Facebook's Frankenstein's monster Meta had its coming out party at last night's nostalgia-fueled Super Bowl “Big Game” when millions of people got their first glimpse of the promise of the Metaverse. That promise: live forever. This deathless vision of a virtual utopia was injected straight into the frontal cortex of Gen Xers and middle-aged Millennials via a Rockafire Explosion knock-off that gets resurrected from Hell and reunited in a virtual Showbiz Pizza knock-off.
Now, we're unabashedly pro animatronic bands so we actually liked the spot… but it definitely has been divisive in the industry and is being deservedly dunked on by people who want more from the Metaverse than the endless strip mall seemingly currently under construction.
Here are a few of my big takeaways:
Pro: The spot shows VR’s Greatest Strength:
The spot somewhat muddily showcases what we think is VR’s greatest selling point - bringing people together despite physical barriers. Being able to have a real sense of (virtual) physical presence while you play with a friend or family member that you can’t regularly see IRL is what truly makes VR unique. I personally have been playing various games with my childhood best friend since the days of the Vive, and it’s made our friendship INVARIABLY stronger than an awkward zoom call ever could. The ending of the commercial attempts to drive this home, but I feel it’s unfortunately lost on the majority of the audience who really saw that ad as...
Con: The easy narrative of the VR Dystopian Hellscape
Most people viewed the ad as the easy narrative of VR as a replacement for reality - à la popular Sci Fi books (and unpopular movies) on the subject. IMO Meta should really lean away from anything related to Ready Player One moving forward. As an Austin (and Seattle) based company, we’re legally obligated to like Ready Player One - BUT its themes of the masses ignoring reality only to be immersed in the Metaverse are ...scary. There are wonderful things about virtual worlds, hell it’s part of the reason we called ourselves Fair Worlds, please do a better job of showing how VR and the Metaverse is a compliment to the real world not a replacement. Showing us a once loved cute puppy robot discarded by humanity, now sentenced to existence in a frozen directional pose that can only find happiness in a virtual space somehow doesn’t conjure up the fun we want to have with VR.
Pro: Proof that VR is here to stay:
Facebook is dead, long live Meta. Between this, some giant regulatory hurdles, Apple’s privacy moves, and a general dislike from the public, it is clear that Facebook is in trouble. Because of all these things Meta is all in on the Metaverse - even beyond the business reasons and advantages that spatial computing brings a company like Facebook Meta. If their version of the Metaverse doesn’t work, I don’t think they’re relevant in 5 years. But I think they’re in a great position and have a HUGE advantage on the hardware front with no real competitor in the foreseeable future (looking at you, Apple delays).
Con: A Waste of Perfectly Good Foo Fighters
After the game there was a somewhat highly promoted Foo Fighters concert in Facebook Venues. A friend and I brought our Quests to the party we were at and were excited to check it out together. We logged in immediately after the terribly heartbreaking loss by the Bengals (thoughts and prayers to the Bengals fans in our life) and were met with a confusing mess ... .and an indication that the concert would start at 8 PST (40 minutes later). Disheartened, we had to skip it to attend to parent duties. This morning I did a quick Twitter search to see how it went and it went……poorly. This brutal thread from VR King Kent Bye sums it up well. The only consolation of so many people not getting into a virtual show is that there were lots of people trying to get into a virtual show. The fact that a now borderline classic rock band (yes it hurts me to say that but do the math) is pulling enough users to shut down servers shows a strong interest in the possibilites of this kind of entertainment . Thus far, big virtual events have mostly been for the kiddos with artists like Travis Scott and Katy Perry in Fortnite. This was the first for a VR concert at this scale and while it didn’t work, the fact is that interest is there and presumably for a bigger demographic than my 11 year old niece who would find the Foo Fighters “cringe”.
Bonus Pro: Easter Eggs for VR Die Hards
I loved seeing some scenarios in the ad that MUST have been nods to famous VR experiences.
This is a nod to Walkabout MiniGolf right? (Shout out to the makers of our new favorite game Mighty Coconut who are also our neighbors in Austin!)
And this seems to be a reference to some of the Karaoke that happens in VR Chat (and would have happened in our never finished prototype for Lollapalooza…if you are interested in creating a multiplayer VR Karaoke for LBE please reach out to us.)
This seems to be a reference to some of the early educational / science center content that continues to be a selling point for educators.
And this is a nod to Half Life: Alyx right? Is the dog’s name Jeff? Please let it be Jeff.
Do you have thoughts on the spot? Have an idea you'd love to bring to life in the Metaverse? Reach out and we can talk about it over a round of VR Minigolf or IRL at Peter Pans Mini Golf in Austin.