Metaverse continues to gain steam since Facebook changed its name to Meta back in October 2021. Now more companies are joining the fray looking to get a piece of the trillion metaverse market. From the big tech companies to the gaming industry, billions of dollars in new investments are now pouring into the metaverse space.
However, Facebook is not the first company to embrace the concept of the metaverse. About a year before Facebook changed its name, Walt Disney, one of the largest media conglomerates in the world, had come up with the idea of “theme park metaverse,” a world where the “physical and digital world converge” through wearable devices and mobile phones. Disney’s former executive vice-president of digital, Tilak Mandadi, wrote about the idea in a LinkedIn post in 2020.
Now, Disney is taking its ambition of the metaverse to the next level. Yesterday, Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced the media giant has appointed executive Mike White to lead the company’s metaverse strategy. White will report to Kareem Daniel, chairman of Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution, and to Josh D’Amaro, chairman of parks, experiences, and products.
“For nearly 100 years, our company has defined and re-defined entertainment by leveraging technology to bring stories to life in deeper, more impactful ways,” Chapek wrote in the email to staff, adding, “Today, we have an opportunity to connect those universes and create an entirely new paradigm for how audiences experience and engage with our stories.”
Chapek announced last November that Disney is poised to embark on a journey to the metaverse, which he said would advance storytelling by combining elements of the physical and digital world. He describes the metaverse as the “next great storytelling frontier” and part of the company’s strategic priorities.
White has 25 years of technology and leadership experience. Before joining Disney in 2011, White served as chief technology officer for Apollo Group and earlier spent a decade at Yahoo, holding positions of increasing responsibility, including director of strategy and technology, according to his LinkedIn profile.
He will be charged with putting in place a process to prioritize how to allocate resources and is expected to create a task force that will include leaders across the company.
In a memo to Disney employees, Chapek said that Mike White will be Disney’s senior vice president in charge of “next-generation storytelling.” Before his new position, White was previously in charge of Disney’s consumer experiences and platforms. According to his LinkedIn profile, White worked at tech companies such as Yahoo before joining Disney in 2011.
Meanwhile, Chapek did not elaborate how Disney plans to make money from the metaverse but said in his Tuesday memo that White’s task will be “connecting the physical and digital worlds” for Disney entertainment.
The term metaverse, short for “meta-universe,” was originally coined by Neal Stephenson in the dystopian novel “Snow Crash” three decades ago. In the book, Stephenson describes the metaverse as a three-dimensional virtual reality generated by goggles worn by the novel’s hero, Hiro.
Metaverse is a digital world where the real and virtual worlds converge into a vision of science fiction. You can also think of the metaverse as a virtual world where millions of people could gather to work, play, and socialize in immersive virtual environments and communicate across shared spaces across different platforms.