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Epic’s CEO Tim Sweeney Illuminates How the Metaverse Will Actually Function

The Verge | Andrew Webster | March 23, 2023

Epic Games Fortnite - Epic's CEO Tim Sweeney Illuminates How the Metaverse Will Actually Function

Image: Epic Games/Fortnite

Epic’s CEO, alongside executive VP Saxs Persson, talks about the future of virtual worlds and what needs to happen for the metaverse to really come to fruition.

  • Epic’s outspoken CEO, Tim Sweeney, took some time to talk about one of his favorite topics, the metaverse, which is something the company is putting a lot of money into. Right after the event, I had the chance to sit down with Sweeney, as well as Epic’s executive VP Saxs Persson, to talk about just what the heck a metaverse is and how it might work in practice.

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  • Can you give me a clear definition of what the metaverse is?  Tim Sweeney: It’s just an online social entertainment experience in a real-time 3D setting. You and your friends, going around having fun together, in a 3D world.
    • What’s happening here is somewhat a phenomenon of scale. We now have enough people with access to powerful devices so that you can actually go out and do this with all of your friends. It’s no longer something for elite computer nerds.
  • That makes you convinced that this is an inevitability? Other companies are pushing hard into this space, and it’s not always working
    • TS: It’s a much more enjoyable and personal and empathetic medium than today’s social networks, for example. Of all the ways you can engage with your friends, it’s awesome to be together in person, it’s awesome to be together in Fortnite, either playing battle royale or going to a concert. It’s not awesome being on Facebook with everyone griping about politics and showing how awesome they are through photos. It’s very impersonal and asynchronous. And you lose the empathy when people aren’t interacting naturally.
    • Saxs Persson: I think it’s meaningful choice and meaningful actions. Why is it inevitable? Because we’re not fighting a trend. We’re trying to invent something. We’re just trying to broaden something that we already see today in Fortnite. That’s all we’re doing really is doubling down on the things that we know are successful today. That’s what Tim is saying. If you play with your friends, if you have more choice, you stay longer, play more, you enjoy your time more. The formula is pretty simple.

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  • The open ecosystem stuff sounds great, but practically how does that work? How do you convince Roblox or the equivalent that this should be an open system where you work together?
    • TS: One step at a time. One thing that’s going on rapidly is all of the game engines are integrating these open standard file formats. These are getting us closer and closer to having content interoperability at a basic level.
    • Let’s use the web analogy because the web has open standards, and it works. So look at all of the pieces we have and what’s missing. We have some of the file formats, but the web has HTML for describing the entire page, and there’s not an all-encompassing standard like that for 3D worlds.
    • That’s something that needs to be developed over time. The web has a standard for scripting behavior called Javascript. Fortnite has Verse, Roblox has Luau, and they are candidates that could be weighed as open standards for the future. And every engine has its own networking protocol for servers to talk to each other and to clients. Those are all proprietary, but those could be standardized over time.

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