More and more people in the scientific and technological circles are riding the east wind of the meta universe.

Editor’s note: This article is from the micro-channel public number “all-weather technology” (ID: iawtmt), Author: all-weather technology.

Author | Bao Xiaoqian Editor | Luo Lijuan

Science fiction, treasure hunting, adventure, countless movie fans have ignited their desire for virtual games because of the movie “Number One Player” released in 2018.

In the film, the player puts on the VR helmet and enters the realistic virtual world “Oasis” (Oasis), can escape the real world, become anyone and do anything. This is not only a form of entertainment, but also a second life for players.

This virtual world, which was born out of the real world, is similar to the real world, and is always online, was first proposed by science fiction writer Neal Stephenson in his book “Avalanche” in 1992, and is called the “meta universe” ( Metaverse). In the novel, all people in the real world have a network clone in the meta-universe, and this concept also provides a direction for the future development of the meta-universe.

In February of this year, ARK Investment Management (hereinafter referred to as ARK), an investment company that achieved amazing performance due to its heavy warehouse Tesla, put forward 15 ambitious and promising investment themes in its 2021 investment report. One of them is the meta-universe connected by virtual worlds.

On March 10, 2021, as a “Meta Universe” concept stock, Roblox, a UGC sandbox game platform, landed on the New York Stock Exchange in the form of DPO, and its market value broke US$40 billion on the first day of listing. And got about 520,000 shares of ARK CEO, “female Buffett” Cathie Wood.

And in Roblox’s US$150 million Series G financing in February last year, Tencent was also on the list of investors. This may not be a coincidence. Some people in the industry said that as early as 2018, China’s game giants Tencent and NetEase had already actively deployed the “next Oasis”.

In December 2020, Tencent CEO Ma Huateng said that the mobile Internet era has passed, and the true Internet era is the future. This concept, which is similar to the “meta universe”, has been interpreted as the prelude to the new era of China’s Internet.

Affected by related concepts, some AI, social and VR/AR companies have also begun to intensively obtain financing this year. Market turmoilBehind the scenes, how much energy does the “meta universe” have?


The meta universe is on fire

In April last year, American rapper Travis Scott held an online virtual concert in the sandbox game “Fortnite”, with more than 12 million players participating.

The entire concert lasted about 10 minutes. Realistic character modeling, stunning game scene special effects, and constantly changing venues following singing and songs-from land, water, and outer space, the performance presented and the immersion to the player are unprecedented.

Travis Scott is not the first singer to appear in Fortnite. As early as February 2019, American DJ Marshmello (Marshmello) held an extended version of “Fortnite” concert, which was watched by 10.8 million simultaneous online players.

Epic Games, the developer of “Fortnite”, is a fan of Metaverse. “I once forgot about Metaverse, but with the return of VR and the rise of virtual reality, I think I can rethink the future of technology.” Epic Games CEO and founder Tim Sweeney said in an interview.

At the moment when the carnival in the virtual world has been welcomed by more and more players, some key companies are actively participating.

For example, Facebook CEO Zuckerberg, who is obsessed with virtual reality, is building a VR social platform Horizon. In July last year, Microsoft also decided to transfer its sandbox game “Minecraft” with 126 million monthly active players from Amazon Cloud Service (AWS) to its own Azure cloud service.

In these products, it is not difficult to see the embryonic form of the meta universe.

And what really pushed the concept of Metaverse to the capital market was Roblox (RBLX.US), a listed upstart with a market value of over 40 billion U.S. dollars in March this year. Compared with last year’s valuation of about 4 billion US dollars, Roblox’s market value has soared by a full 10 times in one year.

As a massively multiplayer online game creation platform, Roblox was founded in 2004, with “creation” and “mini games” as the core, providing user-oriented 3D digital world client, developer-oriented Roblox Studio tool set, and Roblox cloud service enables players and developers to play, compete, and socialize in the virtual world, and has swept the North American youth game market in the past two years.

As of September 2020, a total of 7 million developers around the world have produced 18 million games on Roblox, of which 8.46 million have been tried, and 17,000 users have played more than 10,000 games.hour. Roblox has been downloaded 160 million times worldwide, and its mobile platform revenue has exceeded $1.1 billion.

There is no lack of “blessing” behind the meta-universe boom.

“In order to catch the valuation express, Roblox not only listed on the New York Stock Exchange through DPO, but also the investors in the primary market taught Roblox to tell the story of Metaverse.” Game analyst Chenkeynes revealed to All Weather Technology.

In the prospectus, Roblox mentioned, “Some people call our category meta-universe. This term is usually used to describe the concept of persistent, shared, three-dimensional virtual space in the virtual universe. The concept of meta-universe has been Written by futurists and science fiction writers for more than 30 years. With the emergence of more and more powerful computing devices, cloud computing, and high-bandwidth Internet connections, the concept of meta-universe is becoming a reality.”

At the same time, it lists 8 key features of the platform leading to the meta universe: Identity, Friends, Immersiveness, Anywhere, Variety, Low Friction (Low latency), Economy, Civility. This is also the first time a commercial company has defined this concept.

In order to strengthen the sense of being brought into the virtual world, on December 14 last year, Roblox acquired the digital avatar start-up, the purpose is to use facial recognition technology to convert players into avatars, helping players to form Better social relations. Once this virtual expression based on the original content of the game is formed, it is very likely to become the “second world” for players.

The virtual world constructed may reach perfection, but this is not always the case in reality.

According to Roblox’s prospectus, revenue in 2018, 2019, and 2020 will be US$325 million, US$508 million, and US$924 million, respectively. Although income continues to rise, losses are also expanding. During the reporting period, its net losses were US$88.1 million, US$71 million and US$253.3 million; operating losses amounted to US$87.55 million, US$76.44 million and US$266 million.

Roblox business data comprehensive report

Analysis by Feng Cuiting, Senior Analyst of Internet Media, Tianfeng Securities, RobloxThe current operating costs have exceeded infrastructure and security costs and become the largest cost. “The expansion of losses is mainly due to the rapid growth of developer shares. When users consume on the platform, part of the funds will be distributed to developers and creators.”

She mentioned, but this also reflects that there are more and more developers in the Roblox ecosystem and more income.

It is understood that Roblox’s main income comes from the platform’s virtual currency Robux. Users can purchase Robux to experience high-quality game content produced by developers on the platform. The company will then divide it into developers based on in-game purchases and game duration. . Game analyst Chenkeynes said that Roblox developers usually get 30% to 70% of the share.

According to the 2020 Global Game Annual Report released by SuperData, “Roblox” ranks third with a revenue of US$2.29 billion. But Chenkeynes revealed that the cumulative cash withdrawal of developers is less than 300 million. “This shows that most content developers are willing to put money into Roblox’s currency system, and a complete internal circulation system has taken shape.”

For most of the content platforms, the identities of producers and consumers have always been separated. The economic system built by Roblox connects content producers and content consumers. This is another embodiment of interpersonal relationships in the real society and projected in the virtual world.

The mutual promotion of content and social effects is one of the main reasons for the growth of Roblox

“Based on this economic system and the huge user scale of sandbox games, Roblox’s bilateral network effect is prominent.” From the perspective of industry observers, Chenkeynes believes that Roblox provides the industry with an unprecedented Insightful and extremely efficient business model.

This recognition is also reflected in the capital market. As of now, Roblox’s stock price has fluctuated around US$65, which is more than US$20 higher than the issue price.

Roblox stock price trend

But there are also voices that believe that Roblox’s current market value is “inflated.” “Because Roblox has just gone public, the recent stock price may not represent the true market value.” An investor in the game industry suggested to wait and see for a few months, and it is best to measure it based on the market conditions in half a year.

Feng Cuiting also believes that the technological breakthroughs of the Metaverse Track in the next 1 to 3 years, such as AI technology to simplify the production of game purchase materials, cloud game technology to click and play, and interactive games to increase the conversion rate and other iterative quantitative changes And so on, these will affect the industry’s judgment and valuation space in this field.


Big players increase their bets

At the end of 2020, Tencent CEO Ma Huateng put forward the concept of “True Internet” in the company’s annual magazine “Three Views” and regarded it as the next wave of upgrades that will drive the development of the mobile Internet for a decade.

In the article, he pointed out: The door to the virtual world and the real world has been opened. Whether it is from the virtual to the real, or from the real to the virtual, he is committed to helping users achieve a more real experience.

According to Ma Huateng, the so-called “True Internet” is the integration of online and offline, the integration of physical and electronic means. Although the titles of “True Internet” and “Meta Universe” are different, they have the same effect, and are essentially projections of real life in the virtual world.

For many users, most of their first contact with the virtual world comes from games such as Fortnite and Minecraft. In fact, as early as 2018, Tencent and NetEase began to prepare the “next Oasis” game besides “Top Player”, cutting into the “meta universe” from the game content.

On February 28th, Tencent game programmer @毛星云 posted in Zhihu to recruit talents for the 3A console game masterpiece of Tencent Tianmei Studio. It is understood that this game, code-named “Oasis”, is against the Oasis-style virtual community in the movie “Number One Player”. At present, Yao Xiaoguang, the person in charge of Tianmei Studio, personally manages it, using Unreal 5 engine development, and spanning the mainframe, PC, mobile terminal and next-generation terminal platform.

In addition to the game giants, rising stars Mihayou and Lilith are also actively deploying meta-universe games. Among them, Mihayou’s vision is to create a virtual world in which one billion people around the world are willing to live in 2030; while LilySilk is also recruiting a large number of technical talents. Internal employees mentioned a project team called “Avatar”, which is developing a metaverse game with the largest number of personnel.

As early as 2018, NetEase announced the VR game “Homeland”. It’s just that the game has been temporarily suspended due to business development adjustments.

Not only does it cut into Metaverse from the aspects of game production and operation, Tencent has already occupied a position in the investment layout.

In terms of engine tools, as early as 2012, Tencent bought Unreal Engine with a 48.4% stake in the developer Epic Games with an investment of 330 million U.S. dollars. The purpose is to cut into the core technology of the game industry to compensate for its own game industry. The weakness of the underlying development.

Secondly, the meta-universe composed of virtual worlds includes video games, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

For this reason, Tencent invested in Wave (formerly known as The Wave VR), a virtual concert operator, and became the largest shareholder of Snap, a leader in the AR field. In addition, Tencent is also behind the free expression tool Bitmoji, camera Kit, social software Discord, etc.

In 2019, Roblox announced the establishment of a strategic partnership with Tencent, but this is an educational plan-to establish a joint venture company to teach people the basics of coding, game design, digital citizenship and entrepreneurial skills.

At the beginning of 2020, Roblox announced the completion of a US$150 million G round of financing, led by investment company Andreessen Horowitz’s Late Stage Venture fund, with participation from Temasek and Tencent.

“The Metaverse concept stocks Roblox and Epic we are talking about today are actually Tencent investment companies.” A head VC investor believes that Tencent, as the largest game and social company, has adopted “investment + self-research” The layout is expected to become a world-class super giant through the meta universe.


Who is riding in the east wind of the meta universe

Under the concept of meta-universe, the market began to bustle.

In May 2019, Xing Shanhu, CEO of LeDong Excellence, launched a new entrepreneurial project “Code Universe”, and launched the first product “Restart the World” because it is similar to Roblox’s concept. The 100 million yuan A round of financing jointly invested by Ge Fund, with a valuation of 500 million yuan.

In March of this year, MetaApp, a domestic mobile sandbox platform developer, received US$100 million in Series C financing. Investors include SIG Hainer Asia, the creation partner CCV, Cloud Nine Capital, and Light Source Capital. In the eyes of investors, the “quasi-element universe” sandbox gameplay will become a big game in the future.Trend, it provides enough tools for participants in this virtual world to create value.

In addition, domestic community social networking, virtual idols, AI vision technology, etc., companies related to Metaverse have also received financing. For example, the game AI company “Hyperparameter” received US$30 million in Series A financing from Wuyuan Capital and Gaorong Capital; the virtual idol company “Wanxiang Culture” completed a multi-million dollar Series A financing.

Especially in the VR/AR field, iQIYI VR completed hundreds of millions of RMB in Series B financing; NOLO VR completed US$20 million in Series B financing; Huanchuang Technology completed 80 million RMB in Series B financing; Wanmei Mobile completed 5000 Ten thousand U.S. dollars in Series C financing, the pace of financing has also increased significantly since this year.

Shortly after the concept of Quanzhen Internet was put forward, Yao Xing, Vice President of Tencent Group and Dean of AI LAB, resigned to start a business. According to the company’s information, Yuanxiang Vision Holdings (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd., with Yao Xing as the legal representative, was registered and established on January 21 this year with a registered capital of 30 million US dollars.

From the perspective of Yuanxiang Weisi’s business scope, it will make efforts in VR/AR hardware, content production, film and television production, etc., obviously also targeting the real Internet field. Although Yuanxiang Weisi has not officially announced the progress of investment and financing, there is news that Wuyuan Capital and Gaorong Capital have become shareholders of the company.

A senior investor recently revealed to the game We Media that most of the primary market institutions feel that Metaverse is almost “time.” Institutions such as Sequoia China, Wuyuan Capital, Matrix Partners China, Nanshan Capital, and Zhen Fund have placed bets on related companies, and this momentum is expected to usher in an explosive period in 2021.

Ji Zhihui, the founder of real-time virtual technology research and development Shangshiyou Technology, also directly feels that capital is concerned about Metaverse: “Especially due to the dual impact of the economic cycle and the epidemic, the market currently lacks concepts and good projects. The investment opportunities in the market will naturally be touted.” But he also said that from the perspective of technology and market attention, Metaverse has gone through a period of budding, overheating, and low, and is moving from the recovery period to the mature period, approaching Expectations.

At present, there are four types of “Meta Universe” companies that are favored by capital: the first type is the company known as “China Roblox”, involving education, games and sandbox; the second type is the “Chinese version of Minecraft” company. Sandbox games are the main ones; the third category is companies like VRchat and ZEPTO that are integrated with the virtual world; the fourth category is “companies that serve this matter”, such as the underlying game engine, AI content production, etc.

From the executive level of financial funds, Jingwei China’s vice president Zhuang Minghao believes that institutions planning to invest in Metaverse-related companies need on the one hand compound talents who understand games, social interactions, and technology, and on the other hand, exit paths and platforms The path of cooperation must be very clear.

As the heat of Metaverse continues to heat up, there are publicThe company advertises itself as “Meta Universe” label.

For example, Soul, which is defined as “dating software” by the outside world, recently denied this positioning on Weibo and claimed that Soul is “a social meta-universe linked to GenZ with Soul”; sandbox game platform MetaApp In the financing draft, he claimed to have received “the largest single financing in the domestic metauniverse industry”.

A well-known VC investor pointed out that there are not too many real meta-universe projects in the market at present. Many projects are “selling dog meat”, which is not in line with everyone’s understanding of meta-universe. “From the perspective of public relations, I fully understand the reason why they used the concept on this matter and what kind of attention they want to get, but from the perspective of the industry, using the concept of the concept not only failed to tell the capital story, but It looks like a’chicken thief’.”

Some senior practitioners in the industry mentioned that Metaverse is still far from the ideal state we envisioned. It is very likely that it will be the same as everyone watching VR and games a few years ago. The final result is not as expected.

At the moment, the era of Metaverse or the Real Internet has begun, but just like the transformation of the mobile Internet, “another major reshuffle is about to begin. People who can’t get on the boat will gradually fall behind.” Ma Huateng said.