The metaverse isn’t in its final form yet. Mark Zuckerberg’s dreams of an interactive second world – built off the back of blockchain and advanced internet technology, combining virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and digital avatars – are currently nothing more than a janky, confusing and very often cringe-worthy work in progress.
Of course, it was never going to be an overnight creation, but the billionaire founder’s vision of attracting “around a billion people in the metaverse doing hundreds of dollars of commerce” still feels extremely far off.
The metaverse, so far, has been a consistent supplier of notoriously cringe moments. Some might say this is a natural occurrence for any work-in-progress vision of this scale. As businesses and individuals have a go at getting involved in such a new and unexplored concept, the finished product is arguably likely to be something less than desirable in its infancy.
It doesn’t help that the Zuckerberg himself is so prone to make mock-worthy presentations, which have been widely panned by market watchers. Other metaverse companies have also suffered a similar fate.
“The metaverse is a very visual medium and as Meta, the standard-bearer for the sector, is not a popular brand, it’s easy for people to create viral moments mocking the technology,” Robert Bownes, director of marketing consultancy Old Street Communications, told Verdict.
There is a wealth of these moments. From supermarket giant Walmart’s entrance into the metaverse with ‘Walmart Land’, a virtual Roblox world full of Walmart merchandise made specifically for children, to Zuckerberg labelling his employee’s “metamates.”
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Whatever you think of the metaverse and its future, there is no denying that it has delivered an unbelievable amount of cringeworthy moments.
Join Verdict as we take a look back at some of our favourite cringeworthy metaverse moments so far.
Mark Zuckerberg and the “strangest conversation ever caught on video”
It’s been over a year since Zuckerberg presented the world with his notoriously strange and poorly produced metaverse presentations. The hard-to-watch promo video was instantly made into countless memes across social media – with iRadio describing it as the “strangest conversation ever caught on video.”
The two-hour-long live stream saw the Zuck interacting with a developer introduced as “Deb”. Viewers noted Deb’s over-the-top body language and poorly acted dialogue. The same went for Zuckerberg.
It’s one of the many times that the internet has poked fun at Zuckerberg’s unnatural and stiff aura on camera. However, it’s hard to argue that this particular live stream is one of the hardest to watch.
One disgruntled viewer rudely commented: “This is what I imagine aliens sound like when wearing human skins to infiltrate Earth.”
Walmart joins the metaverse and coins the term “verch”
Walmart Land is arguably the most on-the-nose entry into the metaverse by a large corporation so far. Launched in the popular video game Roblox in September, Walmart Land is exactly what you’d expect from a Walmart-branded videogame level – a cringeworhty metaverse creation of rank. Of course, Walmart didn’t see it that way when they first announced the monstrosity to the world.
“Walmart Land will bring the best fashion, style, beauty and entertainment items directly to the global Roblox community of over 52 million daily users,” read Walmart’s announcement.
Players venturing to the supermarket giant’s part of Roblox will land on an island in the shape of the Walmart logo.
Of course, there are also stores where players can purchase virtual merchandise, or as Walmart calls it – “verch.” As if the metaverse cringe couldn’t get any worse.
The announcement was heavily criticised at the time as being a see-through cash grab, with the virtual announcement from Walmart’s chief marketing officer’s virtual announcement being called “one of the saddest videos ever created.”
“Walmart is the most empty IP I can imagine,” said one disgruntled Twitter user at the time, “There is no brand.”
“Never understood marketing bozos from adult (boring) brands wasting loads of cash on lifeless, out-of-touch entries into some media/trend/platform trying to reach kids,” said another.
Mark Zuckerberg interviews Neil Degrass Tyson in a very cringe metaverse meeting
Back to the Zuckerberg cringe! When the billionaire Meta founder and famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson had a recorded conversation in the metaverse to discuss images of deep space, the internet of course slammed it as cringe.
In a video posted on Zuckerberg’s Facebook page, the two men explore the images as Tyson eloquently described each one.
The interview was to promote a plugin in Meta’s Oculus that allowed users to zoom deeply into images released by NASA.
However, the internet was more interested in the clunky virtual interactions of Zuckerberg and Tyson
Most of the criticism came from the low resolution and poor graphics of the two characters discussing space.
The two avatars were what we have now come to expect from Zuckerberg’s metaverse – fit with half a body and no legs.
One Reddit user slammed the interview, saying: “Does Zuckerberg even know we’ve already advanced way beyond this? VR chat came out in 2014 and it didn’t cost billions to develop.”
“Why does the metaverse look like a sh**ty 2002 cheap early computer animation straight to VHS movie look?” said another.
Mark Zuckerberg tells employees they’re called ‘metamates’ now
It was reported earlier this year that Zuckerberg is even bringing the cringe inside of his company.
The Meta founder held a virtual meeting for his employees to discuss Meta’s updated values, as well as the fact that they would now all be referred to as “metamates.”
The Verge reporter, Alex Heath, tweeted about the meeting and suggested that the billionaire CEO uttered these words with a straight face.
“I am told Zuck said this without laughing and explained it had to do with a story about ships and shipmates,” Heath said.
Twitter, of course, had a lot to say about the funky new nickname Zuck had coined for his employees.
“This should cost the company at least another $100bn in market value based on pure groanworthiness alone,” one Twitter user said.
EU throws €387,000 “metarave” party in the metaverse and six people turn up
Yes, even the European Commission has had a cringe metaverse moment in the form of a virtual party – and it had fewer people visit it than Walmart Land.
The virtual party was held in what was described by an EU spokesperson as “a dedicated metaverse.” Its goal was to attract 18-35-year-olds to the EU’s executive’s work across the globe, Devex reported.
The term “metaverse” was questioned by some users online, however, as it did not require a virtual reality headset nor was it all connected to the metaverse kingpins over at Meta.
In an extraordinary flop, Devex reported entering the party at the advertised time of 9pm Central Eureopean Time and finding just six people attending.
“One of the cringiest metaverse moments of the year was when only six people showed up to the European Union’s ‘metaverse rave,’” Alex Rodriguez, product manager at game development company Freeverse, told Verdict.
“The failed event was an attempt to create a digital space for people interested in the metaverse to meet and reflect on global issues and supposedly cost the EU’s foreign aid department €387,000, which breaks down to €64,5000 per attendant – not bad!”
GlobalData is the parent company of Verdict and its sister publications.