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Sweeney wants universal networking, format standards for the metaverse

Tim Sweeney's comments on what it will take to build "the metaverse" might indicate where Epic will throw its weight after Epic v. Apple is all wrapped up.

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has been on a crusade for the last few years to open up boundaries in the digital world. From cross-play on Fortnite to the not entirely successful results of Epic v. Apple, Sweeney has seen value in using Epic Games as a tool to knock down the walls that define different digital walled gardens.

A new conversation with Sweeney that's popped up in The Washington Post might indicate what fight he's gearing up for next. Epic Games, like Facebook, Core, Roblox Corporation, and other companies, is dreaming of making money in "the metaverse."

But to make one singular metaverse, Sweeney says companies will need to agree on universal standards that let players experience a fluid, un-Balkanized manner. " You need an entire suite of standards, and the Web is based on several," Sweeney told the Washington Post.

"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."

How will these standards all be adopted? Sweeney tells the Post that it's "the brands" who will drive unifying protocols of the metaverse, but it's not hard to look at Epic's history and see a pattern of behavior that might indicate Sweeney and his cohorts are ready to will these standards into being.

Time and again, Epic has found itself at the center of efforts to weaken the exclusivity walls built by different tech platforms. Epic successfully lobbied Nintendo, Sony, and PlayStation to allow cross-platform play on Fortnite in 2018, but that followed an accidental 2017 incident where Epic briefly allowed PlayStation and Xbox cross-play.

An Epic spokesperson at the time said that the 2017 incident was due to a "misconfiguration," but it's hard to not look at that moment, and the major industry change that followed, and then the series of events leading up to Epic v. Apple, and wonder if the company behind Unreal Engine wouldn't try something similar for the metaverse.

The stage seems to be in the middle of construction for another Sweeney-led disruption of whatever various metaverses begin to emerge in the next few years—if any emerge at all.

For more of Sweeney's thoughts on what it will take to make the metaverse manifest, you can read the Washington Post's full interview with him (and other metaverse company bosses) here.

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