While the word “metaverse” appears so often in my inbox now it’s essentially the email equivalent of white noise, when Epic Games has made a specific metaverse investment, is when you want to start paying attention. Epic is investing in metaverse infrastructure developer Hadean as part of their latest $30 million round of funding, 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 have already existed before the term was even popularized, alongside other games like Roblox and Minecraft. Unlike the mostly barren, blockchain-based metaverses that were in headlines for selling NFT land parcels a while back, games like Fortnite have thriving ecosystems and massively attended virtual events for their communities.
Now, it seems Epic wants to scale those events up even further, and make sure its metaverse ambitions are not limited to the 100 player battle royale sum total that we usually see from them. Here’s Epic’s VP of Unreal Engine Ecosystem, Marc Petit, on the investment:
“Hadean’s computing power will provide the infrastructure that is needed as we work to create a scalable metaverse,” said Petit. “The company’s technology complements Epic’s Unreal Engine by enabling massive amounts of concurrent users and unlocking new tools for creators and developers. We are pleased to contribute to Hadean’s growth and look forward to continuing to work together to lay the foundation for the metaverse.”
So while this may affect Fortnite directly, it’s implied this may be used to expand Unreal tech more generally as games that use Epic’s engine want large-scale community events and more and more players at a time.
You can see the current problem within Fortnite itself. Epic may have a live event on the Fortnite map, a Travis Scott concert or a scripted monster battle, but it has to be broken up into instances of just 100 players each, the map maximum. In the pursuit of further scalability, Epic believes Hadean’s “open platform for distributed cloud computing” may be part of solving that. And I have full confidence Epic plans to expand Fortnite dramatically beyond its battle royale focus in the future, building out a more complete metaverse-like world for players to exist in, although they have yet to announce specific plans for that. This tech may be a part of how that comes together, in the long term.
While Hadean has worked with Web3 metaverses and utilizes blockchain tech in part, it’s unclear the full extent of what role the blockchain may play in all this for Epic. While Minecraft has banned NFTs and Steam doesn’t allow blockchain games, Epic Games has been a tad more open to the concept, allowing at least a few Web3 games on the Epic Game Store. But it would not appear that this tech would represent some mass switchover to relying on the blockchain nor something like introducing NFTs into the Fortnite ecosystem. The main point here is about achieving scalability past what Fortnite and the Unreal Engine as a whole may be able to do now.
“Today’s virtual worlds are a limited experience – small scale, siloed, and insecure,” says Craig Beddis, Hadean cofounder and CEO. And he’s right, given the limits we see on player counts, which means big virtual events must be fractured into hundreds of thousands of instances for everyone to experience the same thing. This may be the path towards changing that, but it is unclear how long it may take to see the fruits of this investment for Epic specifically.
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