Gamers are bombarded with press about the metaverse, from think pieces to product announcements, but what do they really make of it all? Facebook Gaming and Newzoo joined forces to launch a 2022 survey to get insight into player sentiment, from what they think of the press to what they expect from the technology, products, and developers — and most importantly, how it varies across gamers, from the players at the hyper casual end to the AAA console, publisher and developer side.
In a virtual session at GamesBeat Summit 2023, Stephen Gray from Facebook Gaming at Meta shared his takeaways from this crucial industry research. Afterwards, he dove into a discussion with Tim Lion, Head of Gaming Marketing from Facebook Gaming at Meta and Alexis Pamboris, Research Partner at Newzoo, about the future of the metaverse for gamers.
“The goal of this was to build industry knowledge to the extent that we can provide some advice to developers,” Gray said. And in the course of the research, they learned that the spectrum of gamer readiness and enthusiasm for a metaverse is an enormous one, and success depends on meeting your consumers where they are in their metaverse journey.
Here’s a look at what they found — and what it means.
The major takeaways
The survey covered six markets, and tapped respondents who play for at least one hour a week on any platform, Gray explained. They ended up with four segments: the casual gamer, two separate midcore groups (one leaning to the casual side and the other more serious), and those truly hardcore players. The survey dove deep into player sentiments, but Gray highlighted four major 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 enthusiastic about it, but again, that response varies across the spectrum of gamers.
- Gamers are already involved in the metaverse and adjacent-technology experiences, with about a third or so using VR and AR, and almost half using cross-platform play.
- Toward the hardcore gaming side of the spectrum, players are excited about playing games, while casual gamers are far more interested in non-gaming metaverse experiences like virtual travel.
- Gamers are as familiar with crypto and NFTS as they are of the metaverse, but sentiment is not as positive.
Charting 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 intentional in the way respondents were segmented, from casual to midcore to hardcore, Pamboris explained.
“It was based on soft motivational questions, attitudes, reasons why people want to play games, what platforms they played. There were a few factual questions in there too,” he said. “We wanted to envision that spectrum so we could then look at the differences.”
This segmentation, as well as cutting the data with verticals like age, gender and so on, also let them identify key personas, which makes it easier for the survey audience — the developers and businesses that cater to these gaming populations — to create action points.
Understanding your cohort — and the broader audience
One of the most urgent action points is something developers already know, but it’s something to keep front and center, Lion said.
“Gamers are not a monolith,” Lion said. “More and more we’re finding the broad diversity across gaming, people even if they don’t necessarily identify as gamers, but they do play games and interact, right through to people who really do identify as part of the gaming community.”
And while the industry talks about the metaverse, turning it into a buzzword and associating it with VR and blockchain, the consumer world is on a very different level, Gray said. The majority of people who are gaming aren’t playing Fortnite — they’re moms playing Words with Friends every day, and never considering themselves a gamer.
“They don’t even know what to think about the stuff. It’s important for us to consider this,” he added. “You need to be thinking about the metaverse in a way that’s consistent with what your players’ expectations are. I know I’m the consumer researcher saying you need to do consumer research, but that’s sort of 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 pointed out.
“The core and console side will help influence us, but I think it’s really more about the casual gamers that will lead to its mass adoption,” he said.
Understanding what these groups want from the metaverse is essential, Pamboris agreed — and key to not leaving an entire demographic behind. Core gamers and midcore gamers are much further along on the adoption scale, he said, but there will be a point where the casual gamers recognize that an increasingly commonplace technology has left them out entirely.
“All signs point to the slow evolution, and when we are talking metaverse features for developers, then they need to be looking at the games that they’re making, and they need to be saying, what might become expected in the next few years that is kind of new now?” he said.
In the PC and console environment, it’s easy to envision that technology, since cross plays are already common and players will expect support for that. Or it could be something similar to Epic’s recent move, that combined perks and purchases between Rocket League and Fortnite for the Fortnite Crew subscribers. Casual gamers might soon expect to be able to share scores, talk to other players, share tips and maybe even rewards and lives in the short to medium term.
Ultimately, success in the metaverse space depends on keeping in touch with who your players are, their motivations for gaming, and their expectations. But don’t over pivot for casuals and think that they’re looking for Candy Crush VR.
“A more correct way of thinking developmental cycles ahead is to implement persistent social features and make casual gaming more of a connected experience — these are probably closer to where you want to be thinking about it right now,” Gray explained.
On the core side, they’re already familiar with metaverse concepts; after all, World of Warcraft’s been around for more than 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. “Don’t ever pivot on the crypto tech stack. Focus on making good games. Focus on good game play experiences and let that evolve as it comes.”
In the end, as gaming culture becomes ever more mainstream, the promise of the metaverse will become similarly mainstream, Gray said.
“The future is gaming becoming more and more integrated into our lives,” he said, “and through this, the idea of a consistent digital world will evolve naturally.”
Don’t miss the full discussion — watch the entire discussion here.