How gaming democratization will enable the metaverse | Marc Whitten TOU

How gaming democratization will enable the metaverse | Marc Whitten

Connect with top gaming leaders in Los Angeles at GamesBeat Summit 2023 this May 22-23. Register here. For Marc Whitten, senior vice president and general manager of Unity Create, the metaverse is an overused and ill-defined word. But if it means a version of the internet with a lot more 3D, he is pretty sure it will be built with the Unity game engine. I spoke with Whitten about his predictions for gaming in 2023, and we also talked about how the democratization of game development could lead to the creation of the metaverse. After, it’s going to take a huge amount of content, in particular user-generated content, to populate the metaverse and bring it to life. So Whitten says we’re only going to get there with tools that are a lot more accessible, interoperable, and easy to use from any device. “To me, the biggest challenge of the metaverse is actually content creation. Not even reuse. Creating 3D content is hard,” Whitten said. And that’s why Whitten’s job is to make it all easier to conceive, build and deploy. Event GamesBeat Summit 2023 Join the GamesBeat community in Los Angeles this May 22-23. You’ll hear from the brightest minds within the gaming industry to share their updates on the latest developments. Register Here Here’s an edited transcript of our interview. Marc Whitten is senior vice president and GM of Unity Create. GamesBeat: Tell me some of your predictions for 2023. Marc Whitten: The key things that I see happening, that I think are gathering steam right now, and then there’s a couple where you can maybe see them ramp up in this year–the gathering steam side, not surprising, basically every game is a live game now. The idea that a game would be this thing that’s static is really going by the wayside. Which, for a class of games, it’s been that way, but in mobile and across all sorts of genres and types of games, and that’s become more important. You don’t see very many launches that feel like just a contained experience, versus something that’s going to grow, have community, and have people deliver into it. That’s going to continue to accelerate this year. That’s one of the biggest that we see. Going with that—this is an area where we spend a lot of time talking to game developers, but it’s this desire and need for multiplatform. It goes along with the live game side. The idea of a live game is you should expect to be able to play that game in some form on the device that you care about as a user, which raises a lot of expectations around how games design. Not just for being ported to a different screen, but thinking about the experience more deeply on a different screen. That’s continuing to accelerate. A scene from SlimeRancher, made with Unity. GamesBeat: Are there some consequences for the game engine because of these changes? The kinds of tools within the larger engine that get used more? Things that skyrocket in usage? Whitten: A big part of what happens when you have to think about multiple device types in particular is the ability to scale the rendering solution to take advantage of whatever that device is. It looks as good as possible on all devices, versus maybe really being optimized for one particular type of device. That means, inside the engine, the ability to take a set of assets, be able to manage those assets at various levels of detail or at various resolutions or various other rendering techniques, so that you can do something that looks great on a console or a high-end PC, but also looks good on a powerful phone without draining the battery of the phone. Those sorts of things are more and more aligned. It’s also impacting the design side, though. One of the things aligned with this is I just think there’s a resurgence in dedicated hardware. You look at things like Steam Deck. You obviously look at the long success of the Switch. The Switch is a great example. If you look at data on the Switch, it’s almost evenly split in terms of people who play their Switch 100 percent plugged into the TV versus 100 percent mobile versus half and half. They have three cohorts that are almost exactly the same size. The design of a good game experience is not just—screen state is very different. How you think about control surfaces is very different. Game developers are having to think more and more about an optimized multiplatform control and design experience. They’re using a lot of those types of tools in the game engine. GamesBeat: Would you say you were ready for these trends of 2023 some time ago? Whitten: Certainly I think one thing that’s fundamental about Unity is this idea of making it easy to reach the hardware that your users care about. That’s been fundamental to how we build the game engine for many years. It doesn’t mean we’re not constantly having to keep up with change. One thing that’s interesting, you continue to see this rise in power on the mobile devices. The way you would have thought about your power envelope for a phone-class device two or three years ago is completely different now, including what that means in terms of the technology available for a game creator. There’s constant work there. V Rising GamesBeat: Your iPhone’s resolution is now better than your computer’s. Whitten: It’s not just that. Obviously, it’s the resolution. There’s a great GPU that goes along with it. 5G is getting deeper and deeper embedding so there’s more bandwidth available. You can suddenly imagine doing more things than you would have thought of in a game two or three years ago. This is one reason, by the way, that I wanted to hit the live games thing. There’s still an interesting set of—a lot of interesting blockers you have to solve for. For example, publishing into a mobile app store, there are often limits on the download package size. Terms of service limits. Therefore, if you’re a modern game, Marvel Snap or something like that, you have to build a game that’s going to be able to be packaged inside the app stores, but still be as rich as you want to deliver given that you have all these capabilities on the end devices. There’s a lot of architectural work that game creators are doing that requires access to the cloud, requires these live services, requires them to think about how they’ll deliver bits, not just in this package, but over time to their players. GamesBeat: How much are people placing expectations on the game engine to solve their problems and explore their new possibilities? “I’ll wait for Unity to figure out the blockchain stuff before I do it.” Whitten: One of the long-term tenets of Unity has always been to be a pretty open platform. Regardless of whether we’re doing it ourselves, or someone else in the ecosystem is adding to it, often Unity is a tool that’s ready to explore a new space like metaverse or blockchain or some of these others that you’re talking about. That also helps inform us on the next two or three things we should do to make it better for game developers. But yeah, we have a lot of work to do to continue to keep up and drive it. My goal is to allow a game creator to take advantage of anything interesting about the set of devices that they want to ship on, while minimizing as many of the headaches of managing multiplatform as possible. I want to take the headaches away as much as I can, while also giving them access to what’s unique, making it easy for them to focus on the fun of the game and the long-term life of the game as they build. We get that right in a bunch of ways. We have work to do just like anyone else to keep improving on it. Unity can deliver pretty scenes like this one in SlimeRancher. GamesBeat: What would you say is your assessment of those two new areas, blockchain and metaverse? How big are they going to be? Whitten: Blockchain is still early. We’ve seen these ups and downs. The main thing, like with most new types of platforms, is finding sustainable fun that players care about. A lot of people are investing in that space, and there are interesting ideas around what it means to move beyond—to have ownership that lasts longer than just the life of a game or across one game. Those are interesting ideas. But people are still trying to understand if it’s something fundamental about technology of blockchain. Is it about the design paradigm? What are the interesting games that come along with that? We’ll see some that are interesting. We’ll see some that are more technology proof points, where people are just…

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