The great metaverse stock rout worsens as Roblox plunges

Shares in metaverse bellwethers—from Meta to Roblox—are getting absolutely clobbered in 2022.

Check out this Fortune must-read: “Why Wall Street thinks the metaverse will be worth trillions”

It wasn’t long ago that Wall Street and Silicon Valley were talking up the metaverse as the next big thing in the tech world. The only question from the likes of über–tech bull Cathie Wood or crypto investment firm Grayscale or Goldman Sachs was: Would the market opportunity be worth billions, or trillions?

Goldman, for one, thinks it will be the latter, likening the metaverse to that seminal moment in 2007 when Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone, unleashing upon the world the Web 2.0 era. For those keeping score, metaverse will help unleash Web3, advocates say.

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It wasn’t long ago that Wall Street and Silicon Valley were talking up the metaverse as the next big thing in the tech world. The only question from the likes of über–tech bull Cathie Wood or crypto investment firm Grayscale or Goldman Sachs was: Would the market opportunity be worth billions, or trillions?

Goldman, for one, thinks it will be the latter, likening the metaverse to that seminal moment in 2007 when Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone, unleashing upon the world the Web 2.0 era. For those keeping score, metaverse will help unleash Web3, advocates say.

Just don’t mention these predictions to tech bulls this morning. The early investors who jumped onto the metaverse hype train are no doubt cursing the M-word as they watch Roblox futures tumble premarket by more than 16% after the gaming giant reported a top-line miss.

It’s not just Roblox disappointing the true believers. Metaverse bellwethers are getting absolutely clobbered in 2022, far underperforming the wider slump in tech stocks. The Roundhill Ball Metaverse ETF (METV) is down 15.3%. The Nasdaq, meanwhile, is off 13.5% after a decent 1.8% rally on Tuesday.

Many of the constituent parts of METV are doing even worse. Take a look at this bloodbath of some top metaverse stocks:

View the Metaverse Stocks In Free Fall chart

Let’s start at the top with Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta, the parent company of Facebook. Zuck’s decision to go all in on the metaverse last year and change the company name to Meta signaled a kind of dawn of a new era in consumer tech—a more immersive 3D one for those willing to fasten an augmented reality headset to their cranium, and hop from virtual setting to virtual setting.

James Tierney of AllianceBernstein told Fortune earlier this year the Facebook name-change was “the inflection point for the market.” The chief investment officer of concentrated U.S. growth also said, "people got a heck of a lot more serious [about the metaverse] after Facebook.”

Zuckerberg himself said the true metaverse vision could take a full decade to emerge: Overcoming sluggish bandwidth snags, the ill-fitting gear, and yawn-worthy early days of a virtual-community buildout takes time, people. Even still, investors jumped into metaverse stocks, pushing Meta and other tech high-fliers up in the autumn, only to see the same shares plummet as the markets now punish high-capex, grow-at-all-cost stocks during a period of Fed-tightening.

Meta shares are now down nearly 35% year to date as its core ad business is under threat and investors question the billions it plans to invest in its metaverse ambitions.

The first metaverse IPO

Roblox, which went public 11 months ago, was seen as the first metaverse IPO. Its gaming platform is wildly popular with teens, and growth exploded during the stuck-at-home early days of the pandemic. On Tuesday, the company suggested growth will be harder to come by. After the bell, the company posted a bigger-than-expected loss, and its bookings—a term that refers to the amount of money Roblox players spend in the game’s virtual currency, Robux, to kit out their in-game avatars—missed analyst forecasts.

The way stock futures are trading, Roblox could open this morning at $61.50.

Other metaverse stock plays—from chipmakers AMD and Nvidia to data center hardware specialist Marvell Technology—have also seen billions wiped off their market caps. (Marvell, it should be noted, is not a stock in the Roundhill Ball Metaverse ETF.) The snarls in the global supply of chips to businesses are a bigger headwind to these stocks than any hiccups in the metaverse. Still, investors are beginning to increasingly pull their money out of growth stocks and into steadier, tried-and-true value stocks.

AMD, Nvidia, and Marvell have all suffered double-digit plunges in their stock so far this year.

If 2021 was the year of the metaverse, the first half of 2022 may go down as the stretch in which it fell to Earth.

Correction and update, Feb. 16, 2022: This post has been updated to clarify the implied Roblox open price. The story also makes clear that while Marvell Technology is a bellwether metaverse stock, it is not listed in the Roundhill Ball Metaverse ETF.