What is the metaverse? That question has been posed throughout SXSW 2022 earlier this month, and answered by everyone from Reggie Fils-Aime to Mark Zuckerberg. In one panel during the conference, another aspect of the metaverse was discussed: The role of physical devices.
“The one thing we know is that we are going to have access to the metaverse via some type of device, some sort of platform that gets you in,” Don McGuire, the chief marketing officer of Qualcomm, said on the panel. “Whether that’s a smartphone, whether that’s glasses, whether that’s your car, whether that’s a tablet, or a gaming device, or a PC, whatever that may be, you’re going to have to access this world, or augment your world in some way, shape or form, through a device experience. Chances are, we’re going to be powering that device.”
The panel was called “How to Win in the Future of Gaming,” and consisted of McGuire, along with Craig Levine, the co-CEO of ESL Gaming, a major name in the world of esports, which is a form of competitive gaming. It was moderated by Kate Yeager, a journalist and writer who is the host of the Apex Legends Global Series Pro League.
McGuire further discussed how he sees the metaverse developing.
“The metaverse will be what the metaverse will be,” the Qualcomm executive said. “I don’t think anyone’s really gonna own it. Snoop can buy property in it, that’s cool. The famous rapper, Snoop Dogg, recently announced his purchase of a plot of “land” in the metaverse platform Sandbox. “The metaverse is going to take different forms…. it’s really the merging of digital and physical spaces, and if we’re all gonna have a digital twin, or there’s gonna be a digital twin of things and people that’s going to be available alter your sense of reality, that could be super-cool, but that can manifest itself in different ways.”
Levin described the metaverse differently: “It’s when your virtual relationships, or your virtual belongings, are as or more important than your physical ones out there,” he said. Levine sees applications of the metaverse to gaming as not that huge a leap for those who are used to games like World of Warcraft and Fortnite, which consist of large worlds.
As for when the metaverse might reach maturity, that’s a tougher question.
“I think it doesn’t really explode or become more mainstream, until the augmented piece is figured out a little bit further,” Levine added. “The augmentation of your world is where it becomes scalable.”
McGuire also addressed possible ways the metaverse could go wrong.
Ideally, he said, “it is a layered-on type of addition to real life, and to that human connection we all need,” he said. “Because I don’t know if I want to live in a world where that goes away. Along with human connection being gone, that’s where morality goes away, and ethics go away, [along with] the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, and empathy. And that’s not a world that [we want.]”
Beyond the metaverse, the trio discussed the future of gaming, esports, and the recent announcement that Qualcomm and ESL Gaming are teaming up on the Snapdragon Pro Series, an esports competition series, including what the companies called an “an epic live Masters final event.”
The idea of the partnership is “bringing elite gaming to these devices, in order to allow players to play the titles and have a similar experience,” McGuire said. “The only difference being that the screen is smaller, and the way they access and play the game is different than having a controller, or having a controller attached to their phone. But other than that, the experience should be the same, and that’s what we believe, and that what we’re striving for, constantly.”
ESL Gaming’s Levine added that throughout the industry, competitive players are seen as “higher-valued customers for them, who spend more time in-game and on-platform.”
It’s part of a continuing move towards mobile gaming and away from traditional consoles. In fact, according to Levine, “Your [current] console might be your last console, in the era of 5G.”
McGuire was also asked, more broadly, how he sees the future of gaming, which he saw as more of an “anytime, anywhere” ability to play interchangeably among multiple devices. “It’s about utilizing the power of 5G networks, AI, and different devices, along with the entire gaming ecosystem, to create the ability for you to seamlessly play, and engage, whether it’s multiplayer or whatever, wherever you are at any time,” he said. “You should be able to move seamlessly from your PC to your console to your gaming device… to your smartphone and continue to gameplay, as seamlessly as possible.”
(Photos by Alice Schmalzl.)