Razorfish and VICE Media Group released findings from new research that examines the metaverse’s impact on identity, social interactions, and commerce. The study, titled “The Metaverse: What Gaming Today Teaches Us About the Metaverse Tomorrow,” seeks to understand how Gen Z, in particular, blends experiences across virtual and offline worlds, and the opportunities for brands to build meaningful interactions in this new space.
The intent of the study was to understand the promise of the metaverse (and its world) through the lens of gaming, as it’s one of the most developed parts of the nascent metaverse, and hints at what’s to come.
According to survey responses, Gen Z gamers spend twice as much time hanging out with friends in the metaverse than they do in real life, with gamers spending 12.2 hours per week playing video games versus 6.6 hours hanging out with friends in-person. These gamers don’t only view their time in the metaverse as pure escapism, but also as an extension of real life: 52% of Gen Z gamers say they would like to experience making money in the metaverse, while 33% of them would like to experience building a career there.
Gen Z gamers purchase items in the metaverse the same way they do in real life. Over the next five years, 20% of Gen Z gamers' "fun" budgets (i.e., money spent on entertainment, leisure, or recreation) will go to in-game purchases, with the average current spend being $50/year.
Further, they welcome brands here: 33% of Gen Z gamers would like to see brands provide virtual stores for browsing and buying products in the metaverse, while 30% would like to see brands selling skins and apparel for their avatars.
“Today’s youth are coming into their identities both in real life and in the metaverse, using experiences across both worlds to build confidence and hone their self-expression,” said Nicolas Chidiac, brand strategy lead at Razorfish. “Gen Z gamers view the metaverse as a safe place to freely express themselves, experiment with identities, establish friendships, and ultimately create a world they want to live in. It’s important that brands don’t dismiss the metaverse as a passing fad, but view it as a paradigm-shifting trend that’s just getting started.
Brands Will Lose a Key Demographic if They Ignore the Metaverse
The “metaverse” quickly arose as one of the early buzzwords of 2022. As marketers come to grips with understanding this new environment, Gen Z is already growing up with it; it isn’t foreign or futuristic to them - it is their reality, especially for gamers. In fact, 57% of Gen Z gamers feel they’re able to self-express more openly to others in a game than they do in real life. The metaverse impacts the way Gen Z gamers think, socialize, and consume every day.
The study further notes that Gen Z gamers regard the metaverse in a substantial way and, more specifically, are invested in the way they interact with brands in this alternate reality.
The Metaverse Impacts Reality Beyond Brand Experiences
Key findings of the Razorfish study revealed that:
- The metaverse gives gamers space to explore their identity—45% of Gen Z gamers say, “I feel like my identity in a game is a truer expression of who I am.” Forty percent say it gives them self-confidence.
- Stress relief is a major driver—77% of Gen Z gamers say their biggest motive for gaming is to relieve stress and anxiety.
- Gen Z is approaching the metaverse with practicality—47% would like to use it to meet new people and 33% would like to use it to build a career.
- Data privacy is a concern for Gen Z gamers, but less than for older generations—63% of Gen Z are concerned about data privacy in video games and the metaverse (vs. 66% Millennials and 70% Gen X).
“Our study shows that Gen Z is using the metaverse to cultivate connections and explore who they really are,” said Julie Arbit, Global SVP, Insights at VICE Media Group. “It allows them to dream and co-create a more idealized version of the world. Brands would be remiss to not include the metaverse as a strategic piece of their initiatives, provided they do so in a way that both respects and enhances the overall experience.”
How Brands Can Get Started
Brands today have a significant opportunity to explore the brand and commerce possibilities for this new frontier. The Razorfish report recommends that brands:
- Link it up—just as real life and the metaverse are interlinked, metaverse strategies should be as well.
- Find purpose—what is the value exchange you'll be delivering against?
- Be wary of shiny object syndrome—approach the metaverse with the same rigor as other channels. Which problem are you solving for, who are you trying to engage with, what is the role of the product and how are you measuring success?
- Proceed with caution—this is an unregulated space, so ethics matter.
The metaverse—a philosophical future vision of the internet, steeped in ideas of synchronous 3D immersive worlds where we also live—isn’t here yet. But we do have gaming as an indicative set of behaviors and interactions that signal what to expect as the metaverse, or web3, develops.
This study zeroed in on gaming as a unique area to focus on due to the scale of community interactions between real people in this space. It analyzes gaming behaviors and expressions of self as a window into the attitudes, behaviors, and identities we expect will continue to motivate people to enter into metaverse community experiences.
Razorfish and VICE Media Group conducted three phases of research in the US. Phase 1 was focused on digital ethnographies. Razorfish shadowed 12 Gen Z gamers during 1-hour video gaming experiences, using probes to understand why they chose certain avatars, and how they interact with other players, brands, and the environment. Phase 2 consisted of in-depth interviews with each gamer to dive deeper into their gaming experience and understand “who they are” when they play. Phase 3 (conducted January 20—February 8, 2022), consisted of an online quantitative survey of 1,000 youth gamers across the U.S.
Of the 12 gamers shadowed and interviewed, participants consisted of 50% female and 50% male Gen Z. Of the 1,000 gamers surveyed online, participants were comprised of 37% Gen Z, 49% Millennial, 14% Gen X and 51% female, 45% male, 4% nonbinary.
Gaby May, SourceCode Communications
David LaBar, Razorfish