Tencent shares its metaverse vision for the first time

Comment

Image Credits: Martin Lau, president of Tencent Holdings Ltd., left, speaks to Ma Huateng, chairman and chief executive officer of Tencent Holdings Ltd. Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

How could Tencent not jump on the metaverse bandwagon when Facebook is hinging its future on the new buzzword?

At this stage, Tencent’s approach seems more measured than Facebook’s $10 billion investment into its metaverse division. But any early hint from the Chinese social media and gaming giant will provide enough fodder for investor speculation.

During its earnings call on Wednesday, Tencent’s CEO Pony Ma unveiled the firm’s musings on metaverse for the first time:

Anything that makes the virtual world more real and the real world more rich with virtual experiences can become part of the metaverse.

The firm’s executives then took turns trying to flesh out this tagline. While their definitions lost me at times, the bosses agreed on three general “pathways” to reach “the metaverse”.

The current crackdown sweeping across China’s internet industry could cast a shadow over any metaverse in the making. Tencent believed Beijing is “not fundamentally averse to the development of metaverse,” as long as the user experience is “provided under the regulatory framework.”

But it’s hard to know what those regulations would look like when the country’s metaverses are still in their infancy.

Staircase to metaverse

The most obvious path to metaverse is video games, the firm’s largest revenue driver. It could be highly interactive games, multiple games under one common IP or infrastructure that enables users to make games, according to Ma.

Some of these ideas have already started to take shape at Tencent’s portfolio companies, such as Epic Games, Roblox and Discord. Yes, Tencent doesn’t try to do everything itself but has backed hundreds of businesses in which it finds strategic value.

“So it’s Fortnite together with Rocket League in the Epic example, or multiple different so-called game experiences within the Roblox example,” explained James Mitchell, Tencent’s chief strategy officer.

The second pathway, according to Ma, could be a social network that is “gamified and supports much more programmable experiences.”

Such a social network needs a suite of tools. “One needs to both provide the 3D graphics capabilities… the one with the server-based community” and “provide the UGC and PGC tools that the game companies need,” explained Mitchell.

“So while social networks such as Meta itself and Snap have the most capital resources, they also have a good amount of work to do,” he added.

Another iteration of the path could be “real-world experience but augmented by augmented reality and virtual reality,” noted Ma.

Mitchell reckoned user-operated communities “that already have a high degree of functionality technology bots,” such as Discord, could move “from a text and image basis to more of an immersive video basis.”

How competent is Tencent to carry out these three plans? The company believes it’s equipped with the right talent and technologies.

“The driving force [of metaverse] will still be software-driven and the technology that really helps us to provide the user experience, be it engine technology, be it the ability to provide better, real experience, high-fidelity experience across many — a large number of concurrent users, AI technology, for example, in order to customize the different experience for different people,” said Martin Lau, president at Tencent.

The company didn’t share a timeline for when its metaverse will materialize, but Lau admitted it will “probably take longer than people expected and would probably need a number of iterations.”

How about an Oculus counterpart for Tencent? Lau believed “hardware will probably be an assisting condition but not the necessary condition” for metaverse.

More TechCrunch

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

15 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

17 hours ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launched an enterprise version of the prominent social network in 2015. It always seemed like a stretch for a company built on a consumer…

With the end of Workplace, it’s fair to wonder if Meta was ever serious about the enterprise

X, formerly Twitter, turned TweetDeck into X Pro and pushed it behind a paywall. But there is a new column-based social media tool in town, and it’s from Instagram Threads.…

Meta Threads is testing pinned columns on the web, similar to the old TweetDeck

As part of 2024’s Accessibility Awareness Day, Google is showing off some updates to Android that should be useful to folks with mobility or vision impairments. Project Gameface allows gamers…

Google expands hands-free and eyes-free interfaces on Android