Gamers are bombarded with press about the metaverse, from think pieces to product announcements, but what do they really think? Facebook Gaming and Newzoo have joined forces to launch a survey in 2022 to understand player sentiment, from what they think of the press to what they expect from the technology, products and developers – and most importantly, how it differs between gamers , from the players at the hyper casual end of the AAA console, publisher and developer.
In a virtual session at GamesBeat Summit 2023, Facebook Gaming’s Stephen Gray at Meta shared his takeaways from this pivotal industry study. He then dived into a discussion with Tim Lion, Head of Gaming Marketing of Facebook Gaming at Meta and Alexis Pamboris, Research Partner at Newzoo, about the future of the metaverse for gamers.
“The purpose of this was to build industry knowledge to the extent that we can give developers some advice,” said Gray. And over the course of the research, they learned that the spectrum of gamer readiness and enthusiasm for a metaverse is vast, and success hinges on meeting your consumers where they are on their metaverse journey.
Here’s a look at what they found – and what it means.
The main takeaways
The survey spanned six markets and tapped respondents who play at least an hour a week on each platform, Gray explains. They ended up with four segments: the casual gamer, two separate midcore groups (one leaning towards the casual side and the other more serious), and those really hardcore players. The survey dug deep into players’ feelings, but Gray highlighted four key takeaways:
- About half of all gamers know what the metaverse is, but that number is driven by the hardcore gamer. About 50% of those respondents are excited about it, but again, that response varies across the spectrum of gamers.
- Gamers are already engaged in metaverse and adjacent technology experiences, with about a third using VR and AR and nearly half playing cross-platform.
- Across the hardcore gaming side of the spectrum, players are excited about playing games, while casual gamers are much more interested in non-gaming metaverse experiences like virtual travel.
- Gamers are as familiar with crypto and NFCS as they are with the metaverse, but the sentiment isn’t quite as positive.
Mapping the player base
A primary goal of the survey was to break down the spectrum of metaverse knowledge in the larger gamer cohort, and so when designing the survey they were very deliberate in the way respondents were segmented from casual to midcore to hardcore, Pamboris explained out.
“It was based on soft motivational questions, attitudes, reasons why people want to play games, what platforms they played on. There were also a few factual questions in it,” he said. “We wanted to imagine that spectrum so we could then look at the differences.”
This segmentation not only allows them to slice the data with industries such as age, gender, and so on, but also allows them to identify key personas, making it easier for the survey audience — the developers and companies targeting these game populations — to create points of action.
Understanding your cohort – and the wider public
One of the most pressing action points is something developers already know, but it’s something to stay ahead of the curve, Lion said.
“Gamers are not a monolith,” said Lion. “Increasingly, we’re discovering the great diversity within gaming, people, even though they don’t necessarily identify as gamers, but they do play games and interact, right down to people who really identify as part of the gaming community.”
And while the industry is talking about the metaverse, making it a buzzword and associating it with VR and blockchain, the consumer world is on a whole different level, Gray said. The majority of people who game don’t play Fortnite – they’re moms who play Words with Friends every day and never consider themselves a gamer.
“They don’t even know what to make of the stuff. It is important for us to consider this,” he added. “You have to think about the metaverse in a way that is consistent with your players’ expectations. I know I’m the consumer researcher who says you should do consumer research, but that’s really the point I want to make. You really need to make sure you understand your player base.
Why casual gamers are crucial to mass adoption
Consumer response to the metaverse is what will guide its trajectory, Gray stressed.
“The core and console side will help influence us, but I think it’s more about the casual gamers that will lead to mass adoption,” he said.
Understanding what these groups want from the metaverse is essential, Pamboris agreed — and the key to not leaving an entire demographic behind. Core gamers and mid-core gamers are much further up the adoption scale, he said, but there will come a point where the casual gamers recognize that an increasingly mundane technology has completely left them out.
“All signs point to slow evolution, and when we talk about metaverse features for developers, they should look at the games they’re making, and say what to expect in the next few years. that’s a bit new now?” he said.
In the PC and console environment, it’s easy to envision that technology, as cross-plays are already common and players expect support for them. Or it could be something similar to Epic’s recent move, which combined perks and purchases between Rocket League and Fortnite for the Fortnite Crew subscribers. Casual gamers can soon expect to be able to share scores, talk to other players, share tips, and maybe even short to medium term rewards and lives.
Ultimately, success in the metaverse space depends on staying in touch with who your players are, their motivations for gaming, and their expectations. But don’t overdo it for casuals and think they are looking for Candy Crush VR.
“A more correct way to think development cycles ahead is to implement persistent social features and make casual gaming more of a connected experience – these are probably closer to what you want to think about now,” explains Gray.
On the core side, they are already familiar with metaverse concepts; After all, World of Warcraft has been around for over 20 years, along with the idea of persistent economies and social avatars and so on.
“This is where you can get a little more creative,” he said. “Never splurge on the crypto tech stack. Focus on making good games. Focus on good gameplay experiences and let that evolve as it comes.
Eventually, as game culture continues to become more mainstream, the promise of the metaverse will similarly become mainstream, Gray said.
“The future is for gaming to become more and more integrated into our lives,” he said, “and this will allow the idea of a consistent digital world to evolve naturally.”
Don’t miss the full discussion — view the entire discussion here.