The man responsible for the ongoing development and profits generated by Grand Theft Auto Online and Red Dead Redemption Online says that he has no interest in the “metaverse” as defined by Mark Zuckerberg.
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick said that his games are good examples of a metaverse. Take-Two is the parent company of Rockstar Games, which develops the Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption franchises.
Zelnick expressed skepticism of the Facebook founder’s description of the metaverse, stating that if it is defined as “everything we do in the world physically will become digital,” he suggested that even though pandemic led people increasingly into digital worlds, the real, physical world has opened up once more.
Zelnick simply doesn’t buy the metaverse as an all-encompassing experience in the way Zuckerberg is promoting it.
“I don’t believe you’re going to wake up in the morning, go into a dedicated room, sit in a dedicated chair, strap on a headset and do absolutely everything at home that you currently do out in the world,” Zelnick stated. “I think all of us found in the pandemic that we spend way too much time doing that as it is.”
Unlike other commentators, Zelnick has the right to his remarks, being that his company already operates two of the largest “metaverses” in existence — GTA Online and Red Dead Redemption Online. In those games, players are invited to participate as virtual avatars and live a second life, more or less.
“If there is a metaverse company out there generating real revenue and real earnings, that would be us,” he said. “We would probably be the no.1 company that’s actually doing it already.”
“If, however, you define metaverse as an engaging digital landscape where you can present yourself as an avatar, where you can talk to people and hang out with people, where you can bicycle, surf, motorcycle, drive, compete, tell stories, be told stories, have live events, sit at a casino table… well then we already have metaverses here at Take-Two and I would argue we have the biggest and best metaverses that exist with Grand Theft Auto Online, Red Dead Online, and NBA 2K’s online version,” Zelnick said.
Despite his skepticism toward the metaverse, Zelnick expressed optimism about the development of NFTs, or non-fungible tokens made popular by the rise of Bitcoin and blockchain technology. Zelnick says that NFTs have the potential to shake up the gaming world, and cited his own games’ collectible offerings as examples of NFTs in video games.
“If you believe in collectible physical goods, I don’t know why you wouldn’t believe in collectible digital goods,” Zelnick said. “And blockchain authorization, which is what an NFT really is, is one way–not the only way–to authenticate the fact something is singular is rare.”
Zelnick stressed that NFTs have a bad reputation because some have been sold at ridiculous prices, but those sales are exceptions and not representative of NFTs as a whole.
“NFTs, because they’re related to the blockchain as currently contemplated and because some have gone for a lot of money, are seen by some as just another opportunity to invest in a speculation that some think will only go up. And speculations don’t just go up; they come down too,” he said.
Like Zelnick, EA Games’ CEO Andrew Wilson is also a proponent of NFTs and sees potential for their implementation in video games as collectible items with utility.
“I think the play-to-earn or the NFT conversation is still really, really early, and there’s a lot of conversation. And there’s at some level, a lot of hype about it,” Wilson said in a recent earnings call. “I do think it will be an important part of our–of the future of our industry on a go-forward basis. But it’s still early to kind of figure out how that’s going to work.”
“What we know about collection over time is the collectibility is far more valuable to the collector where the collected item has utility. And I think that in the context of the games that we create and the live services that we offer, collectible digital content is going to play a meaningful part in our future,” he added. “So still early to tell, but I think we’re in a really good position, and you should expect us to kind of think more innovatively and creatively about that on a go-forward basis.”