The Biggest Challenge for Web3 Virtual Worlds

In a few weeks time we'll publish our Q3 update for Metaverse monthly active users. Q2 2023 saw the Metaverse market hit 520m MAUs.  That's a hugely impressive number and as a sector overall the Metaverse is on a strong upward trajectory.

However, there's a chasm in the market that presents major hurdles to the 100+ companies creating on-chain virtual worlds. The chart below shows unique MAU numbers by age for The Metaverse.

As clearly seen, the largest user group by age is currently 12 and 13-year-olds. This is the largest age cohort of users, driven heavily by the Metaverse monoliths of Roblox, Minecraft and Fortnite. 83.5% of the current 520m unique monthly users are under 18 years old. This represents 434m users. The balance, 13.2% accounts for 68m users.

Why are these worlds so popular? Well, they are fun places to be. Users can create content in the form of virtual goods - an activity hugely enjoyed by the creators of this content and heavily consumed by the other residents.

This creates a thriving and ever-growing in-world economy. These platforms are also built towards the target market from a visual perspective.

Roblox and Minecraft use block-style graphics as opposed to attempting realism - and this is fine because the sweet spot user age cares more about functionality than form. They're not concerned with having avatars that look like them or a world built in high-fidelity.  Fortnite has more realistic avatars and environments but it's the gameplay that brings the users in and retains them as opposed to the visuals.

Why don't older users visit the Metaverse as much as younger users? Well, older users are to a degree put-off from the larger virtual worlds because they are full of kids. That's fair enough.

Another reason is that there's currently a low number of virtual worlds aimed at older audiences. Second Life and IMVU are two of the market leaders in the older user segment for browser-based VWs with Rec Room and ,VRChat currently holding the baton for virtual reality worlds.

So let's get into the biggest problem facing all of the virtual worlds built on blockchains. These companies rely on users having a crypto wallet in order to register an account and engage in the primary mechanics of their worlds - namely land purchase, NFT trading and virtual goods exchange. Users without a crypto-wallet either have a limited user experience or are not allowed to enter the world at all.

This is the major hurdle facing blockchain metaverse companies. The vast majority of the active market user base are not legally allowed to use the tools required (crypto wallets) to actively engage and participate in the platforms being built.

So, the biggest risk here is the creation of dozens of blockchain virtual worlds that are empty. The people that want to use them legally can not and the people that were expected to use them are not interested.

What can be done to overcome this market chasm? In essence, there are three alternative strategies...

Option One: Virtual Worlds don't need to be built on a blockchain

Sure, having NFTs attached to virtual goods and assets is an interesting and in some cases valuable use-case but it's not a show-stopper.

The key aspects of a 'Metaverse' experience are presence, persistence and social interaction - being inside a virtual environment with the ability to engage and interact with other people in real-time. You don't need a blockchain to facilitate these key elements.

So, for companies looking to create Metaverse platforms that address the largest target possible, it's more important to think about the user experience and 'reason for being there' as opposed to the integration of NFTs or having a dedicated token. By insisting the users can only join a virtual world if they have a crypto wallet a massive part of the current market is instantly excluded.

Option Two: Allow dual entry for registration

By this we mean allow under 18s without crypto wallets full or as much access as possible to the in-world features.

A lot of companies developing new blockchain virtual worlds appear to be more focused on the revenue generated by initial land sales rather than developing compelling and unique user experiences. This is worrying because the end product is an empty virtual world that no one wants to visit and then as a result of this the value of land plummets. Everyone loses.

So, let the kids in, make the experience unique and interesting, have gaming and gamification mechanics in place wherever possible and make the crypto and non-crypto experience as close as possible.

Option Three: Build for the older market

If the question of a virtual world being built on a blockchain is not up for debate then the developers of the platform need to get creative and build for the older market, but what does this mean?

Firstly, don't be a clone of other existing virtual worlds. We do not need another Sandbox or Decentraland. Those two companies already own that part of the market being first entrants and proactively putting barriers to entry in place. Saying your upcoming virtual world will allow land sales and content creation is not good enough. What is the compelling reason to join the world?

Secondly, think about the graphical treatment and visual strategy. Avatars need to be fully customisable, higher fidelity and more realistic. This doesn't just mean having lifelike human styled avatars. It also means that if someone wants to be a realistic-looking dolphin or dragon then let them. Also, create an ownable and stylised brand identity 'look and feel' inside the world.

Thirdly, choose your genre or theme and build everything else around it. The reason there are several companies developing music-themed virtual worlds is that it's a popular genre with both creation and consumption elements plus real-world artists and brands willing to participate. The experiences and mechanics of these worlds are being built exclusively around the theme of music.

So we need virtual worlds themed to fishing, history, tourism, sports, book reading, debate, the environment, relaxation, language learning, movies, TV shows, architecture, new technologies, ok you get it - they need to be based around a genre, topic or interest.

This will be the critical success factor for upcoming blockchain virtual worlds.

Related articles:

Nic Mitham Metaverse Interview from Monaco

The 7 Point Plan for Marketing in the Metaverse

Point One: Have a Plan

Point Two: Design is an Output, not an Input

Point Three: Integrate

Point Four: Giving is Better than Receiving

Point Five: Keep the Seats Warm

Point Six: Stoke the Fire

Point Six: Cross-Promote

The Metaverse Universe Q2 2023

McDonald's enters the Metaverse

The Top 100 Web Virtual Worlds

Related Posts

No items found.