this, but we think that's the first toehold. This is something that is going to evolve. We want to make sure we're setting the technical and engineering foundation for whatever emerges in the metaverse and in the Web3 world."

It will have news and sports

Ryan Steelberg, Veritone (AI software) co-founder: "Just one simple example is, imagine now just one of our big media partners like ESPN or CBS News, having all of their content, in effect, ready for seamless integration with the metaverse, right, where that content being on offline throughout a more traditional means of distribution like OTT or linear television."

It will run on Qualcomm chips

Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon: "If you were going to spend time in the metaverse, Snapdragon is going to be your ticket to the metaverse." (Facebook's Oculus headsets currently run on Qualcomm chips.)

It's going to be a lot bigger than Facebook (Meta)

Veritone CEO Chad Steelberg: "I think the metaverse, by definition, is a lot bigger than the new Meta company aka Facebook. By definition, it's a multiverse, that's going to be moving content and information both into the digital realm, and then, obviously, the digital realm interfacing back with us in our physical selves."

Unity senior vice president Marc Whitten: "Whatever the word metaverse means, it's going to be built by millions of content creators, and we're on a mission to give them the easy-to-use and high-performance tools that will bring their visions to life."

Roblox Chief Product Officer Manuel Bronstein: "At Roblox, we want to connect more than 1 billion people in the metaverse."

It will have ads

Roblox Chief Business Officer Craig Donato: "We expect ad agencies to have the capability to build metaverse experiences."

Disney will have one

Disney CEO Bob Chapek: "Suffice it to say our efforts to date are merely a prologue to a time when we'll be able to connect the physical and digital worlds even more closely, allowing for storytelling without boundaries in our own Disney metaverse."

It will involve people playing the piano

Match Group (dating companies) CEO Sharmistha Dubey: "There is, for instance, a piano bar where people's digital selves are gathering around, but they're actually playing their pianos at home and jamming with others. You can overhear a conversation, join conversations, you can tap into the digital avatars to see more of their profiles, and you have basically a richer set of signals to help connect with someone. It is metaverse experiences coming to life in a way that is transformative to how people meet and get to know each other on a dating or social discovery platform and is much more akin to how people interact in the real world."

It will be primarily made by artists

Unity CEO John Riccitiello, on Unity's play for the metaverse through its acquisition of Weta Digital: "That's going to really help us extract and help build the metaverse around the notion the world's a better place with more creators in it. And now the many millions of creators in the world that think of themselves as artists, they're welcomed on our platform and we got something that's going to delight them. So, this really puts under our platform something that is, at least from an artist perspective, truly magic and they're the largest tappable audience we have in our universe."

It's robust

Question from Laura Martin, analyst, Needham: "Okay, great. And then my other one is you guys have mentioned NFTs a couple times. So is that – could you size that for us and sort of more generally how do you feel about this, the role, the metaverse and going into the digital online world, and can you sort of think that NFTs are going to be – is meta going to be actually a bigger deal, like leaving to live, you guys really work in the live world, physical world, but how do you feel about the metaverse? And within that context, how big do you think NFTs could be as a part of the new metaverse?"

World Wrestling Entertainment Chief Revenue Officer Nick Khan: "We think it's robust now. We think it's going to continue to evolve and become perhaps even more robust, and we think it's here to stay."

Martin: "Okay. Thanks."

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