Ahead of speaking at our next Festival Fridays session – Metaverse – The Next Disruptive Marketing Frontier, we spoke to Erik Londré, founder, Karta to find out more about what the Metaverse is, and why brands need to embrace it to ensure that they are connecting with their consumers at the right time.
What is the Metaverse?
As buzzwords go ‘The Metaverse’ is a pretty impressive one. It sounds futuristic, visionary and just plain BIG.
All of which is accurate. The Metaverse is already huge and growing fast and it has a bright future ahead of it. At this point in time it takes a certain amount of vision to embrace it.
So what is it?
The Metaverse is the collective term for the sum total of all shared virtual worlds, most of them being multiplayer video games. It is also referred to as Internet 2.0, which is as good a measure of its transformative nature as any. It’s basically an emerging new arena of human interaction, much like social media was in its infancy. And we all know how fast having a presence there went from nice-to-have to an absolute business necessity.
Why is this happening?
It’s basically down to human nature. Wherever people congregate for a purpose they will also invariably begin using that space for general social interaction. The point of a shopping mall may be shopping, but it’s also a place to hang out with friends. The neighbourhood basketball court is as much a social space as somewhere you go to shoot hoops. And since we all love to hang out we’re prepared to spend a lot of time in these environments doing other things than shop, or play ball.
The exact same thing is happening in multiplayer video games. People come to game but stay to hang out, meet new people and do fun stuff besides gaming.
And they do it in their billions. 2.4bn of them to be more exact. That’s the current number of active online gamers in the world. And they stay for a long time. One hour and 10 minutes on average a day.
If you’re still asking yourself why you should care, let us put it this way: that’s currently one hour and 10 minutes out of reach of your media and marketing if you are not in the metaverse.
But that is changing…
What do people like to do in the Metaverse, besides gaming and socializing?
Well the main takeaway from games is basically that we all love exciting experiences. And brands, companies, sports enterprises and artists are waking up to the fact that providing their audiences with epic and lasting experiences is a great way to interact with them in the Metaverse.
The Metaverse has begun to feature several kinds of branded experiences some of them game-related, but also concerts, meetings and product launches. Fuelled by the pandemic some metaverse spaces are being utilised as work environments. Why use Zoom when you can have a meeting in a saloon in the Western game Red Dead Redemption? Why discuss architectural renderings on Teams when you can tour a virtual building in Minecraft?
And let’s face it, people love to shop, wherever they are, including in the Metaverse. Virtual clothing is hot property. From behemoths like Louis Vuitton making skins for League of Legends, or Gucci selling clothes in Roblox, to pioneers like RTFKT Studios selling virtual sneakers for millions of dollars. Add the relatively recent explosion of NFTs and open economy virtual worlds and games like The Sandbox Game and Decentraland to the mix and the Metaverse’s significance as a retail platform is set to skyrocket.
Because the time is finally right.
Virtual social spaces as such have been around for a couple of decades, but they haven’t really caught on with a wider audience.
What’s different now is two things. The first is the transformation of online gaming and esports from nerdy and obscure to the world’s favourite pastime.
The second is the shift towards a platform model, such as online services in which users provide all or much of the content themselves. Any service built on this principle is bound to become a social space that matters in people’s lives.
Name the social media of your choice. And we all know how those changed the world.
This is now happening to the budding Metaverse. Online games such as Roblox are platforms for user-generated content by design, while others like Fortnite are moving fast in that direction. The result? They become open arenas for creativity both for the users themselves and for companies and organisations that want to connect with them.
The implications are far-reaching, not least for the future of marketing.
So what’s next?
To begin with the Metaverse will continue to grow. In terms of the number of platforms, user-base size and amount of time spent there. In the process people will inevitably want to do new things. Their special interests will extend into the metaverse along with their social life. This will unleash a flood of creativity resulting in content, activities and experiences that we can only guess at right now.
As we’ve seen not all of them will be about gaming, leisure and entertainment. Work-related activities as well as commerce will continue to increase. As a result the Metaverse will become seamlessly integrated into our lives much like social media, but with an even greater degree of immersion.
How long this will take depends on several factors. A set of industry standards to allow users to retain a single identity and certain avatar characteristics across platforms would certainly be helpful. You want friends to be able to recognise you as you try that new, cool platform and you want to wear that sick new skin you bought at your favourite band’s concert in Fortnite there as well.
And as the Metaverse becomes more and more integrated into our everyday lives maybe the time will finally come for some other technologies that have been around but on the backburner for a while? For instance wearable devices providing augmented reality overlays would allow us to bring the metaverse into the physical world as well.
Full circle, indeed. Only time will tell.
Ok, but what does it all mean to my business?
On a basic level it means that you will need to take steps to ensure your brand has a basic Metaverse presence. In fact if you were around when social media arrived you’ll know pretty much exactly what to do because in principle this is really the same thing, only in 3D.
But, to make the most of it, you need to go further. Develop a strategy that fits your brand, your audience and your commercial objectives and then work with good partners and creatives to choose the right platform and develop the epic events and unforgettable playable experiences that will keep your audience close to you in this new medium as well.
And do it sooner rather than later because the Metaverse future is just around the corner.
Want to learn more from Erik about the metaverse? He will be in conversation with our CEO Jeremy King on Friday 28th May at 12.30pm (BST), to sign up for tickets click here