Exploring Virtual Worlds - a captivating conversation on ARK Invest's podcast
Why virtual worlds, why now, and why it matters to brands
Hey, Yon here! Welcome to Into The Metaverse. My mission is to help you understand what is the metaverse, how it will impact our lives, and what opportunities it unlocks. If you are a marketer, entrepreneur, investor or simply a curious professional, Into The Metaverse is for you. Subscribe to get access to every letter and podcast show that I publish.
I'm a long time fan of ARK Invest, the investment firm led by Cathie Wood, with their consistently bullish take on the innovation economy, backing it with best-in-class research, including their annual Big Ideas report and the podcast For Your Innovation, of which I'm an avid listener.
This is why I'm honored to have been invited by Nicholas Grous and Angela Dalton to be on ARK's podcast to speak about Virtual Worlds and the role they play in shaping the next era of the consumer Internet, the emergence of a metaverse, and the work we do at Supersocial to help power this new era with cutting-edge products and services.
I hope you'll enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed having the conversation. Access it here through these links: Web / Apple / Spotify / Google.
Summary of the episode
Introduction to Supersocial
During the episode, we started with a discussion of how Supersocial was founded in June 2020 and rapidly emerged as a leading developer, publisher and technology company focused on virtual worlds. These virtual worlds are the next frontier of digital environments where new generations (kids, youth, young adults) will, and already are, spending significant portions of their time. In addition to socialization and self-expression possibilities through games in virtual worlds, there are other categories beyond gaming which are powered by the immersion (sense of presence) that users experience in virtual worlds. Supersocial helps make these virtual worlds iconic and authentic, and help turn them into businesses.
“arming the rebels who will build next generation experiences”
How Supersocial Operates Today
Initially, Supersocial began building on the Roblox platform because of the strong technical infrastructure it offers and its extraordinary community of users. It allowed Supersocial to “prototype in the metaverse” because of Roblox’s expansive reach and ability to bring people together on its platform, with its own economy, while providing monetization opportunities. It helped Supersocial prove its original use case, which is that the 3D virtual worlds are the future of human interaction on the Internet.
While Roblox is pushing its engine forward, Fortnite Creative is another platform where next-generation games are being built. Fortnite Creative and UEFN combine the marketplace with the ability to build next-generation games, experiences, and virtual worlds for new audiences, while in a technical environment where they can push the boundaries with the Unreal Engine Editor integrated into Fortnite Creative. Epic Games’ gradual democratization of the Unreal Engine within the Fortnite Creative ecosystem is leading to games and experiences which can be rapidly iterated in scalable marketplace environments (similar to Roblox).
The challenge Fortnite Creative faces is that the perception of the platform is that of a first-person shooter game. On UEFN / FNC 2.0, the experiences being created will need to be more diverse and go much beyond first-person shooter games. There is an amazing opportunity in the coming 18-36 months for Supersocial to help Epic Games build next-generation games and solidify Fortnite Creative as a key platform and marketplace alongside Roblox.
The new internet homepage for the next generation
Supersocial isn’t a gaming studio. Instead, its work is reflecting a shift in human behavior. The world now has its first metaverse-native generation which is pushing the boundaries of the internet and what’s considered to be mainstream. Generational adoption of virtual worlds by both the (current) Roblox generation and the (previous) Minecraft generation will drive the expansion of the metaverse and the experiences it offers. We expect that in the next 10+ years, there will be an inflection point at which we will see a large amount of people who care about and invest as much in their virtual identities as their physical identities.
Authentic branded experiences: persistent rather than transactional relationships
Supersocial works with brands on a 360-model. Majority of brands view virtual worlds as a place to promote their brand and products which they already sell and monetize in the physical world. These brands generally need to be onboarded and be educated on the nature of these platforms and how to build a virtual world which can become a sustainable business versus a marketing initiative (only). They consider virtual worlds to be a part of their marketing mix, which is a “V1” way of thinking about virtual worlds.
A small portion of brands is already focusing on the “V2” option. This involves building something which is a business asset, and / or where you create IP. Brands have an amazing opportunity to be key components of millions of users’ experiences. These experiences include self-expression through 3D avatars, and helping entrepreneurs own, operate, and monetize their virtual worlds. They are ahead of the curve with consumers because of the authentic, immersive environments they create.
A great example of a successful branded experience is the partnership between NARS Cosmetics and Supersocial on Roblox. It demonstrated the technical and creative innovation possible in virtual worlds, and it was the #1 branded beauty virtual world on Roblox.
The prestige beauty company created a virtual world in which, for the first time, players could fully customize their avatars’ faces in unlimited ways. There were even instances of players who designed their looks virtually, then bought the corresponding products IRL and posted comparison photos of each version on social media platforms. This type of interaction also leads to (inadvertent) advertising for the brand, which will be very important in the changing marketplace. This also supports the long-term vision of Supersocial, which is creating virtual worlds where the brand’s essence is the cornerstone for the experience, and the brand resonates with the community in an elevated way. We also think it reflects how we will see e-commerce transactions linked to virtual worlds in the next 3-5 years.
Branding engagement can be invigorated through games and virtual worlds. There is an emotional connection between people and brands, and virtual worlds can generate continuous cycles of interactions between them.
“For this new generation, virtual worlds are not forms of escapism; They are extensions and elevations of real life for their users”
Yon is the founder of CEO of Supersocial, a company that designs, builds, promotes, operates and grows cutting-edge virtual worlds on Roblox and beyond. Samantha Krauser helped draft this letter. Thank you for subscribing to Into The Metaverse. We grow when readers who appreciate our work spread the word.