For everybody who spends a lot of time in digital worlds – for example via gaming and socializing in-game – the concept of the metaverse , a virtual world where physical and digital worlds come together, is nothing new. In-game hangouts in massively multiplayer online games (MMO) and other multiplayer games have been a vital part of the gaming community for years, and the activity received a boost during the COVID-19 pandemic when people turned to online worlds to connect with each other. Overall, these online game hangouts are an important step along the journey to metaverse gaming.

Media consumption in online worlds as an intro to metaverse gaming

Media consumption in digital worlds is a big factor driving user engagement and signups for metaverse gaming platforms. Online multiplayer worlds like Roblox , Fortnite , and Minecraft have become popular spaces for gamers to get together and socialize with non-gaming activities being a significant part of the online gaming environments . Approximately 60 percent of gamers in the United States have participated in non-gaming activities in 2021 , with virtual recreations of social or life events within games being the most popular one. Online hangouts where gamers watched in-game movies, TV shows, and previews together were ranked second.

Roblox – the household name of metaverse gaming

Gaming, music, brands – Roblox does it all. As of the first quarter of 2022, there were over 54.1 million daily active users of Roblox games worldwide. While the majority of Roblox players are children , the company has also begun to launch features to appeal to older users, such as age-restricted parts of the platform that can host content for adults. Roblox has also started to hold events like David Guetta or Lil Nas X concerts with the aim to attract older audiences. So far, this strategy seems to have paid off as the company reported that in Q3 2021, 28 percent of the top 1,000 Roblox experiences had users aged 13 years and older, compared to just 10 percent in the year-ago quarter.
In March 2022, Roblox launched Spotify Island as an “audio oasis” where users could interact with artists, complete interactive quests, and unlock exclusive content. The brand collaboration between the gaming platform and the streaming giant highlights the importance of music as an important competitive advantage for user engagement. Luxury brands are also trying to claim a slice of the metaverse gaming cake – after a time-limited presence last year, Italian fashion house Gucci has now launched a permanent space in Roblox called Gucci Town featuring mini-games, a café, and a virtual store where players can purchase virtual Gucci gear for their Roblox avatar.

Fortnite – from battle royale to royale island hangouts

Fortnite is a free-to-play battle royale game published by Epic Games. No stranger to the power of in-game events themselves, Fortnite has hosted many high-profile concerts on its in-game party royale island with mainstream artists such as Travis Scott and Ariana Grande drawing millions of in-game viewers. In October 2021, Fortnite launched the Soundwave Series of in-game musical shows and experiences featuring artists from around the world.
Apart from its concerts, Fortnite also enables gamers to participate in massive, narrative in-game events during the launch or end of a Fortnite season. For example, after the release of the film Avengers: Infinity War , Epic ran a Marvel-sponsored event that featured the Infinity Gauntlet on the Fortnite map. This has spawned a whole range of in-game promotional content like map features or cosmetic items from other movies and series such as Star Wars, Stranger Things, Birds of Prey, and The Matrix . Other non-gameplay-related promotional events have included music video premieres (BTS – Dynamite ), a short film festival (“Short Nite”), movie live streams (“Movie Nite”), first-look trailer launches (Christopher Nolan’s Tenet ), and a special movie preview ( Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker ).
In 2018, Epic Games launched Fortnite Creative, a sandbox game mode where each player has access to a private, persistent island where they can create buildings and structures as they wish.

Other metaverse and VR gaming developments

If the October 2021 rebrand wasn’t a hint enough, Meta Platforms, formerly known as Facebook Inc, is also betting big on the metaverse. In December 2021, Meta released Horizon Worlds, a free-to-play online VR game with an integrated game creation system for Oculus Rift S and Oculus Quest 2. Meta’s metaverse gaming ambitions have so far flown largely under the radar of the general public - according to an online survey conducted in March 2022, 55 percent of internet users in the United States had not seen, read, or heard anything about Horizon Worlds .
Less high profile and on the more casual side, PC gaming platform Steam also hosts a growing selection of VR games where players can create custom avatars and build virtual worlds to interact with each other. Casual cross-platform title Rec Room had 5,774 peak concurrent players in April 2022.

Decentraland – taking metaverse gaming one step further

Created in 2015 and opened to the public in 2020, Decentraland is one of the most prominent browser-based virtual world platforms which allows users to buy LAND, a non-fungible token (NFT), within the platform . These LAND tokens are segmented into parcels uniquely identified by their cartesian coordinates (similar to buying building land in the real world).
Users can build virtual properties and sceneries and explore the habitats of other users. The Decentraland ecosystem is based on the Ethereum blockchain and incorporates NFT and cryptocurrencies in its virtual world. The economic motivations of digital asset ownership in Decentraland take online role-playing and exploration of blockchain gaming in a different direction than Roblox or Fortnite.

Which technologies are necessary for metaverse gaming?

Whereas still relatively niche due to hardware constraints, there is already a steadily growing AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) gaming segment. The VR and AR gaming market is an important part of metaverse gaming, as VR headsets and related accessories are a must for fully immersive experiences. Global revenue within the VR gaming industry is forecast to grow from 0.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2017 to 2.4 billion U.S. dollars by 2024. However, only 18 percent of online adults in the United States owned a VR headset as of March 2022.
During a 2022 survey, 27 percent of responding game developers worldwide stated that they were currently developing games for the Oculus Quest virtual reality headset, making it the most popular VR platform for gaming . Of course, not all VR gaming titles are metaverse games, but the mainstream adoption of VR gaming hardware will also be beneficial for metaverse games.

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