A Southland based game developer is currently rocking the metaverse, with live events being streamed to guests inside his 3D platform, MYX providing a virtual experience that’s the next best thing to the real-world event. But it’s a double-edged sword as he has discovered.

Funder Games founder and creative director Paul Cousins prefers to be an entrepreneur rather than an employee, but says two things are needed to run a startup like Funder Games: a tablespoon of resilience and a pinch of stupidity.

“The hard road is to be an entrepreneur. You need to value and believe in yourself and push past all the failures you encounter, because they all add up to success at the end.”

That success is bittersweet for Cousins, as the main device he is building is the Oculus Quest 2, which was built by Meta – but by succeeding on that device, he says he’s going head to head with the owner of Meta, Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg has invested billions into his version of the VR Metaverse. Cousins, in stark contrast, has focused his efforts towards creating an R18 adult-focused VR experience, with highly realistic graphics, a grungy nightlife focused entertainment scene and the ability to meet, chat and hang out with friends from anywhere in the globe as a full body avatar.

The MYX platform has full-body avatars running on a standalone virtual reality programme. There are no wires, you don’t need a personal computer or phone, just an internet connection to install the MYX app, and a $500 META virtual reality headset to virtually join thousands of others worldwide in the metaverse.

Paul Cousins.

In essence, MYX is a virtual city to explore, and Cousins holds no punches when it comes to simulating the realities of a wild night out on the town. Drugs, sex, rock and roll all play a part in this highly detailed simulated open world.

“The core concept is that you have a private luxury apartment where you can enjoy watching Netflix on a 150” TV from your private virtual penthouse suite or take your virtual Lamborghini for a drive. When you are ready to go out into the public spaces you can take the lift down to the street and mix with other people,” Cousins said.

Cousins says he hasn’t paid a cent towards marketing; everything has progressed organically and with more than 12,000 players he knows there’s hot demand for the product – he wants to be in a position where he can ‘redesign’ some of the ways society works through his platform but adds he has had to “bootstrap this to the point where it can start generating revenue” through sponsorship and ticket sales for events.

But this project isn’t without its challenges. Meta isn’t making it easy for him, with headlines spouting “the metaverse is dead” constantly on show. Cousins is working around the clock to try to counter the negative press.

Cousins says the metaverse is an opportunity to create a new digital universe, and he is attempting to inject what he considers is fundamentally important for society.

“Right now however, I’m up against one of the most successful companies on the planet, and they have a blank cheque to make their version of it. I’m simply one man with a big dream to create a better world for us all – but if I succeed, I’ll prove that sometimes that’s enough.”

“Before Covid, people were asking ‘why would you have a digital event when you can go to a real one?’ – then Covid hit and nobody could go out, and it started to make sense.”

“There are also a lot of companies out there now who want to use gaming platforms for business, for communication, and for socialising, and that’s what MYX is; a parallel digital lifestyle.”

Cousins said people are not aware of how powerful this next generation of technology is, or just how big the movement is going to be. “VR technology has the potential to disrupt more powerfully than the Internet did.”

Cousins has got some top people onside. Ron A. Spaulding, former CEO of Universal Records, is now Funder Games CEO and will shortly move to New Zealand from the United States to help facilitate the further development of the project.

“He is very excited because this is the next generation of music promotion. With our platform we can present 3D characters in real time, you can see the crowd – you’re virtually there,” Cousins said.

Early in November, Cousins ran a live test event with Auckland band Five Minutes to Mayhem, streaming to the metaverse, with people watching in real time. “At one point I put on the headset to have a look around and the room was just packed with virtual people.”

He’s looking to do more events online and says his next target is to have 100,000 people attend a virtual concert, at $10 a ticket.

Cousins says it’s easy to see why events in the Metaverse are compelling when you consider an event like Tomorrowland Festival in Belgium, which hosts around 180,000 people. “We could now extend that event to a global digital audience – people who wouldn’t normally be able to attend. What could that do for a small local business based out of New Zealand? It gives them a potential audience of millions.”

Cousins, although realistic about the challenges he faces, is stoic in his belief in the project.

“This is the future, I can see that for certain. What I am not clear on is whether the world can also see that yet, so my job I guess is to help show people what is possible and help bridge the gap between the real and virtual worlds.”

In partnership with COIN South.

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