The Multiverse (Part 3): what virtual worlds in the coming multiverse era will look like

I’ve posted the third installment of my series on “the multiverse” of virtual worlds from games as the next phase of mainstream social media. In this article I describe aspects of what multiverse virtual worlds will look like. Read it here on TechCrunch >>

The Multiverse (Intro): why gaming’s virtual worlds are the next stage of social media

Read about my thesis on the next stage of social media, one in which young people will spend as much time socializing within virtual worlds that evolve from games as in social apps like Instagram. This is the introduction to a 7-part series breaking down the thesis step by step.

The coming wave of co-op games

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Co-op games…a core argument in my virtual worlds series is that it has become mainstream for people to turn to the virtual worlds of games as spaces to build new relationships and deepen existing ones. People bond when they share an intense, high stakes experience together and games can simulate that type of experience.

A lot of games have been designed for core gamers eager for competition against each other without appreciating the psychological effect of different design decisions though. Many games unintentionally encourage toxic behavior by not understanding the social dynamics they’ve created.

Humans are tribal and I expect mainstream consumers spending more time in virtual worlds will crave environments that offer a sense of belonging and collaboration against a common adversary more than individual competition. Project Horseshoe has spearheaded interesting research on game design tactics here, and top talent is pursuing this path.

EA’s chief design officer Patrick Söderlund left to found the ambitious Embark Studios in Stockholm with this vision and (Korean games giant) Nexon has acquired a majority stake while it is still in development. In LA, top VC firm Andreessen Horowitz just led a $5M seed round in Elodie Games, a new co-op game studio by two former Riot devs. Co-operative gameplay is also part of forthcoming virtual world experiences that have raised substantial VC funding, like Klang Games in Berlin.

Stats on Facebook app deletion

I’ve finished an 8-article series on virtual worlds and virtual economies that should start publishing next week. One of the most interesting stats I discovered in the process was a Pew Research Center survey in 2018 finding that among 18-35 year old Facebook users in the US, 47% reported taking a multiple week break from Facebook and 43% reported deleting the Facebook app from their phone for a period of time.

Half of the core social media user demographic have been trying to reduce Facebook’s presence in their lives. It’s a shockingly high stat. Facebook’s US MAUs aren’t collapsing anywhere near that much though, meaning most of these people are still using it.

To me these numbers echo what I’ve anecdotally been seeing in my interactions with others: a cultural shift to viewing our use of popular social apps as junk food for mental health. We’re addicted and take temporary detoxes but haven’t been able to fully disconnect given how central these platforms are in society. It seems to beckon for new types of online social experiences.

It remains to be seen how much Facebook’s shift to make Facebook Groups the center of socializing on Facebook addresses this user frustration.

Mobile game spending stats for 2019

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Interesting 2019 stats from App Annie’s State of Mobile 2020 report…

There were 204 billion worldwide app downloads last year and $120 billion of consumer spend through those apps. (That consumer spend is from money running through the app stores due to paid apps, in-app subscriptions, and in-app purchases; it excludes e-commerce purchases made via apps.)

 Of that $120 billion in consumer spend, 40% ($48B) was spending in China and 72% ($86B) was spending on gaming apps.

While Casual games (puzzles, arcade games, etc.) account for 82% of downloads, it is Core games (role playing, shooter, action, strategy) that comprise 76% of consumer spending on games and 55% of hours spent on mobile gaming.About half of revenue in the mobile game industry comes from ads and that’s where Casual games shine but it is clear consumers are most willing to spend money when they are in more immersive, social experiences.

 By the way, 1,121 game apps generated at least $5M in revenue in 2019. That’s an increase from 1,055 in 2018 and 959 in 2017. Notably, the most growth has been in the segment of games generating over $100M: there were 140 last year after 116 in 2018 and 88 in 2017.