In several years’ time, the question of who brought the metaverse to life will probably be one we hear quite a lot. But before we get there, the question of who will have provided the best entry point into the metaverse still remains.
As many of us are now aware, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has rebranded the social media supergiant to Meta Platforms, Inc. — with a mission to rule the metaverse space and bring it to the mainstream. Zuckerberg plans to leverage the metaverse towards a wider audience — and with this will come a more robust digital advertising system.
However, many experts believe that brands should look to gaming platforms as better grounds for user engagement. With greater access to immersive environments, virtual goods, and limitless social spaces, gaming ecosystems are already rife with metaverse-ready marketing opportunities. A long list of brands, ranging from fashion tycoons to popular music artists, have already hopped on board.
To achieve the best success within the early metaverse, brands will need to partner with platforms that offer the best potential for engagement, community outreach, and monetization tools. Let’s look at some of the main reasons why the gaming space is currently ticking the most boxes.
Gaming has the highest engagement potential
In the early days of the internet, the World Wide Web was ripe with advertising space. Brands resorted to more intrusive or conventional selling methods, such as pop-up ads and top-page banners.
However, in the last decade, the advertising industry has experienced its fair share of pitfalls — with 84% of millennials expressing a general lack of trust towards modern-day ads. Nowadays, virtually every online platform is saturated with ads — with many brands, ranging from online retailers to hypercasual mobile games, using interstitial or disruptive banner-style ads to monetize from their platforms.
More recent data suggests that this approach isn’t working anymore. And let’s be honest — most (if not all) of us can probably agree.
As we venture into the metaverse, Generation Z now represents the largest opportunity for advertisers. While they’re reportedly the most frequent downloaders of ad-blocking technology, they also make up the largest demographic of those who play video games per week (with millennials coming in at an extremely close second).
To reach these younger audiences within the metaverse, brands will achieve the most success by finding more engaging ways to connect with their audiences. This includes allowing people to relate with the brands they engage with, as well as helping them find value in their interactions.
By leveraging campaigns within the metaverse, brands will not only have the opportunity to deploy interactive experiences that will reward consumers — they’ll also have the opportunity to both encourage and incentivize their engagement. Think play-to-earn games, but where users can interact with ads that are programmatically placed within the gameplay and where they can enjoy earning in-game rewards.
Gaming has the most loyal user base
In the metaverse, brands will be likely to generate the most profit from long-term audiences — which is why reaching them where they’ll spend most of their time is critical. The more time that people spend within virtual spaces, the more this also provides an invaluable opportunity for brands to capitalize in ways that weren’t possible in previous eras of the internet. Combine this with the global spending power that Gen Z’ers and millennials currently wield (up to $4 trillion) and you have a recipe for success.
When it comes to loyalty, there’s no dispute that the gaming industry is king. Gaming has proven itself to be a leading source of entertainment, boasting a total of 2.5 billion active users worldwide. As a result of the pandemic, regular gaming use also increased exponentially in 2021 — with the average time spent playing games weighing in at nearly 9 hours per week.
Online gamers are also already accustomed to spending time within virtual spaces — this fact alone makes gaming platforms one of the best entry points into the metaverse. Christian Perrins, head of strategy at gaming specialist agency Waste, asserts that time in games now “bleeds into social currency, real-life conversations, and behaviors.” As a result, game publishers are “shifting at speed to build the most distinctive, most involving, and most rewarding spaces that will drive years and years of lifetime belonging and value.”
Gaming currently provides the best access to virtual goods
An estimated 2 billion people are already participating in the virtual economy, which means that brands should be focused on finding places where they can replicate a real-world buying experience in the metaverse. As it currently stands, top gaming platforms are already providing the closest thing to this experience — with popular games like Roblox, Animal Crossing, and Fortnite offering a shared virtual space that transcends beyond just gaming.
For instance, over 12 million Fortnite players tuned into Travis Scott’s entirely digital concert on the platform last year, which featured an overlay of the rap artist performing over the game’s dynamic landscape. Throughout the pandemic, the game also premiered Star Wars trailers and cross-promoted other entertainment brands.
Players also represent themselves by creating avatars within these spaces, which are then enhanced through items that are collected or purchased within the overarching system. Similar to how we use fashion and apparel to enhance our real-life appearances, millions of online users now craft their online identities using digital goods. The pandemic helped accelerate this trend, as players found ways to visually express themselves when they weren’t able to do so in person.
Thanks to the advent of NFTs and cryptocurrencies, the value of virtual goods has also reached an all-time high. We now know that value can be attached to digital art and content, regardless of whether or not it exists in the physical world. In a society so enriched with consumer goods and materials, NFTs allow users to own something that is unique and one-of-a-kind. And as the metaverse continues to grow, virtual goods and NFTs will most certainly become more tied to people’s identities.
Thanks to gaming platforms, this concept is allowing the idea of virtual ownership to become more commonplace. Remember when it seemed like all of your friends were sending you a deluge of Farmville requests on Facebook? This concept still lives on. VR worlds (such as Decentraland, Topia and SomniumSpace) enable developers to sell virtual goods and even purchase virtual land using cryptocurrency, opening the door to the idea of digital equity and assets.
Brand partnerships are more accepted in gaming
The pandemic inflicted suffering upon a long list of various industries across the globe — including movie theaters, restaurants, bars, and national sports leagues. On the other hand, one of the few industries that profited directly from the effects of quarantine was the gaming industry.
This, combined with the rise of the metaverse, has led to a surplus of brands looking to jump in on the latest trends. And as an interest in digital products increases, it’s already become a norm for consumer brands to start capitalizing on virtual goods.
Last year, Epic Games earned billions of dollars in revenue from limited-edition goods sold through Fortnite. Amongst some of the top brands that collaborated with the gaming ecosystem to produce in-game revenue were the NFL, Marvel, Star Wars, and popular hip-hop artist Drake.
High-end designers have also gotten in on the action. In June, Roblox collaborated with Gucci to sell a series of digital-only accessories. Outside of gaming, an NFT collection featuring pieces from Dolce & Gabbana also sold for a whopping $5.7 million in October.
Nike also recently filed for 7 virtual goods trademarks for branding in NFTs and video games. This will allow players to access trademarked apparel, headwear, eyewear, bags, and sports equipment that features their famous “Swoosh” logo and “Just Do It” tagline. The metaverse platform The Sandbox (SAND) also recently announced a brand partnership with Adidas.
Smaller developers are also starting to partner with larger brands. Stella Artois, known for sponsoring large-scale sports events across the globe, recently participated in sponsorship with Zed Run, a blockchain-based horse racing platform.
In short, smart brands are clearly aware that gaming platforms are the newest advertising frontier. As gaming becomes even more immersive and mainstream, all signs point to this trend continuing to grow in the metaverse.
A decentralized world offers a wealth of opportunities
Mark Zuckerberg believes that the metaverse “will not be created by one company.” Rather, “it will be built by creators and developers making new experiences and digital items that are interoperable” and that will “unlock a massively larger creative economy than the one constrained by today’s platforms and their policies.”
While the people-based solutions of Facebook are helpful for advertisers, the gaming world is currently providing far greater opportunities for brands to scale and expand their campaigns. In what has become known as the “creator’s economy”, gaming has become an industry that doesn’t just include Big Tech players — it also includes young creators, developers, and diverse communities. In fact, the value of the gaming industry has now far surpassed the markets of movies, music, and social media.
And while the issue of interoperability presents itself as one of the biggest challenges to building the metaverse, blockchain technology has now solidified itself as a way to ensure that all transactions can be safe and public. As NFTs rise in popularity, they’re also allowing users to own more items that are digitally unique and that can be exchanged or traded across different databases. With all of these things combined, we’re slowly gaining sight of a roadmap of how a metaverse-based economy can pan out.
Over time, we’ve learned that true growth comes from how users interpret, engage with, and incorporate a brand as part of their virtual experience. If our online experiences are becoming just as valuable as the ones we have in our physical lives, then why should the impact of marketing be any less effective in virtual spaces?
Gaming has also come a long way from being a solitary or product-centric activity. It’s now heavily defined by social interactions, immersive experiences, and community engagement. This makes the gaming space the ideal ground for brands to experiment with metaverse properties and learn how to monetize within it.
However, this brings us to our final question: will the metaverse only ever exist within the gaming world, or will it eventually expand beyond its parameters? All evidence surely points to the latter — that we will soon see the unfolding of an ostensibly decentralized Web3, where every corner of the internet as we know it will be accessible from full virtual reality. When this happens, the metaverse will certainly change every aspect of our lives.
As we edge deeper into the metaverse, however, forward-thinking brands should look to the gaming world for marketing potential. It’s the perfect entry point for what’s to come.
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