The gaming market is always growing steadily, however, during the COVID-19 pandemic, growth boomed across the globe. With many restricted to stay indoors, digital sales saw a huge increase in spending – with developer CD Projekt Red seeing digital sales spike at 91% of all games sold, and even Nintendo, traditionally a company to push physical media, posted a share of 42.8% of their games selling via the digital eShop. As we’re beginning to see, practices established during the pandemic are still holding fast. Consumers are continuing to buy digitally for many reasons – ease of purchase, less impact environmentally and shortened time between purchase and experience. 

With this in mind, the market analyst website ‘App Annie’, predicted that the market will continue to grow at a rapid rate, particularly within ‘metaverse mobile games’. Which games come under this umbrella term? App Annie uses two prime examples – Minecraft and Roblox. Both of these videogames can be seen as platforms for metaverse content – they each host smaller games, experiences or open worlds for consumers to explore, while allowing for cross-progression/expression purchases – using a digital currency – such as clothing and skins.

We define a metaverse videogame as a platform which can host a range of experiences – gaming primarily, social spaces, events of ranging scale and can be fully customised by the user. They usually have a creator economy, financed by a centralised, digital currency allowing users to own their content.

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Roblox is paving the way.

Roblox alone is seeing massive figures in growth year on year. It’s no surprise given that the platform currently experiences an average of 43.2 million daily users. These users buy Robux, the game’s digital currency, to unlock features of games, buy clothing and accessories or items to use within a Roblox experience. In Q2 of 2020, Roblox earned $189.7 million, an already staggering amount. However, in Q2 of 2021, that number increased by 139% to $454.1 million, and much of that is bought within a mobile version of Roblox.

From a consumer point of view, Robux is a flexible currency which can be spent on anything and everything on the Roblox platform, crucially it can be used within any experience across Roblox. One user may spend Robux on a bushy tail for their avatar to wear within every game, while another could spend theirs on animal eggs for the popular pet simulator, Adopt Me!, to boost their collection of pets.

For creators and developers, Robux is great way to monetise the experience they create for players. However, with so many games to play on the platform, a developer has to stand out in order to earn. Roblox currently has over 9 million developers working on games and experiences and of those creators only 3,800 of them qualified to exchange Robux earned into US dollars. With booming player numbers, we hope this percentage increases and rewards more creators.

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Gaming global growth.

Gaming continues to grow. The gaming industry generated almost $162.32 billion in 2020 as members of the public sought out new avenues of entertainment during the global pandemic. This covers everything from the generation 9 consoles of Xbox Series S/X and PlayStation 5, to hyper-casual mobile games. If we look at Minecraft, Fortnite and Pokemon Go!, three other metaverse gaming platforms, we can see similar growth to Roblox and attribute it to the overall growth of the industry as a whole.

  • Minecraft

2020 Total revenue – $415 million.

2020 Mobile revenue – $142.6 million (2019 – $110.9 million)

  • Fortnite

2020 Total revenue – $5.1 billion.

2020 Mobile revenue – $1.1 billion (2019 – $450 million)

  • Pokemon Go! (Mobile only)

2020 Total revenue – $1.23 billion (2019 – $89 million)

What does this mean for metaverse gaming?

A large growth in users and players will give developers a significant player base to try new things, implement experimental technologies and, crucially, test the waters of social interactions. The metaverse and gaming will develop hand-in-hand. This is because so much of the technology being used to create the metaverse started in gaming. This is particularly true of 3D modelling, AR/VR services and cloud computing. Gaming is a playground for developers, it can be used to experiment with ideas. Over the coming years we can expect to see developments leaning towards the key areas of the metaverse.

When we look at the metaverse and what developers and consumers hope to see, we’re often looking at a slice of land to call our own. A space where games can be played, where people can meet and where users can express themselves through purchases. Each of the games discussed here aims to do this, or veer close enough. Particularly Roblox; with their recent NIKELAND development, we can get an idea of how the metaverse would work and how players react to existing within a digital space.

We will begin to see greater emphasis on creator economies. This will come from global brands to bedroom creators, all for sale through a currency designed for the platform. Utilising blockchain technology, once a consumer has bought a digital hat for their avatar, this item specifically, belongs to them and we may reach a point where exclusive or limited items can then be sold on again. Constructing an economy with blockchain at the heart will ensure that creators continue to see revenue from each sale and resale of their design. Depending on the contracts for each game, the creator will receive a share of the profits determined by the currency spent on their designs.

Pop Culture Clashes

As gaming has grown, more of the world has started to look towards the industry once considered a nerdy hobby. The financial growth we see here signals to luxury brands and artists that gaming is an avenue worth pursuing. We only need look to Nike or Vans partnering with Roblox, or Balenciaga and Moncler selling skins within Fortnite. Any gamer can then own a designer brand or support content creators and visual or musical artists, though there needs to be more stringent rules on reselling for players under the age of eighteen.

Looking a final time at Roblox, we can see another feature of metaverse gaming – capitalising on trends. The recent smash-hit show on Netflix, Squid Game, has flooded the experiences on Roblox. This can only happen within a platform where creators hold the control over their creations. The ability for creators to turn around content quickly or overhaul their experience within short timeframes will ultimately guide users to their spaces. This can’t be done effectively with many other games, which need to pass through various teams and management decisions before reaching the audience far too late to capitalise.

Ultimately, what this growth tells us is that audiences, particularly younger audiences, want to explore games which feed into the metaverse concept. Our current society is skewing towards an ‘always online’ and ‘always connected’ outlook. A place where games, social interaction and expression are key. Each game explored here has these things in common and each of the games caters to a younger market with great success. Growth is often a signifier of change and change is coming via the metaverse. 

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