Metaverse…the new Buzzword that now taking speed in Marketing Channels these days. „The next big thing“ People that went to a virtual environment, spending time, having fun, doing stuff that you usually do in the real world like going to a concert, meeting people, friends or family….without even leaving your home. Sounds too good to be true. Mark Zuckerberg even seems to go all-in on this idea of an environment that provides a kind of 3D or 2D world where you can do all this stuff, including shopping. And this is where the Marketeers start getting interested. A new channel for getting in touch with consumers, even a new sale-channel yes indeed this can be and should be of interest for all companies. The thing is: We had that already, we have that already…at least in a let’s say „marketing perspective“. And it failed.
Working in advertising, it’s part of the job to scout for potential new channels where you can connect a brand with the customer. And while you can not escape the „Metaverse“ these days because it’s nearly daily. I’m not convinced. And let me tell you why….two words: Second Life.
Maybe you are too young to know, maybe you forgot, but about 15 years ago, there was a huge hype rushing through the web: An open world where you can get a fully customizable avatar, where you can meet people, have parties, and even go to concerts (U2 gave a concert there…I mean: U2!!! Not some no-name Coverband. The one and only U2.)…AND you can spend and earn money that you can change into real hard-earned Dollars/Euros. And I remember that hype pretty well because I was right in the middle of it. I spent hours in this world, I spent money in this world, I had a job in Second Life I had an apartment in Second Life and I met people I later met in real life there. I was fascinated by this world and its opportunities. It went that far that one of my Diploma-Essay topics was „Marketing opportunities in Second Life – how companies can monetize in a digital environment.“ And I was not the only one that was thinking in such a direction back in the day. Mostly every big company had some sort of place in Second Life (e.g. BMW, Mercedes, Adidas. American Apparel. Autodesk. Aviva (invite only) BBC Film Network. Belgacom. Ben & Jerry’s. Brazil Telecom), big newspapers (e.g. New York Times) all over the globe set up newsrooms had a special edition only covering topics about things that were going on in Second Life. An immense amount of money was spent those days on this idea of creating a digital environment that covers a lot of human needs in regard to pleasure, entertainment, and social interaction. One question: Have you heard about Second Life in the news lately? Or within the last couple of years? No? Well, this might give you an answer to where Second Life is today. I´ve been there lately just to check out if my avatar is still there and I checked my old bookmarks. Places that were crowded back in the days with hundreds of people. Today a few souls are still there but most of those places are empty or just do not exist anymore. My buddy list is empty. None of my fellow people from that period seem to have an account anymore. But this is just a subjective perspective.
Let´s check some numbers:
The number of active users and registered accounts for example:
According to Wikipedia in Oct 2006 had 1 Mio account. In 2014 around 22.8 Mio accounts were registered. According to https://qrcaviews.org/ in 2018 57 Mio Accounts were created. (Source: https://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2018/04/second-life-15th-anniversary-infographic.html )
And if you check https://api.secondlife.com/datafeeds/homepage.txt 64 Mio accounts were registered by today.
Now compared to that latest number the logged-in users were a little bit more than 46.000 in total when I did the snapshot.
64mio accounts vs. 46k logged-in users at the time I took a look. Not very impressive from my point of view. Let´s be real on that. Second Life is still alive … as a niche for some diehard fans who still believe in this idea of escaping reality. But that’s it.
Another example needed?
Let´s have a look at some other (sort of) Metaverse: World of Warcraft
Q2 2017: 46 Mio active players
Q2 2021: 26 Mio active players
One big thing seems not to be considered in all this: The human factor
I was asking at the end of a Webinar Session with one of the companies that provides „Metaverse“-Solutions „What is the difference between Metaverse and the Second Life phenomenon in your point of view?“ …I received only a short „Tech has improved“ reply. No doubt, Tech improved massively within the last 15 years. Storage is no dealbreaker anymore, traffic speed as well no dealbreaker, and especially within the last 2 years, digital gets a massive boost. We have mobile devices that are way more capable than PCs back in the day. A new generation is growing up spending more time online than any other generation before. Fortnite, Animal Crossing and so many other (mostly game-related) platforms provide an opportunity to play, have fun, and spend money in this kind of digital environment. But this generation that is pulled in front and is praised as the potential key for this Metaverse revolution is the same that crowds TikTok. A platform that compresses information in short bits of information of a max of 3 minutes. That is constructed to be a recipient platform that has a minority of content producers and a vast majority of consuming people. I have strong doubts that this generation is capable of building such behavior where it gets to the point where it gets interesting for companies to make a profit out of it.
What I want to point out is: There is always a time for some new sort of platform. It will rise, increase its number of members….but then the people get bored and move on.
Yes, Mark Zuckerberg may put his bet on this kind of Internet 3.0….but in my point of view it´s more a move knowing that his platform may have a steady increase in numbers but competition esp. in the younger generation is getting harder.
Conclusion: The Metaverse will come (back) big…but it´s not what marketers will expect
The idea of building a digital environment where people can interact more naturally is not a bad thing. Don’t get me wrong! I find it pretty exciting that maybe one day instead of going to the office I will put on some sort of optical device and sit in my office together with Steve from San Francisco, Naomi sitting in Seoul and Francis sitting in Cape Town and we are developing the next campaign like we were in the same building. This will be a breakthrough in the way we work and I hope that I can be part of this soon, but in 2021 and within the next couple of years you won’t get to the point where marketing will get this „new sales channel“ that is promised and hyped by today.
Happy to be proven wrong, happy to discuss 😉