I’ve spent the better part of the past six months researching the metaverse, and I’ve learned what’s possible. It’s staggering. The opportunities are boundless. For me, metaverse is where we can be ourselves, express ourselves and get together with the like-minded to build and exchange value.
But I’ve noticed many brands have a limited vision of what it is and what it can be. They seem to focus excessively on the tech, maybe envisioning the image that often accompanies metaverse articles with a person wearing a VR headset playing with tech’s latest offering.
Indeed, tech is all around the metaverse—the engine behind it, the enabler of this special space—but businesses are really missing the point if they only focus on the technology.
The exciting offerings for businesses start to appear when technologies combine with creativity to build value for and with communities in this virtual world. Here’s how.
Safer, like-minded communities and micro-communities
Community, for me, is a large congregation of teenage friends playing Fortnite and connecting via audio through Discord, a Reddit thread, or an interest group, or even groups collectively working together to achieve a purpose or build something.
And the metaverse provides unique opportunities for building safer micro-communities.
Learning from the past, metaverse marketplaces and platforms are starting to provide inclusive and open engagement for their users through the formation of virtual participatory and inclusive micro-communities—collectives of meaningful relationships, bound by rules and responsibilities.
The phenomenon of online harassment and abuse explains this well. A 2021 report published by Pew Research Center reveals that 41% of U.S. adults have personally experienced online harassment. The report notes that younger adults are especially prone to facing harassing behaviours that are more serious. In this survey, roughly two-thirds of adults under 30 (64%) have experienced online harassment.
Getting harassed online has real-life consequences beyond feeling attacked. It fuels distrust and disengagement. And this is where alternatives are emerging in the metaverse.
Let’s take Rec Room—an app that focuses on playing together while letting players have a lot of creative freedom. It is cross platform and therefore accessible from VR headsets, smartphones (both iOS and Android), consoles and computers. On Rec Room, it is possible to create games, thanks to an integrated game creation system, and customize any content (from rooms to virtual objects and interactive maps). Players can currently reach up to level 50 in Rec Room.
Players in the Rec Room have a space bubble they can configure. One may block individual players by using the stop gesture or navigating to the player’s profile via the people menu. Blocked players are automatically muted and are faded out. They are also blocked from joining the custom rooms of the player who has blocked them. Moreover, Rec Room’s matchmaking system is instructed never to match the player with the one blocked, ever again.
With 75 million + lifetime users, and over 29 million monthly active users, Rec Room also holds the unique distinction of paying back creators on its platform more than a million dollars for their contributions in Q1 of FY22.
Such safe and like-minded micro-communities open opportunities for brands to reach all customers. Given that consumers are willing to speak their minds in such collectives, companies stand a greater chance of receiving more authentic data and feedback on their products, services and experiences. Moreover, companies can be more open and creative with these micro-communities. No wonder highly respected brands like NBA are collaborating with Rec Room.
Brand co-creation with communities
The Metaverse and Web3 provide opportunities for businesses to deliver on their brand promises. Enterprises can tease out the different lives consumers want to live and develop relevant value propositions in the metaverse.
For example, in 2021, Dior partnered with the Zepeto community to create digital makeup looks and with Ready Player Me, to launch its exclusive fragrances with an interactive experience. This experience allowed users to create an avatar and see it come to life across various environments.
While we could focus on the tech behind Dior’s movements in the metaverse, that’s really beside the point. What’s important to focus on is the outcome Dior achieved by combining creativity and technology; they created a micro-community of like-minded customers within the larger Zepeto community, willing to virtually collaborate with Dior in its journey of innovation.
Importantly, end-consumers need not be the only community in the metaverse. Businesses can get a community of product designers and engineers in the metaverse to build their products with greater agility and accuracy.
And specific platforms are already coming to their aid. Nvidia—also popularly known as the metaverse for the engineering community—has opened doors for Omniverse Enterprise to everyone. The Omniverse Enterprise helps engineering and design teams narrate stories in imaginative 3D worlds and allows them to collaborate in real time, from anywhere, using their preferred 3D design tools, enabling shorter design cycles and superior final quality.
Unlock the value of the metaverse
Metaverse gets valuable for businesses at the intersection of tech, creativity, and community. Without these three, a user could meander aimlessly in this “brave new world.” But if we consider the possibilities when you add creativity and community, the metaverse may help us find ways of building a safer and better world.
I want to thank Katie Burke, at the Metaverse Continuum Business group for her suggestions to this post.