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Metaverse may be dead. But is it being reimagined in the Middle East?

As stakeholders grapple with its potential, the metaverse navigates a complex landscape, balancing promise and doubt.

Metaverse may be dead. But is it being reimagined in the Middle East?
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

There’s a debate within tech circles: is Web3 dead, or dormant, awaiting its time to fulfill its million prophecies? Are Web3 concepts such as metaverse – labeled a “new chapter in the history of the digital world” – obsolete? Touted as the apotheosis of digital evolution, the Web3 now finds its fate uncertain and its once-bright future clouded with queries, which was discussed at the recently-concluded Web Summit Doha.

There was a surge in hype surrounding the metaverse from 2021. Remember Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg saying that the metaverse may one day help people interact with the virtual avatars of their deceased loved ones? But now the metaverse hype is seemingly dead; companies that tinkered with the tech have gone into turtle mode in their rather unclear marketing of the metaverse.

Come 2024, AI takes over the hype cycle. “With an apparent lack of large-scale virtual events inside a metaverse environment, the question is fair—has the metaverse become obsolete before it even began?” asks Jeremy Lopez, CEO of Everdome. The simple answer is no, while the complex answer lies in the evolution of the environment, he adds. 

Metaverse was ranked as a technology of the year in 2021-2022, supported by the success of Web3 and cryptocurrencies. Many reports projected audiences would be spending a lot of time in the metaverse, and Gartner estimated that 25% of people will spend at least one hour a day in a metaverse by 2026. It didn’t live up to its promise, but Leo Dovbenko, CEO and co-founder at YallaHub, says the metaverse still is a “promising tool” for brands. “There are future possibilities of the metaverse for digital marketing and e-commerce.”

Meanwhile, integrating AI within the metaverse signifies a new era of immersive digital experiences where virtual environments become interactive and intelligent. Is this just another promise? “Apple Vision Pro and Meta Quest 3 take us closer to this future than we’ve ever been, while the growth of AI will enable more powerful digital developments to be made at scale,” says Lopez.


To catch on and be relevant again, the metaverse must find its unique positioning and compelling value proposition. 

The journey toward a fully realized metaverse is fraught with challenges, each requiring careful consideration and innovative solutions.

“From a gamification standpoint, it falls behind the staple video gaming. A digital e-commerce platform requires a physical component in which contemporary e-commerce is heavily embedded. As a token exchange medium, it is subject to the cyclical movements of token economics,” says Amina Musaeva, CEO & founder at Cloudset, a re-commerce fashion platform. 

Despite its potential, the metaverse’s obstacles must be addressed to realize its full potential.

“The current metaverse is fragmented, with different platforms requiring separate accounts and interfaces. This lack of interoperability between platforms creates an uncomfortable user experience and limits the metaverse’s reach,” says Emily Bao, Bybit Web3 Evangelist. 

According to her, users are hesitant to fully embrace immersive experiences if they fear exploitation or a loss of control over their digital identities. Navigating these hurdles ensures the metaverse’s long-term viability and success.

Lopez emphasizes the need for solutions in “communicating the correct message, technological lag, and socio-economic influences.” 

Different people understand the metaverse in very different ways, he says. “Much of the mass media took the concept literally as a purely virtual world and a parallel society.” 

He adds that initial metaverse cheerleaders set over-ambitious goals that current technology could not meet and the mass market needed to prepare for. “Adapting to and overcoming these challenges will be crucial in shaping the trajectory of the metaverse in the years to come.”

Meanwhile, Dovbenko highlights that the key challenge is the expensive implementation of the metaverse, adding to data security and privacy concerns. Accessibility and inclusivity are equally important, especially in regions like the Middle East.

“To successfully use the potential of metaverse in the Middle East region, it is necessary to develop strategies that take into account both the advantages and risks of this technology,” Dovbenko adds. 

Overcoming these hurdles will be essential in unlocking the full potential of the metaverse and ensuring its widespread adoption and acceptance.


Recent technological advancements contribute to the metaverse’s evolution rather than its decline. Lopez argues that while some developments may seem technical and less noticeable to the wider public, significant progress is underway behind the scenes. 

He emphasizes the evolving narrative surrounding the metaverse, noting a shift towards a more nuanced ecosystem that intersects with reality rather than completely replacing it. 

Lopez stresses the importance of incorporating successful elements from Web2 experiences into metaverse projects, such as easy onboarding, simple instructions, and hybridized payment systems.

AI’s recent dominance in tech has sparked concerns about the metaverse’s future. However, Bao believes these advancements will propel a reimagined metaverse, and AI will boost development, learning, and growth across multiple tech fields, including the metaverse. 

“We’ve reached an exciting first growth stage, marked by establishing core infrastructure and foundational capabilities. Now, it’s time to unleash the true potential of this virtual realm,” Bao adds.

For Musaeva, the metaverse is evolving into enhanced utility functionalities, such as an ownership record, digital ID, authenticity certificate, and EdTech product.

Only time will tell whether the metaverse will thrive as a dynamic digital frontier or fade into obscurity as a failed experiment of the digital age.

“AI won’t render the metaverse obsolete; it will empower it,” says Lopez.

As Musaeva concludes, “Metaverse has the potential to reimagine itself.”  The same applies to technologists who have the opportunity to provide a more realistic picture of where its potential and impact are headed.

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Rachel Clare McGrath Dawson is a Senior Correspondent at Fast Company Middle East. More