Skeptics of the metaverse must be feeling quite vindicated right now: after Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook rebranded to Meta and poured tens of billions of dollars into developing the concept, the company’s flagship metaverse Horizon Worlds has stalled at a user count of fewer than 200,000, its owner has been the subject of widespread mockery after revealing low-quality, cartoonish “selfie” images to promote the technology, and Meta itself recently announced layoffs of more than 11,000 employees.
Yet despite the dire predictions for its future, a new Deloitte report suggests that metaverse technology has the potential to have “transformational effects” on economies in Asia, potentially contributing between $800 billion and $1.4 trillion to annual gross domestic product by 2035.
The firm claims that in spite of the challenges faced by the new technology, “millions” in Asia are already spending time and money on metaverse-like virtual environments such as Roblox, Fortnite, and Decentraland. Even platforms that incorporate only some of the emerging functionality, like South Korea’s ZEPETO, which enables its users to create 3D avatars, has garnered more than 300 million registered users worldwide.
Asia’s extensive technology manufacturing capacity is likely to serve as a significant boon as well, giving the region a head start on reaping the benefits of a potential production boom in the hardware needed to power and experience virtual worlds.
Deloitte is pointing at the bigger-picture potential of how the region’s economies could be boosted by the metaverse, but has determined that readiness to reap the benefits ultimately hinges on each economy’s unique strategies. China, for example, has laid out plans for its highly-regulated vision of virtual worlds, recently announcing a two-year plan focused on developing metaverse infrastructure and promoting its usage.
Shanghai has also integrated the metaverse into its five-year development plan, and South Korea has kicked off its own plans by investing $177.1 million into an effort to boost the metaverse industry. The report also predicted that fundamentals such as smartphone penetration, internet access, and digital payment adoption as determinants of an economy’s readiness for the metaverse.
The report goes on to make a case for the need to develop the human capital, underlying technology, and regulatory framework that will bring forth the most successful outcome for the nascent technology.
While the metaverse faces a wide range of challenges to its development and overall adoption, Deloitte’s report paints a picture of a world where the metaverse is inevitable, with the greatest benefits going to those who are most prepared.