Ready Player One author and Futureverse team up for Readyverse Studios metaverse


Futureverse, a well-financed AI and metaverse company, has formed Readyverse Studios in partnership with Ready Player One author Ernest Cline.

Readyverse Studios’ founders told GamesBeat they plan to build the “definitive destination” for fans to explore their favorite stories and intellectual properties in the the metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One

And Futureverse, which has raised more than $54 million and acquired numerous startups, has teamed up with Cline, the best-selling novelist whose book was turned into a Steven Spielberg film.

The founders of Readyverse Studios include Futureverse cofounders Shara Senderoff and Aaron McDonald, as well as Cline and Dan Farah, Ready Player One film producer. Their ambition is to bring the world of the book to the virtual worlds of the metaverse, and in an exclusive interview with GamesBeat the founders said their aim is to create the foundations for an open metaverse — one not dominated by any single company. They talked about the effort in an exclusive interview with GamesBeat.

Readyverse Studios is building a metaverse destination leveraging Web3, metaverse games and experiences, augmented reality, and virtual reality technologies.

In 2024, Readyverse Studios said it will launch The Readyverse, a dynamic interactive platform of interconnected digital experiences.

Warner Bros. partnership

Ready Player One

In its first major rights deal, Readyverse Studios has partnered with Warner Bros. Discovery to exclusively bring the Ready Player One franchise to the metaverse across Web3.

In addition, Readyverse Studios maintains exclusive Web3 rights to all future IPs from the legendary futurist Cline, whose works alongside Snow Crash author Neal Stephenson have been instrumental in painting a vision of the metaverse.

Additional brands and franchises joining The Readyverse will be announced soon. Readyverse Studios is laying the groundwork to bring the promise of the open metaverse depicted in Cline’s Ready Player One novel and the blockbuster film adaptation into a tangible reality; a multi-world, multi-IP, interoperable open metaverse experience for mass consumers.

Arguably, no IP has shaped the global culture and conversation around the metaverse more than Ready Player One. While Snow Crash shaped early thinking for virtual worlds like Second Life, it wasn’t turned into a film. Ready Player One generated $583.4 million at the global box office. In that sense, Ready Player One has the edge in creating awareness around the idea of the metaverse.

A scene from Steven Spielberg's 2018 movie Ready Player One.
A scene from Steven Spielberg’s 2018 movie Ready Player One.

The Readyverse will champion the principles of the open metaverse, which are provable digital ownership, community-owned infrastructure, decentralization, security, and interoperability. The Readyverse will be built utilizing Futureverse’s extensive technology platform.

“The future has arrived even more quickly than I imagined,” said Cline. “With Readyverse Studios, we have the opportunity to leverage the revolutionary technology Futureverse has been building for several years to bring to life the best possible version of the metaverse. I’m confident with this team, we have the brightest minds and biggest hearts in place to lead us into the next chapter of our collective future… a future that would make Wade Watts (hero of Ready Player One) and James Halliday (the fictional creator of the Oasis metaverse in Ready Player One) proud.”

Futureverse’s technology stack has been in development for over five years. Readyverse Studios plans to use it to pioneer the metaverse market, which has the potential to reach $13 trillion in value by 2030, according to a recent report from Citi. You can argue with such numbers, but that’s the scale of the hope and ambition.

“We could not be more excited to be sharing this unprecedented news with the world today,” said Senderoff and McDonald. “With Ernie, Dan and our partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery – we have the unique opportunity to help bring the metaverse to life beginning with the IP that first showcased its potential. This is just the beginning of our collaboration with both Hollywood and global brands as we set out to develop a path for beloved commercial IP to shape the future of online entertainment, gaming, and social experiences.”

Readyverse’s scalable, user-friendly infrastructure and AI-generated content creation tools will allow both IP holders and consumers to build engaging immersive experiences.

“Readyverse Studios will offer exciting new metaverse opportunities for Hollywood studios, talent, and brands to create new revenue streams and creative outlets for brand expansion while offering consumers the ability to enjoy the promise of the open metaverse,” said Farah.

It’s not clear yet exactly what Warner Bros. Discovery plans to do. It has divisions that make movies, TV shows, music and games.

“We are thrilled to be at the forefront of technology, embracing its potential while continuously exploring new and exciting ways to integrate it within fan experiences across our brands and franchises,” said Josh Hackbarth, senior vice president of franchise development at Warner Bros. Discovery, in a statement. “Ready Player One has become a cultural touchstone, inspiring technology innovators, creators, and visionaries and we’re excited to be partnering with Readyverse Studios to introduce these unique characters, immersive environments and more, to the metaverse across Web3.”

Origins

Ernest Cline is author of Ready Player One and other books.

“Ernie and I’ve been collaborating on the Ready Player One world franchise for way back when the book process started,” said Farah. “We’ve always we’ve always been excited about and shared a vision for one day being able to bring all of the ideas in Ready Player One to the real world.”

He added, “The first step of that was depicting what the future could look like when it’s forever changed by advancements in technology in the metaverse. And that was achieved with the movie Ready Player One. And then we needed to wait for technology to catch up so that the tools were available to actually bring these things to the real world.”

That moment came a couple years ago, when the tools started to come become real and the technology started to come real, Farah said.

“We met with everyone who was on the forefront of this kind of technology. And that’s when we met Aaron and Shara and the Futureverse team. Their technology was leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else. And the technology was truly uncomparable,” Farah said. “On top of that, we shared the same vision for what the metaverse should be, and could be, with this technology. We shared the same moral compass for how to do it and how to not do it, and how to just generally be good people. And so it was a perfect dream combination of forces. And that’s how the four of us came together.”

Senderoff noted that when she and McDonald launched Futureverse, GamesBeat was the first to break the story. Their goal was to bridge their backgrounds in Hollywood and technology to reach the masses.

“Aaron and I know had many conversations about how there is only one piece of IP that not only tackles our vision of what the metaverse is, but frankly, we believe speaks to the masses. And so if there was going to be a way to bridge Hollywood and tech, there was no other property that could do that,” she said. “One of the first things that we did, as we started the roll up, was start conversations with Dan and Ernie. This has been going on for a very long time.”

She said the team has been working behind the scenes for years on the project to get to this point of announcing it and get “it ready to go out the door next year.”

She added, “That’s one of the things you can probably really appreciate. This isn’t an announcement like, hey, we did this. And we’re going to see now what happens. And in five years, we’ll be out with some stuff. We’re coming next year with a lot of the pieces of the puzzle that will start to onboard people and truly allow them to enter into experiences that we believe will define what the metaverse is for the mainstream.”

Ernest Cline (left) and Dan Farah on the set of Ready Player One.

Cline said that, with the books Ready Player One and Ready Player Two, he was working “pre-cognition.” He was trying to extrapolate where things were going to go with Ready Player One.

“I was very lucky, as the timing of the novel when it came out (in 2011), I thought virtual reality and the metaverse was a few decades in the future,” Cline said. “But it was already happening. Once the book took off and the movie happened (in 2018), I realized this is going to happen for sure.”

He added, “Steven Spielberg has just made a 2.5-hour tutorial about what the metaverse is and what it could be. He explained it to everyone and let them see what the potential of it is. I remember seeing this in the press back when the movie came out. As a result of this movie coming out, it’s really going to happen now. With this book and this film, we’ve [exposed it to] the world’s imagination, and let them get a peek of the potential of what this future version of the internet could be.”

Cline said he didn’t think he would have a chance to go beyond inspiring the metaverse. But in working with Farah, he got approached by lots of people who wanted to work on it.

“Once we met Shara and Aaron, it was clear that they had the same vision for Ready Player One, and we’re actually trying to accomplish that,” Cline said. “It’s been amazing ever since then. For most science fiction writers, like those on Star Trek or shows that ended up inspiring real technology, it’s rare that a science fiction writer gets to live long enough to see their work inspire real technology.”

For Cline, he felt like it started happening right away and he got a chance to brainstorm and collaborate and be part of the team doing it.

Shara Senderoff is cofounder of Futureverse and Readyverse Studios.

I asked about all of the metaverse hype and the scams around cryptocurrency, and wondered if that would make the project harder.

Cline was undaunted.

“It’s like the internet. Remember when the internet was all hype? And is anybody going to use this? I’m still old enough to remember in the 90s when some people were very excited about the internet and other people said it was a fad. You know, like, a couple of people use it at the library. But that happened in the space of two or three years. All these articles ran about what’s all the hype with the internet. It went from something that just a few people were using to something everybody was using every day, all the time, and was affecting every facet of their life. And I think we’re at that same tipping point with the metaverse.”

He said there have been a lot of overhyped false starts that disappoint people because it’s not like the world of Ready Player One.

“Why we’re so lucky is Ready Player One has become the shorthand for the metaverse. People want a simple explanation of what is the metaverse? And people say watch Ready Player One, or read Ready Player One. That will give you a sense of the potential of what the metaverse could be,” Cline said. “Now it’s actually happening. We get to work directly with the people who are laying the groundwork for what this future version of the internet could be.”

And by definition, he said, the metaverse is open and interoperable for everybody to take advantage of, use, and access.

“It’s not a closed system under the control of one entity,” he said. “We’re going to have an egalitarian thing that everyone uses. And that’s the vision that Futureverse was already pursuing when we teamed up with them to make Readyverse.”

McDonald said that everyone intuitively believes there’s a better way to experience the internet. But they may think this more immersive experiences is a long way away.

“If you’re the younger generation, you’ve got grown up in virtual spaces as a default mode of consumption of the internet,” McDonald said. “What everybody missed, what we lacked, in the middle of that hype cycle was the ability for everyday people to turn that idea into reality. It was a mad rush to start creating the stuff in it. And then we figured out, ‘Oh, there’s actually huge resource constraints here.’ There are only so many Unity developers in the world. There are only so many Unreal developers. The interoperability problems haven’t been solved yet. All of that stuff started to hit.”

And so the promise of the metaverse has been unfulfilled, leaving many to say that games like Roblox, Fortnite and Minecraft are the metaverse. But can we get better experience than those game worlds?

Generative AI and the Apple Vision Pro

Apple Vision Pro
Apple Vision Pro

Now there are bigger efforts under way to make the tech interoperable. And generative AI is changing the landscape for creators, making it easier to use AI to build a lot of tools, 3D, generative music, generative environments, generative avatars and more, said McDonald.

“It’s putting the capability back into the hands of everyday people to create more immersive internet experiences,” McDonald said.

Just like with the start of the internet, people couldn’t create websites until they had Wix or WordPress, and then social media came along to ensure everyone had an internet presence, he said.

“The same thing is happening now for immersive experiences because the tools are democratizing the ability to create these environments,” he said.

He noted that the Apple Vision Pro is coming out shortly. That could make the technology less nerdy and more ready for the mainstream. It won’t be affordable at first, but it could generate a renaissance of development around navigating virtual spaces with an intuitive technology, McDonald said.

“There will also be that huge momentum that Apple always carries into intuitive technology markets in terms of usability and coolness. And with that, at this perfect storm of a moment, we’ve got the world’s best IP and the visionaries behind it coming together with with awesome technology to kind of to make to make those ideas that people have already imagined real,” McDonald said.

In fact, Apple’s headset looks a lot like the VR headset in the Spielberg film, as there is no better visual for it, Farah said.

Readyverse Studios wants an open metaverse.

A lot of leaders talk about making the metaverse open, but many of the efforts so far have been closed.

“The notion of a closed metaverse is an oxymoron,” Cline said. “If it’s closed, it’s not the metaverse.”

Farah said the company has to work with a lot of different parties to make it interoperable and open. Readyverse has teamed up with Warner Bros. Discovery and CAA, but it isn’t revealing much around the other partners.

McDonald said he sees that many of the hardware ecosystems will compete with each other and be somewhat closed. But the software tools can create content that is portable between those systems, he said. People can navigate the metaverse with the device of their choosing, and the underlying tech will be abstracted from the hardware being used, McDonald said.

He also noted that, in the past, “Openness always wins.” He thinks closed systems like Apple will come under more pressure to be open because that is what consumers prefer. He noted how Epic’s Fortnite and Roblox are moving toward more open ecosystems.

Using Web3 tech

Futureverse has raised $54 million.
Futureverse has raised $54 million.

Farah said the Readyverse is in talks with other major IP rights holders to bring iconic IP to the metaverse through Readyverse. Senderoff said Readyverse is also working with Cline and that is a testament to how it is not trying to cut the talent out of the picture, which is a concern of many who are watching AI evolve.

“Hollywood and technology companies have done a terrible job cultivating the creator and putting importance on the original creator,” she said. “That’s the whole promise of blockchain. Then look at what’s happening in the space when we have people like the NFT marketplaces that will remain nameless, as you know, that are not sharing royalties with the creators. That is the promise of blockchain. The promise is to contribute back and let the creator participate in what they created in the first place.”

Creators will be the ones that get to use AI to dream up new worlds that they would never otherwise have the ability to create.

Readyverse Studios is making some noise.

Cline said he looks forward to the brain-computer interface that was used in Ready Player One, where you felt like you were walking in someone else’s shoes and living out their experiences through virtual reality.

“I’m just shocked that in the 10 years since I got my first Oculus Quest development kit, and now they’re on Quest 3. The technology has jumped so far. Just imagining how much more real it’s going to seem in 10 years is kind of frightening.”

He thinks the tech will reach the point of VR being indistinguishable from reality.

“We’re headed there,” he said. “I think you will be able to walk in somebody else’s shoes before very long. We’re just laying the groundwork for all these amazing science fiction ideas that we know are going to happen. Laying the groundwork for the whole world to jump in and build on that platform.”

McDonald said the group came together to create a space for humans to interact in a way that is more open and allows borders to be broken down.

“I think now more than ever in the world, that kind of divisiveness that exists out there,” he said. “These tools can help bring people together. Traditionally, they’ve been used to divide people and if you look at like the way that some of the big platforms have monetized, it’s been monetizing that divisiveness. And by putting data back into the hands of users, and taking that divisive element, that polarizing element out of the monetization stream, gives us an opportunity to have a better version of the internet where we can experience things from other people’s perspectives.”

One of the cool things will be able to tie contextual memories across the open metaverse, weaving your experiences among applications and games so you can embed memories inside avatars or objects or environments and have your character respond or react differently when it enters that space, he said.

The next evolution of the internet

Aaron McDonald is cofounder of Futureverse and Readyverse Studios.

Rather than focus solely on the tech for the metaverse or blockchain, McDonald said he wants to focus on the metaverse being the “next evolution of the internet.” The mantra is to make the tech invisible so people don’t have to learn so much about the tech itself.

He also said the Readyverse team will show consumers how it’s a joyful experience and technology, something real that is just a better user experience.

“That overcomes the hype,” he said. “We’re not just an NFT company buying some rights and spinning out some avatars. We’ve partnered with the creator who loves this work, who invented these ideas, with the producer who produced the movie that everyone understands as the canonical idea of the metaverse.”

That should tell people that’s it’s a serious business effort, McDonald said.

Cline said earlier efforts may have failed because they were not a genuine metaverse. They were closed systems that were false starts that didn’t stay true to the whole concept of the metaverse, he said.

“This is not going to be a false start because we’re embracing the idea of the open metaverse and trying to lay the groundwork for that which no one else has done,” he said. “If we’re going to have that free and open metaverse, this has to be done first and it has to be done with people with the right intentions who aren’t later planning to close it off or create something that is not the metaverse. This is the actual play create the metaverse.”

Neal Stephenson and Dean Takahashi talk about turning science fiction into reality.
Neal Stephenson and Dean Takahashi talk about turning science fiction into reality.

Cline also acknowledged that Stephenson was a “huge inspiration” for him, as Stephenson coined the term metaverse in Snow Crash. And he noted that Stephenson’s depiction of the metaverse was closed in some ways, and Cline said he wanted to build on what Stephenson had done, what William Gibson had done with Neuromancer, and what Cline himself had learned from playing World of Warcraft and EverQuest “and all these video games and imagine the best possible future version of the internet and the best possible future version of video games and how those two would converge and combine.”

He added, “I feel like that’s still the mission that we’re on. I was trying to imagine that world and now I’m trying to actually build that.”

McDonald reiterated that software in Futureverse’s toolkit will create interoperability.

“We’re working with the Neal [Stephenson] and his team on one side and we want these things to be interoperable. We’re in the metaverse together. This is not competition.

Farah added the team doesn’t view Roblox, Meta, Apple and others as competition.

“We don’t view them as they’re doing something wrong and we’re doing something right,” Farah said. “They’re just now different. And our hope is that everything is interoperable, and all part of one metaverse experience in the future and that’s what we’re working towards.”

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