ThoughtLDR’s Tamara Sword on VR in the Metaverse, the DMA, and TikTok’s Gaming Channel

On this week's episode of The MadTech Podcast, Tamara Sword, founder & MD at ThoughtLDR, joins ExchangeWire's Anne-Marie Sheedy and Rachel Smith to discuss the role of VR in the metaverse, the implementation of the EU's DMA, and TikTok's move into gaming.

VR not essential to the metaverse, argues tech CEO

Is VR fundamental to the metaverse, or do you agree with Narula’s assessment?

Virtual reality (VR) is not essential to the development and adoption of the metaverse, and Meta’s focus on hardware is detrimental to their efforts to forge a path into the virtual world. That’s according to Herman Narula, CEO of metaverse company Improbable, who describes the VR equipment that Meta and others are building as “costly” and “tangential to the main value proposition of the metaverse”.

Narula argues that “presence” will be more important to the success of the metaverse than “immersion”, describing the former as “the feeling that the world thinks you are real” as opposed to “the feeling that the world is real” offered by the former, and claims that “presence” can be achieved through everyday hardware like smartphones and computers. The tech boss also supports the integration of blockchain technology into the metaverse in order to prevent the virtual space from being monopolised by facilitating interoperability and decentralisation.

The EU’s DMA enters implementation phase

Could the DMA create a fairer digital space in Europe? Will it enforce meaningful change?

The European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), has entered a six-month implementation phase, and is set to come into force in May 2023. The new law could adjust the way that large technology companies (referred to as “gatekeepers”) operate by requiring them to make their properties available for use by smaller rivals. For instance, competing messaging services will be able ask large firms like Meta and Apple to use their platforms to host message exchanges. The legislation will also prohibit Big Tech firms from prioritising their own services in an effort to level the competitive playing field and give consumers more choice.

The “gatekeepers” — designated as such on the basis of criteria around finances and number of users, as well as their market position — could face fines of up to 10% of their global annual turnover if they fail to comply with the DMA. The figure rises to up to 20% for repeat offences.

The European Consumer Organisation, the BEUC, lauded the DMA as “a landmark law for the EU's digital transformation,” which “will rebalance digital markets, increase consumer choice and put an end to many of the worst practices that big tech has engaged in over the years”. Big Tech companies, meanwhile, have expressed concerns that the new law could create safety risks and reduce innovation.

TikTok create gaming channel

Is this a natural move for TikTok? How might it impact advertisers’ interest in the app?

TikTok are launching their own gaming channel, according to a report from the Financial Times. The new feature will be accessible via a tab on the homepage of the short-form video app, and will include a range of ad-supported games, with further content available for purchase, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The news follows the ByteDance-owned company’s appointment of Assaf Sagy as global head of gaming last month. Sagy will spearhead the development of the gaming channel, writing in a LinkedIn post that “TikTok and gaming are made for each other”. TikTok first made moves in the gaming space in May, when they tested in-app games with young users in Vietnam. The move follows a wider downsizing by ByteDance of their gaming division.