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Many media execs have been essentially forced to learn about the metaverse over the past few months given the barrage of coverage the topic has received (thanks, Zuckerberg!). But this group should know that the subject remains foreign to many average consumers.
That’s according to data from a survey conducted by Hub Entertainment Research and provided exclusively to Variety Intelligence Platform.
In Hub’s survey, which was conducted online Dec. 4-18 among U.S. consumers aged 13-74, 46% of respondents had never heard of the metaverse.
Yes, it’s true that 54% of respondents said they’d heard “something” or “a lot” about the metaverse. But many respondents who had heard of the metaverse signaled that the term still meant little to them.
For example, of respondents who had heard of the metaverse before, 38% said they were “not very confident” in describing what the metaverse is to someone else. And 34% of this group said they were “somewhat confident” in describing what the metaverse is.
The results above indicate that the marketing materials relating to media companies’ efforts to engage with consumers in popular virtual worlds (like Fortnite or Roblox) may benefit from a brief explanation of what the metaverse is and why they view it as important or potentially beneficial to consumers.
That’s because many consumers currently see the term “metaverse” and don’t quite grasp the concept of it, Hub’s data above suggests. That’s also because after being given a brief description of the metaverse, many respondents were either indifferent toward the idea of the metaverse or outright against it.
Using a slider on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing loving the idea and 1 representing hating it, 32% of Hub’s total respondent base rated their sentiment toward the metaverse between 0 and 2 after being given a brief description of it.
Of course, you might want to blame that sentiment on the specific description, listed below, that Hub gave respondents:
“A virtual world where people can “meet” and interact with each other through the use of three-dimensional avatars. Virtual reality and augmented reality technology would allow people to feel they’re actually physically present with others, at concerts, parties, sports events, workplaces, in the middle of video games, at other peoples’ homes, in cities around the world, etc.—without actually being there. Companies are working to develop this type of technology, and some estimate it will take at least 5 to 10 years before it’s fully developed.”
But that description, at least by our estimation, is actually quite fair and succinct. Importantly, it doesn’t fall into the trap that some do when trying to quickly explain the metaverse — equating the metaverse to only VR.
VIP+ describes the metaverse as something that will be a shared virtual space where all can interact via digital avatars navigating a three-dimensional environment.
But more broadly, it doesn’t seem wrong to describe the metaverse as less of a particular virtual place and more of an umbrella term denoting the digital experiences we will all eventually have when technology (including augmented and virtual reality) allows for us to interact in ways that are currently impossible (like playing a game on a platform with no cap for concurrent users).
But the period where we have those sorts of digital experiences could still be far off.
At least VC firm Griffin Gaming Partners managing director Peter Levin signaled as much.
When asked if the metaverse was already here in an interview for our December “Metaverse & Media” special report, Levin replied, “I wouldn’t even describe it as the first pitch of the first inning of a nine-inning baseball game. I would more characterize it as we have the equipment to start playing the game. We’ve got a great selection of bats, balls, bases, gloves, uniforms, umpires, the fans and the stadium, but that is how early it is. This is nascent days, which is wildly exciting if you think about how compelling some of these foundational blocks we are playing with already are.”
Supporting Levin’s view is that just 25% of all respondents in Hub’s survey owned a VR headset. However, that figure did increase when examining VR headset ownership only among respondents who had heard of the metaverse before.
Before we ascend closer to “Ready Player One”-like heights, media companies looking to get mileage out of their activations on platforms like Roblox or Fortnite could be well served by targeting the marketing of these efforts toward men, which exhibited more excitement about the metaverse in Hub’s study than women did.
A recent example of an entertainment company substantially bracing for the arrival of the metaverse (i.e., not just activating in Roblox one time) is when the investment arm of the NFL in early November participated in a $150 million funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz for game technology studio Mythical Games. The studio is developing a game engine aimed at helping developers create NFT marketplaces for their games.
Meanwhile, NASCAR in early November launched a digital car, a NASCAR HQ skyscraper and NASCAR avatar apparel in Roblox’s “Jailbreak” game. The launch is part of a multiyear plan for NASCAR to enter Roblox “in a big way,” said NASCAR managing director of gaming and esports Nick Rend.
These sorts of metaverse-minded efforts are generally going to be more accepted by younger demographics, Hub’s data suggests.
For example, while 45% of survey respondents aged 35 or older indicated hating the idea of the metaverse, that figure was just 9% and 10% for respondents aged 13-24 and 25-34, respectively.
That’s a good thing for media businesses which remain focused on finding platforms that will help them reach those ditching traditional media. VIP+ analysis found that In Q3 of 2021, the U.S. pay TV industry saw a total of 412K subscribers cancel service (-0.5%), versus the total number of subscribers in Q2, with a total of 75.9 million remaining in the system.
Keep in mind that there doesn’t currently seem to be one clear winning way for media businesses to supplement their reach on VR platforms.
One-fourth of respondents in Hub’s survey said they were “very interested” in attending a movie premiere in VR, but that was only slightly higher than the percentage of respondents who said that they were “very interested” in attending a concert or TV series screening in VR.