The Metaverse -Matt Black’s pitch from 1999 to Palm Pictures

Matt Black
10 min readFeb 2, 2022


Didn’t manage to take this any further other than a one-off Coldcut netcast into Cybertown. As referenced, W Gibson and N Stephenson outlined most of this in the cyberpunk fiction of the 80s/early 90s.

Bruno/Chris and the crew: here is my response to your request for more info on the 3d online world idea.

Study for a Virtual Band in R-World, 1988, Matt Black, Amiga 2000, SculptAnimate4D

Proposal for Creating 3D Virtual Environments for use with DVDs

1. Intro

To build interactive 3D spaces via the internet is the next likely development in the colonisation of cyberspace. This is as outlined in influential classic visions of the future, in such books as Neal Stephensons ‘Snowcrash’ and William Gibsons ‘Neuromancer’ series.
These are essential background reading!

I’ve explained previously very broadly the advantages and attraction of this type of development, where communities, e-commerce and the net are integrated together in a form for the next century and millennium. Say we are doing a Coldcut DVD. A virtual 3d world, ‘R-World’ with rooms (shops, clubs, meeting places etc etc) related to our music and style is designed on the PC using standard 3d modelling tools. The DVD contains the software needed to log on and enter this world via their net connections.

Once in R-world, users can meet and chat with other people ‘there’: it is a multiuser, 3d online interactive space. People can have 3d bodies (‘avatars’ is the normal term, though I prefer ‘alters’ as in egos), which can be selected from Bodyshops. People can have clothes. They can shop (for real! eg for CDs, using secure server driver virtual malls), listen to music (eg at the virtual clubs in the world) and many other ideas for activities are obvious. It is like a multiuser online gaming environment but not about killing or winning: this is a social fun community based on Music and chat.

2. How to build 3d Worlds on the net and what it costs

I first looked into this a few years ago, and at that time we were considering first making all the tools necessary to actually create a world like that. In some ways, it’s just as well that we didn’t, because making the tools would have been a huge amount of work. Having waited for a few years, those tools do now exist.

A bit of research showed that Blaxxun are probably the leading suppliers of systems to create 3D worlds. I got in contact with them to find out what it would cost to buy these software tools from them. I enclose some of these figures and I spoke to Thomas from Blaxxun to go over them.

Blaxxuns’s marketing approach is a bit similar to Real Networks, who are the market leaders in streaming media. Initially they leased out their software on a per user basis, so that for a six user license, for six people to listen in on a stream, it would cost so many thousand pounds, for a 20 user license more etc etc.
As Real got more successful, those prices have come down, and it now seems to be less of a problem to get a Real Networks license because they’re locked in a battle for the domination of the standard.

The Blaxxun people have modelled their pricing in a similar way to Reals initial model, and basically you pay for the amount of simultaneous users that the world can contain in units of 50. The basic unit is 50, and you can go from 50 all the way up. 100 people on line at a time might not sound that much, but they estimate that probably 1% of the virtual population that register into a virtual world are on-line at a time. So, for instance, Cybertown, which is their leading site, has a population of 100,000 registered users of whom around 100 are usually online at a time.

Basically, even with a substantial discount (see Blaxxun partner development prog, a 30% discount is possible), one is looking at an investment of some $200k dollars to purchase the complete Blaxxun tool kit that one would really want to have to create a quality 3D world with 200 user capacity. This would be in addition to money that would need to be expended on actually deploying these tools, and using them to create the world, ie design and programming.

So ballpark costs would be:
Blaxxun software suite, 200 capacity system $200k
Design +Programming $150k.
Hosting (servers and fast big net connection) for 1st year $50k
Hosting would be an additional cost, however Sputnik 7 might be able to host it quite easily on its existing setup.

Hosting aside, $400k is not a large amount of money in terms of building a gateway to cyberspace. No doubt many large companies would spend this if they knew where and how to spend it!

I do feel that the ideal solution would be to buy the complete development kit from Blaxxun and run it on our servers where we would be able to build our own worlds with total control. I estimate that this would cost in the region of $400–500k and could probably be done within a 6–9 month period.

3. Cheap option for starters
In thinking of this idea in association with marketing DVDs, I felt it likely that Palm Pictures may well find $400k too much money to invest initially.

However, I’ve come up with an initial workround which saves a lot of money. I proposed to Blaxxun that we open up a virtual club or a virtual space of some kind, let’s call it C-space, in their existing communities, for example, We distribute DVDs with an installer programme for their client (which is called Contact 4) which is the software which users need to visit the 3d world of cybertownAs with Real Networks they give the client side program away free ).

So what happens is, you put your DVD in the drive, it asks you if you want to visit a virtual world, you say ‘yes’, you run the installer, install Contact, then it connects to cybertown where it takes you to C-space where you can create a user identity and start checking out the community and what’s on offer. In response to my suggestion of this, Thomas from Blaxxun has come back to me and said

“Matt:Thanks for your email and proposal. We are open to featuring your branded
content in Cybertown and/or our other online communities as an alternative
to server licensing in exchange for client software distribution.”

So they are up for the idea.

What would have to be determined is how this club would be built. I doubt if they would be prepared to just hand over their whole tool sets to us for free, although they may do. I need to look into that: Thomas is alway now, but back soon and I’ll take it further if there is interest from Palm Pictures end.

However for it to make sense, we would have to be given sufficient tools to build C-space, the virtual space and that space would be a kind of virtual nightclub themed perhaps around the initial artist and music that we decide to use as the first launch for this. In the club, there would be music playing from speakers, there would be dj sets which could be streamed in on Real Audio; they’ve got the ability to have Real Video streaming as well, so within the virtual club the walls can have video screens which can be streaming video programmes, for instance, from Sputnik 7. People can interact and chat. There should be information about the artist, a sort of on-line resource about that artist. Maybe a gallery of pictures and a chance to win free copies, free tickets, etc. etc.

Without having to fork out significant amounts of money to Blaxxun for using their system, we get the ability to actually create our own club within their world and everyone wins. We would still need to design the club and make sure it was cool ourselves, and ballpark we would want a fee of $75k to do that. It’s going to be a significant amount of work: graphic design, 3D architecture, styling, content provision and integrating that all into the club, plus the overall concept work needs to be recognised.

The advantage of doing this approach is that we take it a step at a time and see how it goes. Palm Pictures can get a great deal of positive publicity and perceived increased value from the DVDs that they are selling by saying that they contain access to a virtual on-line 3D world, free entry to this community, dance in cyberspace etc etc. For a reasonable additional fee I am available to generate high quality cyberhype for this purpose!

The Blaxxun system is very well featured. You can choose your avatar, that is, choose what you look like, you can have a house which you can furnish, you can have virtual currency, you can earn experience there, which enables you to do more things. You can trade things, and certainly we would not want to forget the possibility of utilising the club as a market place for e-commerce, so that within the club there could be opportunities to buy music and indeed, any other type of product. These could be advertised within the club much as they are within a conventional club, shop, webpage or publication In fact, I imagine that advertising posters and banners for products within a 3D virtual world would be quite a strong gimmick with which to hook advertisers. Posters for Absolut Vodkaewithin the club might be an example.

So, I would envisage that our club could actually be quite extensive and there would be several rooms with different sorts of music playing, different shops, selling different services, there might be a ticket shop there to order tickets for real world events. There would be links to order-fullfillers, such as, and one would arrange it so that one had an associate relationship with order fullfillers so that obviously we would get a kickback when anyone went to through the club portal and bought anything.

As to how our relationship with Blaxxun would develop is difficult to say now.
They might let us keep expanding the club. They might let us do a new club or a new building for each dvd that we launched. Of course, virtual space being virtual, it’s quite easy to make more rooms within rooms. I believe that one club could actually effectively house many different rooms, but it might actually be nice to have a different club or a different type of virtual building or destination or centre to showcase each artist and to theme their community.

If, as I suspect, this idea takes off, it would probably become desireable to purchase the full suite of software from Blaxxun, so that we would be able to build and control our own worlds totally independently. I think that would be a second stage option after we see how the first stage goes. It may be that we could continue to work with Blaxxun. I actually think we have a lot to offer them, and they need more people to be working with them.

Just to spread out for a moment, a virtual world can contain really anything, gardens, lakes, incredible buildings, sculptures, museums, galleries, shops, schools, marketplaces, open spaces for parties, public spaces for gatherings, churches. Blaxxun are named after the Black Sun club in Neil Stevenson’s seminal cyberfunk novel ‘Snow Crash’. This was the successor to William Gibson’s original vision of the colonization of cyberspace described in the Neuromancer trilogy. ‘Snow Crash’ picked up where that left off and had a huge influence on a generation of cyberpunks, like myself, who are now busy building the future. No ones got it quite right yet, but it’s coming. I’ve had a look at the Cybertown community and it is impressive. I suggest you have a quick look at it: it would be simple to arrange a virtual meeting at that space to give you a more real idea of how these things work. For a quick look goto, download contact4 and then go to and immigrate in to gain an identity!

Just one other point, as far as the e-commerce opportunities go, Blaxxun may have a view on that. They may try to have total control and total profit from e-commerce within the club. I would think that that is something that we should debate with them, and a split of such revenue would be fair I think.

Thats as far as I’ve got at the moment. In sum,

stage 1: do deal with Blaxxun
( to include Contact on DVDs, this takes users straight to our club C-space in when they log on. Blaxxun provide tools and host world for free.)

Design and build club and integrate assets : $75k
Few other costs: say $10k

Total: $85k

stage 2: buy Blaxxun system and start building our own worlds.

Blaxxun software suite, 200 capacity system: $200k
Design +Programming: $150k.
Hosting (servers and fast big net connection) for 1st year: $50k
Other costs: $100k

Total $500k for first world.
Subsequent worlds: $150k each.

I hope this is sufficient info to further your interest. It’s been a fair bit of work to get even this minimal proposal together: it is exciting bleeding edge stuff, and I hope you will appreciate this free consultation on the next wave of business technology! You are the first people I have approached with the idea and I’m putting the info straight to you rather than try and make it look more complicated than it is. I do suggest you check out to see what you think.

As I’ve said, the 3d world as interface could also work well in conjunction with Sputnik7 and you may want to consider that an investment in developing a lead in these new dimensions will be very beneficial across the board.

Best regards, and enjoy the food for thought!


Ninja Tune Winchester Wharf Clink St London SE1



Matt Black

Matt Black is half of legendary DJ duo+multimedia pop group Coldcut, and founders of Ninja Tune.