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Metaverse’s Popularity is Surging Again in China, though it isn’t the ‘Metaverse’ People Are Waiting For

It doesn’t seem we are going to be trapped in Matrix anytime soon
By Johnson Ge
Nov. 23, 2021 updated 07:38

Zhangjiajie, a famous Chinese National Park and backdrop for the blockbuster film Avatar, has unveiled that it will become “the world’s first metaverse R&D center at a scenic spot.” The news sparked some controversy and discussions around the idea of metaverse for obvious reasons. Some believe creating a metaverse is beyond the management ability for a National Park, and the project will just be a new way to hype a digital gold rush.

The open ceremony was held on Wulingyuan big data center.The open ceremony was held at Wulingyuan's big data center. 

‘Metaverse’ has become the recent buzzword. Some are worried that it will lock people into a virtual world and they will eventually give up their physical form. While others are simply wondering what exactly this ‘metaverse’ means and why everyone is talking about it.

Facebook recently changed its name to “Meta”. Metaverse company; Roblox, came to IPO and is already worth more than the traditional video game giant Electronic Arts (EA). Byte Dance acquired the third biggest VR company, Pico, for its own metaverse plan. Other players like Tencent, Microsoft, and Epic Games are also making their moves. The Chinese stock market has also been ignited, with ZQGame’s stock price quadrupling over the last 2 months after announcing its new metaverse project Brew Master. MetaApp, a Chinese startup aiming to create a “virtual world for thousands of different life experiences” secured an investment of 100 million USD from various investors.

The base concept of the metaverse was created by fiction writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash." The novel described a virtual world that everyone lives in with their digital avatar. Now in 2021, ‘metaverse’ is being used by startups to describe their Sci-Fi-like worlds with fancy cutting edge technologies like VR, AR, AI, NFTs, and 5G that give people an immersive experience. Which sounds similar to the virtual worlds in both Ready Player One and The Matrix.

It sounds cool but we are not there yetIt sounds cool but we are not there yet

However, what’s currently available is a far cry from The Matrix. On MetaApp’s website, you can see promising terms like “a manifestation of the reality”,” infinite worlds” and very cool trailers with special effects reflecting multiple universes, black holes, and the big bang, hinting at an otherworldly immersive and spectacular experience. But the actual product demo is far less exciting, more on par with UGC game platforms like Roblox and Second Life. MetaApp provided a few demos ranging from an intense Overwatch-like 3D shooting game to a peaceful multiplayer social community. These types of content can be fun for sure, but hardly fulfills the metaverse concept they’re trying to sell.

Sakura School Simulator is a MetaApp game created by usersSakura School Simulator is a MetaApp game created by user

The other driving force of this recent metaverse hype-train is the game Brew Master by ZQGame. Despite it having sent multiple metaverse stocks’ price skyrocketing, the game looks no different from a common mobile clicker tycoon game and hardly has any feature related to VR so far. It does allow players to trade real wine and spirit products with blockchain technology, but how that element has anything to do with metaverse remains confusing for most analysts.

ZQGame’s new project looks just like an idle/clicker game with some blockchain elementsZQGame’s new project looks just like an idle/clicker game with some blockchain elements

The metaverse hype in China has been going on for a while now. It all started back in 2018-2019 as companies try to get approval and licensing, so they may fill the niche Roblox has found in the global markets, in China. The term feels more like a clever catchphrase to lure investors, rather than a real vision for a virtual utopia. The selling point of this Chinese version of metaverse makes sense in its own right since there is indeed a giant market for games similar to Roblox in China. However, this is clearly not the metaverse everyone else cares about.