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The DeanBeat: Great moments at our metaverse event

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Thank you all for coming to our second annual GamesBeat and Facebook Gaming Summit and our GamesBeat Summit: Into the Metaverse 2 online event this week. I hope you review the opening speech that I made about the choices we face — the blue shirt or the red shirt — about the metaverse. I also wrote a piece on how I believe gaming will lead us to the metaverse.

We had planned for 3,500 registrants for the three-day event, and we got more than 5,800. Woohoo! Across three days, we had 49 sessions with 130 speakers. And 50% of them were from diverse origins. I look forward to getting started recruiting speakers for our GamesBeat Summit 2022 hybrid event in Los Angeles/online on April 26-28.

You can offer your own feedback for the event here. I thought I would spend this column pointing you to some fun moments at our event. Our VentureBeat team also did a special issue on the metaverse, with pieces such as Kyle Wiggers’ story on the environmental impact of the metaverse.

As for some of the event highlights, here goes.

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IO is a simulated person built with Epic Games' MetaHuman Creator.
IO is a simulated person built with Epic Games’ MetaHuman Creator.

Jason Rubin, head of content at Meta, kicked off the metaverse discussions on day one with a reinforcing comment that gaming will lead the way in the metaverse. He noted that the game engine will be critical to building the metaverse, and he said that those who are most familiar with using it are game developers. He also reiterated a believe in building an open metaverse created by many companies. Facebook Gaming’s Rick Kelley pointed out how gaming is coming down to earth after Apple’s privacy changes and the post-pandemic behaviors slipped a little in 2021.

Kim Libreri, the fast-talking fountain of knowledge and chief technology officer at Epic Games, got a lot of kudos from the whole GamesBeat writing team. He told us that we’re about five years away, perhaps another console generation, away from having perfect graphics for a realistic metaverse. He dreams of having a simultaneous concert with a live physical performance as well as a mo-capped performance in the metaverse. And he thinks one of the toughest problems to solve is the “sniper in the metaverse.”

Is this the real Kim Libreri (left)? If so, he's the CTO of Epic Games.
Is this the real Kim Libreri (left)? If so, he’s the CTO of Epic Games.

Dave Baszucki, the CEO of Roblox, did a live talk where he talked about how we’re remaking social in the metaverse and how it’s going to be really tough to achieve interoperability in the metaverse. Whatever happens with the walled garden or open metaverse, he expects the path that favors creators is going to be the best one.

Brendan Greene, creator of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and director of PlayerUnknown’s Productions, talked about his plans to build a massive digital world called Artemis. And he believes machine learning will be key to automatically generating graphics for the world.

Kate Edwards, CEO of Geogrify and executive director of the Global Game Jam, moderated a very interesting panel on the ethics of the metaverse. The panel included Kent Bye, Voices of VR; Micaela Mantegna, Berkman Klein Center affiliate at Harvard University and the cofounder of Women in Gaming Argentina; and Jules Urbach, CEO of Otoy. They all warned of the dangers of the immersive metaverse when it comes to privacy concerns. They worry that new biometric tracking technologies like the Brain Computer Interface and the immersion of the metaverse could lead to chilling surveillance capitalism, and they suggested new governance policies around the world to contain the threat.

Riz Virk discusses our notions of reality in The Simulated Multiverse.
Riz Virk discusses our notions of reality in The Simulated Multiverse.

Another panel — with Chris Hewish, president of Xsolla; James Gatto, Shepherd Mullin, co-head of blockchain and games team; and Emily Stonehouse, Linden Lab/Tilia — offered warnings about the regulations of the metaverse.

Things got a little weird with Rizwan Virk, head of the MIT Gamelab and author of the book The Simulated Multiverse. He believes that, within decades, we will complete the ten-step journey to build a simulation around ourselves that we will not be able to distinguish from reality. Virk has studied the sci-fi question, “Are we living in a simulation?” and he addressed all of the different theories that have developed over time.

Randy Pitchford is head of Gearbox Entertainment.
Randy Pitchford is CEO of Gearbox Entertainment.

He had a very philosophical discussion in our Q&A room with Herman Narula, CEO of Improbable. Narula noted that humans have been creating artificial realities for a long time. He brought up the example of sports teams, which are like a substitute for warfare. We create these meaningless rivalries between cities that are completely artificial for the sake of a soccer match, but they retain enormous value because we care about them so much. We will these things into existence, and we are doing the same thing with the metaverse. It will have value because we want it to.

Narula also said he had a solution for the sniper problem that Libreri brought up. Improbable’s Morpheus software will be able to put 10,000 people in a single place, with 300 million networking operations per second, enough to deal with the low-latency interactions required when a sniper zooms in on one person in a giant crowd and takes a shot.

Three of our speakers, including Narula, Cathy Hackl and the team at Upland, and Matthew Ball are all writing metaverse books. And Reality+ author David Chalmers just published a title on the metaverse.

We dove deep into the subject about whether the road to the metaverse is paved with nonfungible tokens (NFTs). Randy Pitchford, CEO of Gearbox Entertainment, offered a not-so-subtle warning. He said that games as a hobby should trump games as a service, as gaming should be all about fun and not be so transactional. Chris Akhavan, chief business officer at Forte, led a talk about how blockchain gaming could become mainstream. The key is that it has to be less complicated and involve real game developers. That sentiment was echoed on other NFT panels.

Ryan Gill of Open Meta, Sarah Austin of Qglobe, and DAO expert Chase Chapman talked about how decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) could be the wave of the future that will bring us the open metaverse. And Subspace’s William King and Gather’s Kumail Jaffer talked about making the metaverse into a real-time service.

Benjamin Charbit of Darewise spoke about how not everybody needs to be a hero in the metaverse, and why it’s OK to take on other roles, like being a farmer. In that case, you could make money as a farmer, but you need a hero to defend you want villains come in to steal your crops.

Andrea Rene of What’s Good Games leads our third Women in Gaming breakfast.

And Raph Koster, CEO of Playable Worlds and a veteran of online games for 25 years, brought us down to earth with an amazingly concise 13-minute talk about things we already learned about online worlds and should not forget. He noted that interoperability is going to be really hard to do, and he noted that Unreal Engine and the Unity Engine don’t even agree that the Y axis means up in computer graphics. Koster has a wealth of material on his website, and he highly recommends the works of Edward Castronova, a new book from Richard Bartle on How to be a god, and a video that Koster did on what AR/VR can learn from MMOs.

Our Women in Gaming Breakfast featured a panel moderated by Andrea Rene of What’s Good Games, with speakers Tiffany Xingyu Wang of Spectrum Labs and Oasis Consortium, Debbie Bestwick of Team17, and Laura Sturr of Amazon Games. Thanks to our room moderators Joanie Kraut, Swatee Surve, and Serena Robar. Our newest GamesBeat writer Rachel Kaser attended and she moderated a session later on fighting toxicity in the metaverse with Rachel Franklin of EA, Tiffany Xingyu Wang, and Laura Higgins of Roblox.

We closed the event with a fun podcast of the GamesBeat team with me, Rachel Kaser, Jeff Grubb, and Mike Minotti. Our poll for the favorite GamesBeat writer also had results in that order. Sorry Mike, but Jeff kind of steered the audience to vote for him in an electoral violation.

Our next event on April 26-28 should also feature another Women in Gaming Breakfast, as well as our annual GamesBeat Visionary Awards. If you’d like to sign up as an adviser or to help, let me know via DM on Twitter via Deantak. And women speakers can continue to apply here. Again, thank you for coming and see you in April.

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Experts weigh in on how ONDC is set to transform the ecommerce business landscape in India

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The Open Network For Digital Commerce (ONDC) is not a platform. A platform suggests that to transact, everyone has to be in a closed loop. ONDC by design is a network of networks. So it is completely open access, it’s unbundled and interoperable,clarified Thampy Koshy, CEO, ONDC, dispelling some of the issues in the minds of businesses around ONDC.

Thampy highlighted that ONDC is not a platform but a list of protocols enabling the exchange of products and services. There is no central platform; it only allows multiple platforms to talk to each other. Anybody who has a product or service to sell can make it available in the open network that any smart buying platform can access. Thampy was speaking at a panel discussion titled ‘The network effect: ONDC & India’s ecommerce’ at TechSparks 2022. Other panelists included Anjali Bansal, Founder, Avaana Capital & Steering Committee Member, ONDC and Kumar P Saha, Founder, ndhgo.

The interoperable network has started its beta testing process with categories like groceries, food and beverages for small retailers in Bengaluru. ONDC plans to add home and kitchen, agriculture, fashion, apparel, footwear and accessories across India by the next few months. The ONDC pilot is currently up in about 80-85 cities.

Opportunities for smaller sellers

As a buyer or as a seller, it’s your choice as an individual or a small business or a large business, who you choose to transact with. Think UPI, but UPI with physical goods and services. So of course, there is a much higher degree of complexity,said Anjali.

The network, according to her, is meant to be a public good. It’s meant for many entrepreneurs and founders, just like how UPI generated a whole set of new business models, ONDC, she hopes will generate a similar set of new business models that will create enormous consumer value, shareholder value and eventually national value.

Kumar believes ONDC will not just be restricted to the MSMEs. I think it will be equally big for the enterprises and large businesses. And this is just the beginning, he said.

Hyperlocal and kirana is where we have started with because I think that has a very immediate consumer effect and visibility. But the full power of the network of ONDC absolutely applies to large enterprises to mid-sized enterprises and consumers and kiranas,said Anjali.

Ensuring consumer trust in the network

Any network participant who wants to be a part of ONDC, Thampy outlined, would have to first undergo a certain set of due diligence – who they are, what kind of business they are in, what’s their credibility and so on, so forth. Secondly, they have to ensure that their IT systems are certified by the team who’s developing the entire protocol. Third is that they define a network participant agreement, which is common for everybody. It’s not a negotiated agreement, whether you’re a large entity like a bank or a financial institution, or a small startup – all views on the same network agreement which binds you to a certain behaviour in the network.

And this network agreement will also include as its part the network policies as existing today, and as they evolve from time to time. These policies are essentially how they have to behave among themselves and with the outside world. And this is also digitally trackable, so it’s all part of the protocol itself. Failure to adhere to the policies will lead to penalties and suspensions.

While you are in a network, whether you’re a seller platform or a buyer platform, your performance in the network is continuously tracked and rated, and it’s available to the whole world. Once you are there as a business and have established your credibility with your GSTN number, pan number and so on, you are a tracked person to the community as a whole,added Thampy.

Most people come into business to do business in a sustainable way, said Kumar. You live and die by your reputation. So if you build a reputation for good quality, you’ll get lots more business, and if you develop a bad reputation for bad quality, you don’t get business,he added.

Setting a global example

Ecommerce is a global problem, where everybody is trying to find a solution. For instance, the American economy is trying to find solutions over regulation by developing the American Innovation and Choice Online Act. Similarly, Europe is trying to ensure fair and open digital markets with the Digital Markets Act. But India is showing a global example,said Thampy.

India is trying to use technology and markets with enabling policies, which is a truly democratic method. India showing how to use the market to the big capitalists in the world is a fantastic global example,he concluded.

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Experts deliberate on technologies leading to the rise of gaming and content in India

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Technology is seeping into every aspect of the world and online gaming is no stranger to it. Over the years, online gaming and esports have been through a lot of changes and today this industry is more advanced and progressive. Technology has enabled a variety of changes which is why online gaming continues to grow in popularity.

To discuss these new-age technologies in depth and how they are changing the gaming landscape, a panel discussion was held on Playing to the fantasy: Rise of gaming & content in India at TechSparks 2022 featuring Gaurav Barman, Senior Business Development Manager, AWS; Vinayak Shrivastav Co-founder and CEO, VideoVerse; Ranga Jagannath, Senior Director – Growth, Agora; and Ratheesh Mallaya, Director of Products, Zynga.

Here are some of the key highlights from the discussion:

Tech enabling the growth of esports in India

The panel discussion started with understanding the rise of esports gaming in India. Despite being around for more than a decade, it’s only recently seen a boom in popularity. The current size of the Indian esports industry is Rs 250 crore and the forecast for the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is expected to be 46 percent in the next four years. The esports industry is expected to see a growth of four-folds estimated to be Rs 1,100 crore by 2025.

Technology is a major propelling force that’s driving this rise. Gaurav of AWS shed more light by discussing a few of the technologies that AWS provides that help in building more interactive engagement for esports and gaming platforms.

Esports companies in India can build engagement, which is much more interactive by offering players the ability to communicate with each other beyond linguistic or geographical boundaries. This can be done by providing multilingual, real-time, translation across geographies. Companies can also build real-time recommendation systems in terms of feed that the user sees, said Gaurav.

Vinayak of VideoVerse spoke about how technology that aids in the production of short-form content is going to play a key role in driving the popularity of esports.I think what’s important for all of us to see is that e-gaming as an entire market is just continuously changing. It’s going to continuously keep evolving over the next couple of years, he said. In such a scenario, Vinayak believes that the services that VideoVerse provides with their flagship product Magnifi will play an important role in amplifying the entire ecosystem.

Magnifi uses state-of-the-art AI and ML technology to auto-produce key moments and highlights from live matches within seconds. Such kind of short-form content is what Vinayak feels is the need of the hour and will drive the growth of the esports market as well.

Hits and misses in the industry

The panelists further deliberated what has been working well for the gaming industry and what has tanked completely. Ranga of Agora spoke in detail about real-time engagement and how greatly it has benefited the gaming landscape.

What we’ve seen is that apps and games which have embedded technologies that are truly real-time tend to be able to monetise much better and significantly more, as compared to games that either don’t have real-time engagement, or they have laggy real-time engagement. Games that have real-time engagement also tend to be more active with better user retention, he remarked.

He further explained that it doesn’t just stop at real-time engagement, but the ability for gaming companies to analyse what’s happening in that real-time engagement is what is working in their favour.

While it’s important to know what is working for the esports landscape, it’s even more important to understand what’s not. Ratheesh shared some pearls of wisdom from some of the failures that Zynga has faced.

When you’re looking to build local, there is definitely a big opportunity out there. But that has to be on top of a really strong core that is fun and engaging for the users. We launched a game around the time of Independence Day in India based on a match game, but it did not turn out the way we wanted it to because of this reason,he said.

Ratheesh highlighted that there is a great scope for games with Indian IP and in fact, according to a recent report, about 60 percent of the audience that doesn’t play games have said they will play if there is an Indian IP. But just building a game on something vernacular or Indian IP will not work out. He also pointed out how games that are currently top-grossing like Garena Free Fire, Coinmaster, and Candy Crush all have great visuals and quality and that’s what is enticing users to stay hooked on the game.

Talking about other hits, Gaurav emphasised how Web3 technologies and blockchain will hugely benefit the industry. Gaming companies are now looking at making digital assets interoperable and with the advent of the Metaverse, an entire make-believe world is possible where players can socialise, connect, and share content beyond the scope of gaming.

From my perspective, technology is going to play a pivotal role in the evolution of this industry. Be it blockchain, NFT, or metaverse, all of that will come together as a platform where interoperability is enabled through underlying technology and used to build these solutions at this point in time, he said.

Along with Web3 technologies, Vinayak shared how cloud-based video editing and streaming solutions will become pivotal for the overall growth of the ecosystem as they’ll make broadcasting, editing, and collaborating with peers in the industry much easier.

Microtransactions in the gaming industry

The panel ended by discussing microtransactions in the gaming industry where Ratheesh shared some useful insights on how transactions and in-app purchases have to be tailored according to the genre of the game. There are different monetisation strategies like subscription-based model, battle pass kind of monetisation strategy or an impulse buy. Those are all options available to you. But what strategy you deploy depends completely on the genre of the game, he shared. He also suggested that microtransactions on gaming apps must be personalised to the users’ needs and that they must be pivotal in framing up the monetisation strategy for any gaming app.

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Tattoo Removal Studio Will Remove Tats From Regretful Kanye West Fans for Free

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

After Kanye West, A.K.A. Ye, made antisemitic statements and false claims about George Floyd’s killing, a London-based tattoo parlor announced on Instagram that it would remove West-related tattoos for free.



ViktoriiaNovokhatska | Getty Images

Naama Tattoo parlor said its offer to remove tattoos of the controversial rapper was a “natural extension” of its “second chances” project, which offers free tattoo laser removal to people seeking to rid themselves of certain types of ink — gang tats or an ex’s name. The procedure, which can cost roughly $2,400 elsewhere, has prompted several customers to contact Naama about having their Ye tattoos lasered off.

The Washington Post reports:

“We understand that tattoos can be triggering for some people and not everyone can afford to remove their tattoos,” the company told The Washington Post in an email Thursday. It noted that one of the people who took them up on the offer said she was being trolled for her Ye-inspired tattoo.

The store said several people have contacted it in recent weeks to have their Ye tattoos lasered off — a procedure that can cost up to 2,000 pounds (about $2,400).

Ye was dropped by brands including Adidas and Gap and locked out of his Twitter and Instagram accounts over his past comments and posts. On Thursday, he appeared on Alex Jones’s Infowars clad in a full-head balaclava. He doubled down on his past statements, telling Jones, “I like Hitler,” and, “Every human being has value that they brought to the table, especially Hitler.”

Naama told the Post that “there are a few former fans with tattoo regret,” stating that three clients are already in the middle of the tattoo removal process, and ten more are ready for consultations. Following Ye’s comments on Infowars, that number seems likely to rise.

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