Thursday, September 29, 2022

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    This Week in the Metaverse: Tencent ditches NFTs, FTC prepares to challenge Meta’s ‘virtual reality empire’

    Things are moving fast in the metaverse, and in the wider world of Web3 as a whole. Depending on who you ask, this futuristic, blockchain-based space is either the next big thing for marketing — and for almost everything else — or an overhyped fad. Here’s what you need to know from this past week:

    Tencent axes NFT sales

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    The Chinese tech giant Tencent has stopped selling NFTs in response to regulation concerns from the Chinese government, according to Reuters. Current NFT holders will still be allowed to keep and display their tokens, or they can put in a request for a refund.

    The term ‘NFT’ itself has become slightly taboo and rarely used throughout  the broader Chinese corporate world, due at least in part to its direct ties with cryptocurrency, which is illegal in China. 

    FTC’s challenge to Meta’s “virtual reality empire” scheduled for December

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    Last month, the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it would seek to prevent Meta and its chief executive Mark Zuckerberg from acquiring the company Within, maker of the popular VR fitness app Supernatural. The FTC claimed on its website that Meta, “already a key player at each level of the virtual reality sector,” is “planning to expand [its] virtual reality empire with this attempt to illegally acquire a dedicated fitness app that proves the value of virtual reality to users.” The FTC’s Bureau of Competition deputy director John Newman said that “Meta is trying to buy its way to the top” in its planned acquisition of Within.

    On Monday, Forbes reported that the legal battle between Meta and the FTC has been scheduled for this December. Meta has reportedly agreed to delay the finalization of iots acquisition deal until January 1, 2023, or until the district judge presiding over the case makes a ruling — whichever happens first. 

    Federal Reserve issues guidelines for crypto banks hoping to access national banking system

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    The Federal Reserve — the United States’ central banking system — released new guidelines earlier this week that suggest that American banks may soon be able to deal both in crypto and in traditional currency. The 49-page ‘Guidelines for Evaluating Account and Services Requests’ states that “institutions with novel charters, such as cryptocurrency custody banks, and their trade associations” may soon be granted access to “master accounts,” which enable access to the Federal Reserve.

    In June, the crypto bank Custodia sued the Federal Reserve for failing to process Custodia’s master account application for 19 months. Kraken is another crypto bank that's applied for a master account with the Fed. The publication of the new guidelines appear to be aimed, in part, at streamlining the process of approving applications for master accounts to crypto banks like Custodia and Kraken. The new guidelines also emphasize that any American bank looking to become involved with crypto will need to receive approval from the Fed beforehand. 

    Zuckerberg gets roasted (again)

    Mark Zuckerberg just can’t seem to strike the right chord with the rest of the Web3 community. It seems like nearly every time the Meta chief executive tries to advertise something new about his company’s vision for the metaverse, it ends up backfiring. Even his decision to change the company’s name to Meta back in October of last year made many Web3 professionals cringe.

    Earlier this week, he posted what appears to be a selfie of his Horizon Worlds avatar standing in front of a virtual Eiffel Tower and La Sagrada Familia to advertise the launch of the platform in France and Spain. Twitter, predictably, has not been kind. People made fun of Zuck’s avatar’s blank expression and Horizon Worlds as a whole, which still includes legless avatars. Paul Tassi had this to say in Forbes: “This is just embarrassing, and yet Zuckerberg seems entirely immune to the embarrassment, or really just does not understand how bad this looks, both literally, the graphics are garbage and it’s bizarre no one has legs after five years of this, but also for him and his company and his grand vision of the metaverse, which he seems to understand less than all of his competition. This is not going to go well for him or Meta if he continues down this path.”

    Invisalign enters Roblox

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    Invisalign has made its metaverse debut with a new campaign in Roblox. Launched on August 12, the brand’s virtual, gamified experience was built into Livetopia, a hugely popular game on Roblox that has been visited more than 2.3bn times, according to its website. The so-called ‘Invisalign Hub‘ inside Livetopia features a virtual dentist office and branded games. Visitors can also, of course, check out some virtual recreations of Invisalign aligners. The brand has partnered with TikTok star Lana Rae to promote its new Roblox campaign, following another partnership with Charli D’amelio — currently the second-most popular creator on TikTok — back in 2020. 

    For more, sign up for The Drum’s Inside the Metaverse weekly newsletter here.

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