New poll by Improbable shows that the metaverse is perceived as inevitable and the political fight for its future is already on

01.20.22

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To better understand attitudes towards the metaverse and what it may ultimately look like, Improbable polled those who are building it today: gamers and game developers. From the metaverse’s economy to its incentive structure and political constitution, their collected responses give a clearer picture of the multiple forms it could take and what exactly is at stake for society.

London, 20 January 2022, 14:00 GMT: Research released today by Improbable, the British software company providing the critical infrastructure powering virtual worlds and the metaverse, suggests that while gamers and developers are bullish about how soon the metaverse will become a reality, they are divided over what it may look like and what opportunities it will provide. From entertainment to socializing to unlocking new sources of revenue, the poll, which surveyed 2,000 gamers and 800 game developers across the United Kingdom and United States, leads to four main findings that will define future priorities and debates around the metaverse as it gets built.

1. The rising generation of gamers expects the metaverse to be the next big step, and expects it to emerge fast.

45% of respondents think it will take between one and five years for the metaverse to come to fruition, though older developers are slightly more sceptical, with only 38% sharing that opinion. The United Kingdom is particularly bullish on the metaverse, with at least 10% of gamers and developers predicting it will take less than a year for the metaverse to exist.

Meanwhile, younger respondents are even more sanguine. 61% of American gamers aged 18 to 24 expect to be able to spend time in the metaverse within five years from now. Only 8% see the metaverse as being more than ten years away. Overall, there is little place for doubt about the near-term arrival of the metaverse: 90% of American and 93% of British gamers believe that it will be populated and accessible within ten years, with only 1% predicting that it will never become a reality.

2. A war of worlds is already brewing in the metaverse as the two visions of it as a common good or distributed power platform clash.

When asked who the metaverse should belong to and what model would best fit the needs of its future inhabitants, American gamers are split in a way that is reminiscent of real-world politics. 41% think that the best way is to have not one, but multiple metaverses coexist, each owned by a private entity in charge of nurturing it and competing with its peers to attract users. On the other hand, 47% would rather see the metaverse emerge as a common good, inspired from the Internet’s early days. The research shows that political leanings influence how people view the development of the metaverse, with traditionally more left-leaning US states preferring an “open source metaverse”. People from Republican-leaning states are more open to the idea of individually owned metaverses established and run by corporate entities.

The diverging attitudes between Europe and the United States can also be felt on this topic, with only 32% of players from the United Kingdom favoring multiple competing metaverses, reflecting Europe’s uneasiness towards a potential capture of the metaverse by dominant “big tech” companies.

Opinions also differ on both sides of the Atlantic regarding who would be best positioned to define and own the metaverse in the future. American gamers see the gaming industry and traditional “big tech” corporations as equally likely to come out ahead, while in the United Kingdom, 29% think that the odds favor the gaming industry, compared to only 18% for large technology companies such as Apple and Microsoft. Over 35% of players would be happy to earn money by selling their personal data. They are also the ones who are more open to the metaverse being owned by the big corporate giants, which could provide more economic opportunities.

Herman Narula, CEO of Improbable, said: “There are some things that we need to understand and agree on collectively as the metaverse becomes a reality. Ensuring fair and equal access, as well as benefiting from an agreed form of currency and payment enabling the trading of valuable goods, will be crucial. The scope of expectations ranging from new ways to make money to reinventing a way to form society is something that we need, as an industry, to address responsibly. We’re excited to be at the cliff edge for a wave of new innovation in relation to the metaverse and are looking forward to the ride.”

3. Play to earn: the metaverse will alter the rules of the economic game for good and may set the stage for the next wave of cryptocurrency adoption.

When thinking about what the economy might look like in the metaverse, gamers turn the traditional model upside down. The current physical and digital worlds’ most dominant commercial activities, advertising and trade between parties, score the lowest among a selection of potential ways of earning money in the metaverse. While only one in three players say that they would spontaneously consider trading with other people (34%) or investing to earn money in the metaverse (36%), 57% claim they would happily “play to earn”.

When it comes to payments, in-game tokens would be the currency of choice for gamers (47%), but cryptocurrency remains a very close second (45%). There is a slight preference in the United Kingdom for either unregulated currency like crypto or a metaverse-specific currency (42%) rather than government-controlled currency (37%), showing centrally controlled fiat currencies are not as trusted in this region in a setting like the metaverse. The key requirement for currency in the metaverse is that it is transferable across multiple metaverses, with 76% of gamers citing this as a key principle of success.

4. The value to be found in the metaverse comes in great part from human potentialities and experience, making it bigger than the mere economic avenues it opens.

There is a divergence of opinion when looking at what opportunities the metaverse will provide and it seems these fall on either side of a philosophical divide. Almost one in four (24%) would use the metaverse to earn money, and 39% of players would do so by purchasing virtual property and renting it out. Over 35% are also happy to earn money by selling their personal data. They tend to be more favorable to the possibility of the metaverse being owned by multiple private entities.

At the other end of the scale, a significant number just want to play games (57%), hang out with friends (28%), have an open-source metaverse (47%) and for celebrities to drive its creation (8%).

Lincoln Wallen, Improbable’s Chief Technology Officer, commented: “The games and entertainment industries have experienced multiple disruptions over the past 3 decades, always leading to vastly increased scale and value for consumers and creators alike. From 8-bit consoles to modern machines, from tethered devices to mobile gaming and streaming services, each transition is bringing radical shifts in business and operating models from packaged goods, to downloadable content and now free-to-play with micro transactions. Early movers have typically been the winners in such transitions, and service providers are key to helping companies make these transitions quickly and effectively. At Improbable, we aim to be an informed technical, production and operational partner helping our clients navigate the major disruption represented by Web3; a full-stack service provider for any company seeking to launch, or participate in, a metaverse project.”

Narula concluded: “Developers looking at creating content in the metaverse, and brands and businesses that are seeking to attract people to a whole new experience, must be aware of deeper, more fulfilling reasons that will motivate people to take part in this whole new world.”

View and download the results for game developers and gamers below.

Game Developers

Gamers

Methodology

Improbable polled 2,000 gamers and 800 game developers across the UK and US to explore what the future of the metaverse looks like, barriers to its creation and the misconceptions surrounding it to better understand what industry needs to do to help make the metaverse a reality. The research was carried out by One Poll. For more information on demographic breakdowns please contact us directly.

About Improbable

Improbable is a British technology company, creating the critical infrastructure to power the coming of age of virtual worlds and the metaverse. Improbable partners with developers in video games, entertainment, and with defence and academic institutions to enable powerful, virtual worlds of unprecedented size and usefulness.

Media contacts

press@improbable.io

marineboulot@improbable.io

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