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Epic Games believes the Internet is broken. This is their blueprint to fix it. – The Washington Post

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To Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, people are tired of how today’s Internet operates. He says the social media era of the Internet, a charge led by Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook, has separated commerce from the general audience, herding users together and directing them to targets of the company’s choosing rather than allowing free exploration.
“Now we’re in a closed platform wave, and Apple and Google are surfing that wave too,” Sweeney said. “As we get out of this, everybody is going to realize, ‘Okay we spent the last decade being taken advantage of.'”
For years now, he has eyed a solution: the metaverse. And steadily, over several years, Epic has been acquiring a number of assets and making strategic moves with the goal of making Sweeney’s vision for the metaverse a reality.
The simplest way to define the metaverse is as an evolution of how users interact with brands, intellectual properties and each other on the Internet. The metaverse, to Sweeney, would be an expansive, digitized communal space where users can mingle freely with brands and one another in ways that permit self-expression and spark joy. It would be a kind of online playground where users could join friends to play a multiplayer game like Epic’s “Fortnite” one moment, watch a movie via Netflix the next and then bring their friends to test drive a new car that’s crafted exactly the same in the real world as it would be in this virtual one. It would not be, Sweeney said, the manicured, ad-laden news feed presented by platforms like Facebook.
“The metaverse isn’t going to be that,” Sweeney said. “A carmaker who wants to make a presence in the metaverse isn’t going to run ads. They’re going to drop their car into the world in real time and you’ll be able to drive it around. And they’re going to work with lots of content creators with different experiences to ensure their car is playable here and there, and that it’s receiving the attention it deserves.”
People using the Internet in the 1990s via companies like America Online will recall how the Internet has evolved from logging in over phone lines to check their email, chat in real time over AOL Instant Messenger and perhaps check a website or bulletin board discussion before logging off. Today’s always-online, smartphone-centric culture of curated feeds revolves around social media and monetization through advertising, a dynamic Sweeney believes various companies have exploited to their benefit and the detriment of users.
[Silicon Valley is racing to build the next version of the Internet. Fortnite might get there first.]
Sweeney points to how Facebook has engaged with businesses over the years to illustrate his belief.
“They have all these people follow them, and then at some point, Facebook decided we’re not going to let [businesses] talk to them directly unless you pay us, and then they introduced advertising as this monetization thing,” Sweeney said. “By the time [businesses] figured it out, they were trapped.”
Sweeney believes platforms like Google and Apple have similarly grown in size while contributing to what he sees as a devolution of the Internet. He refers to the economic ecosystems created by the Silicon Valley giants as “walled gardens,” a term that came up frequently during Epic’s mostly unsuccessful antitrust lawsuit against Apple. That suit took aim at Apple’s app store, which Epic argued constituted a monopoly because Apple controls whether apps can appear in its store and receives a 30 percent cut of all financial transactions from those apps.
A federal judge ruled in Apple’s favor on all but one count, leaving that particular walled garden largely intact. In her decision, District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers noted how the actions of Epic against Apple were a calculated move to eliminate a barrier to the creation of the metaverse. Sweeney’s vision for the metaverse would give users the ability to seamlessly hop from one platform to another and not be limited by a company’s virtual ecosystem.
Even as Sweeney and Epic pursue their metaverse dream, it’s one shared by a number of massive, tech-centric companies. One of them is the same that Sweeney decried for the current state of the Internet. Facebook’s Zuckerberg recently said he hopes that users stop thinking of Facebook as a social media company and more of a metaverse company.
[How Facebook’s ‘metaverse’ became a political strategy in Washington]
Months before Zuckerberg’s announcement, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was among the first American tech executive to refer to his company’s offerings as part of an “enterprise metaverse.” Chinese conglomerate Tencent, whose holdings include everything from social media apps to stakes in Hollywood studios, has also accelerated its efforts.
The shared ambitions of these giant corporations set the stage for a high-stakes race to craft the metaverse. And Epic sees itself as well positioned in the pack.
The Washington Post interviewed a variety of executives, developers and stakeholders at Epic Games to discuss its vision for the metaverse. The messaging from Epic Games and its companies is clear: What Sweeney and his colleagues want to create is a marked departure from modern social media platforms. And the company believes it is well suited to realize its metaverse vision through its own technologies and series of acquisitions. But there remain significant obstacles, seemingly outside of Epic’s control, that present formidable barriers to Sweeney’s aspirations.
At the core of Epic’s metaverse vision is a change in how people socialize on the Internet. Sima Sistani, co-founder of the video chat social network Houseparty that was acquired by Epic in 2019, believes interactions will move away from “likes,” comments and posts about people’s personal lives and toward more complex interactions where users share and participate in experiences across various services.
“If the last generation is about sharing, the next generation of social is going to be about participating,” said Sistani, who has held positions at Tumblr and Yahoo before starting Houseparty. “Maybe I didn’t call it the metaverse then, but that’s what it is. It’s people, interactive experiences, coming together and moving from one experience to another, having this shareability to move beyond walled gardens.”
[Epic Games shuts down Houseparty app to focus on metaverse]
Sistani’s description closely resembles the innate, interactive nature of video games, which offer more ways to engage with brands and other users than simple ad-filled timelines.
“We’ve seen this happen in the past,” Sistani said. “I come from a media background, and people moved from traditional media to social media. And this new generation is moving from social media to games. That’s where they’re having these conversations. That’s where it’s beyond the ‘like,’ beyond the news feed. And that, that’s the metaverse.”
Nowhere has this been more visible in Epic’s portfolio than its flagship title, “Fortnite,” the 100-player, battle royale-style game that surged in popularity in 2018. As The Washington Post reported last year, Epic Games has become a front-runner in creating the metaverse in part thanks to the hundreds of millions of users who log into “Fortnite” every month to create, talk and, of course, shoot each other with digital guns in multiplayer arena combat. The game is a forum in which players interact in real time with intellectual properties from Marvel or Star Wars, one that both pulls from and inspires pop culture. It has even been a showcase for premium consumer goods.
Earlier this year, the Ferrari 296 GTB was dropped into “Fortnite,” which became a test drive, so to speak, of how the automobile industry may use the metaverse. The game has become a sort of experiential lab and incubator of these ideas, said Donald Mustard, chief creative officer at Epic Games.
Mustard sees “Fortnite” as an ever-changing virtual world that’s molded by feedback from players and the brands with which Epic partners, whether it’s Marvel directors Anthony and Joseph Russo to rapper Travis Scott, all of whom were heavily involved with the direction and creative process of their respective in-game events. Players have molded the game as far back as the literal game-changing “meteor landing” event in 2018, he said.
“It’s led to this world that feels like it’s got some real history to it, shaped by the community,” Mustard said. “That was all a reaction to us looking at what the community was doing and trying to get back to them in a way that felt authentic and part of the world being built.”
That community interaction is a central concept of the metaverse and how it evolves the Internet from the social media era.
“What exists right now, it’s based on algorithmic feeds that are driven by ad revenue, not a model,” Sistani said. “That instantly takes you into polarized worlds. If you are putting joy at the center of what you’re doing, and not ads, and the goal is collaboration, the goal is fun, the goal is participating, making new friends, those are just super different incentives and motivations.”
Epic’s tool kit is well suited for creating the kind of collaborative and fun experiences Sistani describes. Long before “Fortnite” took the world by storm, a 1998 game made by Sweeney himself debuted and became a centerpiece of Epic’s business. The game was titled “Unreal,” and it was powered by what is now known as Unreal Engine. Simply put, a game engine is a suite of software tools used to build virtual characters and worlds. Unreal Engine is used by at least 7 million people, especially game developers, around the world, but it is also heavily used outside of the video game industry. The most famous and recent example is how it powers the sets and backdrops of TV shows like “The Mandalorian.” Car manufacturers, like Ferrari, have used Unreal Engine to model their vehicles.
Part of Epic’s strategy for the metaverse will require a continual stream of content creation to keep users engaged. To that end, Epic is making Unreal Engine as accessible as possible to novices.
“We’re trying to turn it into a process that’s very, very straightforward,” Marc Petit, general manager of Unreal Engine, said. “We tried to create this super-sophisticated technology to power the metaverse and try to make it accessible to millions of people.”
Epic Games is applying this strategy in another way by working with outside companies like Manticore Games. Manticore Games was founded by Jordan Maynard and Frederic Descamps to start “Core,” a game creation platform built on top of Unreal Engine. It’s similar to “Roblox” but with more high-budget visuals, and gives people the ability to conjure game worlds with easy-to-use tools. “Core” is attempting to bridge the gap between players and creatives and is further incentivizing development on the platform by offering a 50-50 revenue split with developers.
“It’s a different way of thinking, a productization of the interaction with the community,” Descamps said. “All of a sudden, you’re not just thinking about players, you’re thinking of player creators.”
Epic sees those creators as another cornerstone in constructing the metaverse. The desire to shift “Fortnite” to a more creator-friendly business model was discussed at length during Epic’s trial with Apple. That pivot would also mirror an ongoing Internet trend.
In the last decade, Internet culture has evolved to embrace and be driven by tens of millions of content creators all over the world. The most popular have used their massive audiences to attract lucrative deals that have turned many from creators into influencers, the personalities that shape pop culture.
“Some of the top entertainment people in the world today are not found in Hollywood,” Descamps said, pointing to the example of Justin Bieber, who famously started his career when he was discovered on YouTube. Video games have similarly minted celebrities in ways that would have been impossible at the Internet’s outset.
Video game personalities have become a new tier of celebrity class, sometimes dwarfing traditional celebrities. In 2019, a study by Morning Consult discovered that among Generation Z, PewDiePie, YouTube’s most subscribed individual who grew that audience through gaming, is more popular than LeBron James. Tyler Blevins, better known as Ninja, started a wave of streamers seeking and winning professional contracts with social media companies. In a landmark, multimillion-dollar deal with Microsoft’s now-defunct Mixer live-streaming service in 2019, Blevins started a trend of other companies like YouTube and Twitch attempting to secure contracts with their biggest stars. Many of those stars employ professional agencies and public relations teams. (Blevins subsequently rejoined Twitch on a new contract after Mixer was shut down.)
Facebook may be the leading social network, but the New York Times reported in July the company is playing catch-up in courting creatives in its spaces, which include Instagram. This effort included trying to lock well-known video game personalities on Twitch and YouTube into contracts to stream exclusively on Facebook.
Epic has already shown it can attract gamers like Blevins, who rose to popularity playing “Fortnite,” but also more traditional celebrities in the music world. DJ Marshmello, Travis Scott and Ariana Grande have held groundbreaking concerts in “Fortnite.” And in Microsoft’s “Minecraft,” Gen Z darling 100 gecs hosted an ambitious “Minecraft” music festival.
For its part, “Core” is leaning more into the creative process when it comes to music. Producer and DJ deadmau5 will be filming his next music video using “Core” and has asked users to help contribute to his vision.
These kinds of creative projects play to the strengths of a game company like Epic. As analysts in the space have pointed out in the last two years, not only are video game companies most adept at creating imaginary virtual spaces, but the audience would be well equipped with the technology to navigate it thanks to high-powered PCs and machines needed to play a modern game. Simply put, it all makes for fertile ground for creators, particularly compared to current social media platforms.
For creators like Sean Noell of Michigan, who builds maps and experiences in “Fortnite,” the promise of the Internet goes beyond haggling for likes and competing for space on an infinitely scrolling feed. Noelle, who goes by the online handle “ChaseJackman,” was one of the creators responsible in building the recent “March Through Time” Martin Luther King Jr. event, which was built in “Fortnite” in partnership with Time Magazine. According to Epic Games, the event was attended by more than 8.1 million players.
[The ‘Metaverse’ is growing. And now you can directly invest in it.]
“I’d really love to see an Internet where social media isn’t about followers, but is instead about the quality of your work,” he said. “I don’t want to put my all into a project and see it fail because I don’t have any followers.
“A place where people with like minds and ideas can meet and make something great would mean that someone would be able to flourish based on their skill, not their popularity.”
“Fortnite” fan creator Dequan Dawson, also known as “GQuanoe,” who worked on the Martin Luther King Jr. experience as well said the discovery of creative work needs to be key in helping creators in any iteration of the Internet.
“I’d love to see a quick way for people to find my work via a search by having a much more direct link to my portfolio, whether it be the top search result with images and videos displaying my work, or maybe a way to support me outside of ‘Fortnite,’” he said. “Right now, there aren’t a lot of ways to accurately showcase my work because of the barriers between different products online, but broader tools to showcase my work and in places outside of the game would definitely help.”
If video game worlds can be considered buildings of interactivity, Epic Games has been one of the biggest providers of construction materials thanks to the widespread use of Unreal Engine. Now Sweeney wants to help build bridges between those buildings.
For years, Unreal Engine has been used by a number of different industries outside of video games. Global architecture firms like HOK and Zaha Hadid already use Unreal Engine and Epic Games’s Twinmotion business for architectural visualization. Epic Games isn’t just a games manufacturer. It’s already a contractor providing construction materials for virtual worlds.
“I think [Epic] is a unique company because we’ve always served both the consumer audience and the developer audience, and we’ve built our business on the synergy between the two,” Sweeney said. “It’s the same position to build an ecosystem. It’s both great for consumers and for developers and to avoid the kind of pitfalls which turn consumer ecosystem companies into overlords that exert too much power.”
Critics may point to the prospect that Epic Games itself is a walled garden for the moment, much like the companies Sweeney has pilloried. Sweeney acknowledges this. Outside of log-ins using various other services like Microsoft or social media, Epic’s own storefront, the Epic Games Store is still a closed-off marketplace. But Epic Games has become a major influence on the current wave of cross-platform interoperability between game consoles and PCs. Epic Games was able to convince Nintendo, Xbox and Sony to open their multiplayer bases to comingle with other platforms while playing “Fortnite.” Since then, games like “Rocket League” (also now owned by Epic) and the Call of Duty franchise have adopted cross-platform, cross-save-data standards.
Sweeney pointed out that even if the last year of quarantine accelerated the acceptance of persistent online worlds operating like our real one, there’s a host of standards and practices that need to be ironed out to create any kind of metaverse, not unlike how government-funded researchers in 1986 formed the Internet Engineering Task Force to formally develop and promote Internet standards.
“You need an entire suite of standards, and the Web is based on several,” said Sweeney, citing such factors like HTML becoming the standard file format for displaying web browser pages. “The metaverse will require a lot of them, file formats for describing a 3-D scene, networking protocols for describing how players are interacting in real time. Every multiplayer game has a networking protocol of some sort. They don’t all agree, but eventually they ought to be lined up and made to communicate.”
And therein lies Sweeney’s biggest challenge in realizing his vision. While Epic could weave a kind of metaverse out of its many creations and others built on Unreal Engine, it would not be “The metaverse” that Sweeney and others envision until the barriers between some of the world’s biggest brands are broken down.
“I think the real force that’s going to shape the metaverse into an open platform is the power of all the brands to participate in it,” Sweeney said.
In that regard, the verdict in Epic’s lawsuit against Apple was a blow, but Epic has already filed an appeal. If it can’t find a legal mechanism to bring down the walled gardens, it may need to follow a similar blueprint to how it successfully pushed for cross-play in “Fortnite,” the biggest example to date of how Epic Games has opened up traditionally closed ecosystems.
Sweeney said he’s optimistic and hopeful that the Internet’s next evolution may return to the spirit of cooperation — and the fear of monopoly — that drove the AIM alliance of 1991, the landmark agreement between Apple, IBM and Motorola to standardize personal computer technology.
“You’re going to have hundreds of industries entering this, each one cognizant of the need to protect their brand,” Sweeney said. “I think that’s going to be the ultimate checks and balance system in a way that it was not in the social media revolution. … I think that’s going to lead to very robust development in the way the Internet was.”
Shannon Liao contributed to this report.

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Lamina1 Presents Inaugural “Open Metaverse Conference” Connecting the Worlds of Blockchain and the Metaverse for a Next-Gen Internet – Business Wire

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Featuring a keynote from co-founder and futurist Neal Stephenson, the first-of-its-kind event aims to empower creators and coders to build the Open Metaverse together
LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Lamina1, a Layer 1 blockchain optimized for the Open Metaverse, today announced its role as founding sponsor of the Open Metaverse Conference, a first-of-its-kind industry event bringing together the worlds of the Metaverse and Web3 to build a more open and immersive Internet. The two-day conference will take place from February 8-9, 2023 in Los Angeles, California, and will gather experts and builders spanning Metaverse experiences, Web3, and entertainment.

Co-founded by Neal Stephenson, renowned futurist and science fiction author who originally coined the term “Metaverse,” and cryptocurrency pioneer Peter Vessenes, founder of the first VC-backed Bitcoin company, Lamina1 will provide the infrastructure to empower rapid expansion of the Open Metaverse. As the founding sponsor of the Open Metaverse Conference, Lamina1 will provide a forum for critical conversations around identity, privacy and interoperability, while exploring how audience engagement, creative storytelling, and the technicalities of blockchain can work hand-in-hand to make the vision of the Open Metaverse a reality.
The Open Metaverse Conference will feature keynotes from renowned technologists and storytellers who are pioneering visions for the next era of the Internet. Attendees will hear from Lamina1 co-founders Neal Stephenson and Peter Vessenes, as well as Philip Rosedale, founder of virtual world Second Life (Linden Lab) and co-founder of virtual platform High Fidelity, John Gaeta, Oscar-winning VFX pioneer (The Matrix) and CCO of character persona company Inworld AI, Cathy Hackl, Metaverse and Web3 strategist and founder of design consultancy Journey, and other industry crossover leaders to be announced. Keynote sessions will be complemented by diverse speakers and side events spanning games, art, entertainment, and commerce. To connect these key areas of culture with the technology that enables them, the Open Metaverse Conference will also facilitate technological deep dives for attendees from leaders in Web3, immersive computing, and technology standards groups. Presenting partners include the Metaverse Standards Forum, the Open Metaverse Interoperability Group, and the Open Metaverse Alliance for Web3 (OMA3), all organizations fostering interoperability.
“We are at a moment in time when developers, creatives, and producers can finally design the seamless and persistent experiences we’ve dreamed about,” said Jamil Moledina, Vice President of Games Partnerships and Media at Lamina1. “The Open Metaverse Conference will serve as the big tent for everyone who’s thinking about creating never-before-possible experiences that allow creators and consumers to enter unique virtual worlds on a level playing field.”
“OMA3 is pleased to collaborate with Lamina1 and the Open Metaverse Conference in promoting interoperability,” said Robby Yung, CEO of Animoca Brands. “OMA3 looks forward to developing talk tracks to encourage the creation of a more open and immersive internet.”
The conference will encourage interdisciplinary dialogue through debates, pitch sessions, roundtable discussions, and networking opportunities to help drive new ideas and connections.
“We felt a real sense of urgency to facilitate discussion with our colleagues and creators across the spectrum,” said Rebecca Barkin, President of Lamina1. “We know that the Open Metaverse will be built collaboratively and with a set of shared values, and we’re happy to provide this forum to address the needs of the community and to solve big problems together.”
For more information on the Open Metaverse Conference, visit www.openmetaverseconf.com.
About Open Metaverse Conference 
The Open Metaverse Conference (OMC) is an industry-first event presented by Lamina1 focused on bringing together the Metaverse and blockchain technology. The conference gathers key stakeholders spanning developers, creatives, producers, product owners, and executives to ask and address big questions around the development of a truly Open Metaverse that leverages open-source, collaborative principles and blockchain decentralization.
About Lamina1 
Lamina1 is a Layer1 blockchain optimized for the Open Metaverse. The brainchild of legendary futurist Neal Stephenson (who first conceptualized the term “Metaverse” in his 1992 best-selling novel Snow Crash) and Peter Vessenes, a foundational leader in the crypto space from the early days of Bitcoin – Lamina1 is on a mission to deliver the blockchain technology, interoperating tools, and decentralized services that will establish it as the preferred destination for creators building a more immersive Internet. It is the first provably carbon-negative blockchain in the world.
K.C. Maas
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kc.maas@wachsman.com
K.C. Maas
Wachsman
kc.maas@wachsman.com

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Facebook Founder, Zuckerberg Drops Out Of 10 Richest Men After Losing Half Of Fortunes – SaharaReporters.com

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According to Forbes, the Facebook founder has lost more than half his fortune—a staggering $76.8 billion—since September 2021, dropping him from No. 3 on The Forbes 400 list of the U.S.’ wealthiest people to No. 11. Worth $57.7 billion on this year’s list.
 
Meta chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg has lost his spot in the list as one of the 10 richest people in America.
According to Forbes, the Facebook founder has lost more than half his fortune—a staggering $76.8 billion—since September 2021, dropping him from No. 3 on The Forbes 400 list of the U.S.’ wealthiest people to No. 11. Worth $57.7 billion on this year’s list.
Zuck trails Walmart heir Jim Walton, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and other tech moguls such as ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. No one in America has lost as much money over the past year as Zuckerberg.
He has the cratering stock price of Meta (formerly Facebook) to thank for his exit from the top 10. Shares have plunged 57% since last year’s Forbes 400, which used stock prices from September 3, 2021. Tech stocks are generally in a slump with the market downturn, but Meta’s fall outpaces both the Nasdaq (-9.8%) and the S&P 500 (-13.5%), as well as Microsoft’s 14% decline, Google-parent Alphabet‘s 25% drop and Amazon’s 27% dive.
Investors are spooked by a privacy policy update from Apple last year that made it harder for tech companies to track users across apps, impacting Meta’s ad sales. Meta reported its first-ever quarterly revenue decline in July–a 1% drop, to $28.8 billion.
“Facebook makes most of its money from advertising, and now it just doesn’t have that data anymore,” says Mark Zgutowicz, an analyst at research and investment banking firm Benchmark.
“All those data signals went away, which basically means that advertisers are having trouble telling whether a campaign was successful or not.”
Compounding the problem for Meta, TikTok is luring away advertisers, along with lucrative Gen Z and millennial users. In February, Meta announced its first-ever quarterly loss of daily active users. A recent internal report showed that Meta’s TikTok clone, Instagram Reels, is struggling to compete, according to Wall Street Journal report.
Under normal circumstances, a slight dip in revenue might be manageable, but Meta is also investing heavily in virtual reality and the metaverse, which is dragging down operating profit. In 2021, the company’s metaverse division, Meta Reality Labs, lost $10 billion. While the metaverse is all Zuckerberg wants to talk about, investors are less enthusiastic so far. “It’s a long tail investment and, for now, it’s kind of a cash suck,” Zgutowicz says.
Zuckerberg first became a billionaire in 2008, just four years after founding Facebook. At 23, he was the youngest self-made billionaire at the time, debuting at No. 321 on The Forbes 400, worth $1.5 billion. By 2011, Zuckerberg’s net worth had increased nearly 12 fold to $17.5 billion.
This year isn’t the first time Zuckerberg’s net worth has taken a dive. After Facebook’s famously disappointing IPO in 2012, Zuckerberg fell from No. 14 to No. 36 on The Forbes 400. But it didn’t last long. The following year, Zuckerberg bounced back and, up until now, his fortune has continued to climb. Despite the litany of controversies and scandals plaguing the company, Facebook’s ad machine had reliably churned out enough money to impress investors, sending Zuckerberg’s net worth soaring to $134.5 billion last year, his highest net worth ever.
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Disney CEO Bob Chapek plotting a metaverse for Disney+ that will recreate their parks online – Daily Mail

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By Alex Oliveira For Dailymail.Com
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Disney is plotting a metaverse that would let people experience the most magical place on earth without ever setting foot in the theme park.
CEO Bob Chapek said the media giant’s metaverse would exist on its streaming platform, Disney+, and allow ‘the 90 percent of people that will never ever be able to get to a Disney park,’ to experience it in virtual reality.
‘We call it next-gen storytelling’ Chapek said in an interview with Deadline, noting that he didn’t like use the phrase metaverse ‘because it has a lot of hair on it.’
But regardless of whatever Chapek prefers to call the planned platform, many have responded by calling the move out of touch with Disney’s fanbase, and argued that if the parks stopped hiking prices more people would be able to visit.  
The move comes as Chapek – who took the helm at Disney in 2020 – struggles to make a name for himself in the shadow of his innovative predecessor, Bob Iger, and keep afloat amid controversies ranging from the park’s rising prices, to Disney’s stance on Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill. 
Just last week, Chapek broke a months-long silence on an apology he issued in an attempt to quell Disney staff who were outraged by his failure to speak out against the controversial bill last spring, saying he chose to remain mum on the matter because he didn’t want to get Disney caught in a ‘political subterfuge.’ 
Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the media giant’s metaverse would exist on its streaming platform, Disney+, and allow people to experience park rides in virtual reality
Disney’s metaverse move comes as Chapek – who took the helm at Disney in 2020 – struggles to make a name for himself in the shadow of his innovative predecessor, Bob Iger
Chapek characterized the Disney metaverse as a way to experience the theme parks for the multitudes of people who are unable to actually make the trip in person.
‘We wish every person would have the opportunity to come to our parks, but we realize that’s not a reality for some people,’ he told Deadline, ‘we have before us an opportunity to turn what was a movie-service platform to an experiential platform and give them the ability to ride Haunted Mansion from a virtual standpoint.’
He said metaverse users would have an experience beyond what regular parkgoers have, and be able to step out of the ride-cars to explore sets and interact with characters. 
‘Maybe we’ll give them the opportunity what every single person in the park wants to do, and unfortunately too many of them do it, just to get off the attraction. See how it works, see how those ghost dancers move,’ he said. 

But many responded to the news by saying if Disney would just stop raising its prices, more of those 90 percent of people who cannot visit the parks would be able to.
‘Damn Disney. Just say it direct like that,’ wrote tech critic Juan Carlos Bagnell on Twitter, ‘90% of the HUMAN POPULATION is too poor to visit our parks, but hopefully some are less-poor-enough to own VR goggles and ride our rides in a metaverse clone…’
Commenters on the Deadline interview were equally unimpressed, with one saying ‘The reason 90% of people may not be able to experience the parks is because you keep hiking the cost of GOING to the parks beyond what most people can actually afford, Bob.’
‘Costs are up at the parks. Moral appears to be down. Iger had imagination and could adapt,’ said another.

Disney park prices have skyrocketed since Chapek was fully given charge at Disney in 2022. At California parks, ticket prices jumped 6 percent to $164 for single-park passes, while the price of getting into more than one park over the course of a day rose 9 percent to $319.
At the Florida parks the price to get into the park after 2pm rose to $169, while before 2pm fans were asked to fork over $194. Those prices could also rise based on an increased demand on any day.
‘If you’re the kind of person that budgets or saves for vacations, Disney Parks aren’t for you any longer,’ wrote a fed-up customer on Reddit, ‘That’s a Premium Physical Experience, and there’s plenty of national and international wealthy families to afford going indefinitely.’
And in August, as inflation scorched the US economy, Chapek warned those prices could continue to rise.
‘It’s all up to the consumer,’ he said, according to The New York Post, ‘If consumer demand keeps up, we’ll act accordingly.’
Disney’s metaverse would allow people to experience park rides like the Haunted Mansion without ever setting foot in Disney World
Chapek noted the virtual reality experience could go beyond simply sitting in the car and experiencing the ride the way park-goers do, but would allow people to step off of the tracks and explore the ride sets up close
Chapek has hardly been the happiest CEO on Earth since he took the reins at Disney.
After beginning his tenure in February, 2020, he was thrust immediately into the chaos of navigating Disney through the perils of the pandemic, which saw the media company’s primary revenue streams – theme park revenue and movie theater tickets – vanish like a pair of glass slippers at midnight.
To help steady the ship, Iger – much to Chapek’s ire, reportedly – was kept on in a leadership position through 2021.
But as soon as Chapek was given full control in 2022 his price hikes had customers raising eyebrows about whether he was up to the same scratch as the visionary Iger.
Those doubts were doubled-down on by Disney staff after Chapek decided to remain quiet on Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill, a law which barred schools from discussing sexuality or gender with children between kindergarten and third grade.
Many Disney employees viewed the law as homophobic and an affront to the inclusive values of Disney, and publicly voiced their outrage that Chapek did not speak out against it.
Chapek said the metaverse would also work in conjunction with real-world visits to Disney theme parks
Disney is plotting a metaverse that would let people experience the most magical place on earth without ever setting foot in the theme park
He later apologized to staff, publicly decried the bill, and announced Disney had paused all its political donations within Florida.
Last week, Chapek addressed that apology for the first time since he issued it, saying he had struggled to balance the needs and beliefs of every one of his employees and customers.
‘What we try to do is be everything to everybody,’ Chapek told The Hollywood Reporter in a recent interview, ‘That tends to be very difficult because we’re The Walt Disney Company.’
‘We certainly don’t want to get caught up in any political subterfuge, but at the same time we also realize that we want to represent a brighter tomorrow for families of all types, regardless of how they define themselves,’ he said.

Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group

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