What could Emmanuel Macron’s desired European metaverse look like?

Willing is not enough, you have to act. Presenting his program for the 2022 presidential election, the outgoing President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, unveiled on Thursday, March 17, the outline of his project for France for the next five years. A roadmap with an estimated budget of 50 billion euros per year. It is a question of full employment (and the change of name from Pôle Emploi to France Travail), energy independence, extension of the retirement age to 65… and the European metaverse (or metaverse).

Yes, surprising as it may seem, this idea of ​​a “European metaverse” is indeed one of the “essential topics” mentioned in Emmanuel Macron’s campaign program. Although many French men and women have never heard of this concept of metavers or have not mastered it well, the head of state wanted to bring it up anyway. As a way of indicating its importance. If the subject still seems vague, some analysts believe in a rapid progression of these virtual worlds. So, according to analytics firm Grand View Research, the metaverse market could reach $678 billion by 2030. So in less than 10 years…

Avoid leaving the field open for the United States and China

Faced with such potential, it may seem commendable not to want to reproduce what has happened in social networks, e-commerce or online advertising in this still emerging market. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google, eBay, Paypal, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft… so many American companies that are at the forefront of today’s internet scene. Recently, China has also been on the rise worldwide with TikTok. To prevent history from faltering in the metaverse ten years from now, it seems like a good idea to create a sovereign European world.

As Emmanuel Macron explained in his speech last Thursday: “This is an important topic for both creation and the ability to allow all our creators, regardless of their cultural fields and their fields of activity, to create and not depend on actors or Anglo-Saxon or Chinese aggregators, who will be able to completely circumvent the rules of respect for copyright or neighboring rights. This is an essential topic to defend the rights of our authors”† But, behind this wish, what reality?

European Metaverse: concrete initiatives already

What if Emmanuel Macron’s project already existed?! Indeed, we can ask the question when we see the success of the metaverse of French origin, The Sandbox. The latter, born at the beginning of a video game, has become increasingly popular in recent months. And to attract brands and companies that position themselves in this virtual world to test the countless possibilities of this new concept. Their goal ? Don’t miss the announcement as part of Web3, the future of the Internet. Admittedly, these projects are still in the works, as are those of Meta (Facebook) or the reflections of Microsoft. In Europe… we are still looking for emerging players (The Sandbox is of French origin but now based in Hong Kong, editors note).

In the wake of Emmanuel Macron’s speech, Cédric O, the Secretary of State for Digital, told BFMTV that “it’s not a metaverse like you’ll see with Meta, it’s more that we’re going to make graphics engines from software”† The aim is therefore mainly to support the development of the underlying technologies. It allows the metaverse to work like graphics engines like Unreal Engine (Epic Games) and Unity. These are two American engines that allow you to create video games and virtual universes. Unity was founded in Denmark in 2004, but moved to an American flag (listed on the NYSE) and was based in San Francisco.

Cédric O’s clarification is not anecdotal: we are moving from a European metaverse project to… game engines. However, these are important. As Roselyne Bachelot, Minister of Culture, reminds us, “We have to take our place on the digital continent to impose our imagination, at the beginning of the creation of metaverses.”

Developing European activities underpinning the metaverse

Other underlying sectors are also important to explore, such as the ‘industrial metaverse’. These are solutions for creating ecosystems to work on huge projects (production of a new aircraft, creation of a virtual sister city of an existing city to better manage it, etc.). In that regard, France has nothing to be ashamed of with projects by groups such as Engie or Dassault Systèmes.

The whole point of Web3 is the decentralization and end of an internet age in the hands of a few companies, the GAFAs. But the main metaverse projects, if we leave out a few UFOs like The Sandbox or Decentraland (made by two Argentinians), remain silent and always in the hands of the mastodons of today’s internet. Starting with Meta (Facebook). Especially at this time, the research and major investments are made clear by the US digital giants. In this respect, Europe is already clearly lagging behind.

Of the importance of a European metaverse, or at least independent

Yet we can no longer speak of national sovereignty (or at least in terms of territory) when it comes to the metavers. Indeed, everyone is free to bring their brick to the building, to create their own world within these virtual universes. So it’s up to the French and Europeans to grab it and create the virtual world they want to live in.

And not to, again, leave the place of honor for behemoths like Meta. The latter has already announced its intention to hire some 10,000 people – mostly highly qualified engineers – in the European Union within five years to work on its metaverse…

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