An advertiser’s guide to the multiverse galaxy
Brands should pay attention to more than just Animal Crossing: there’s a host of ‘multiverse’ games out there that represent the next generation of media channels.
Travis Scott held several concerts in Fortnite last week. / Travis Scott/Fortnite
Many of us will remember the phenomenon called Second Life, a virtual multiplayer universe (multiverse) launched by Linden Lab in 2003. The platform sparked the early conversations about how our daily lives might become more virtual over time.
Contrary to many mainstream MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) like World of Warcraft or Runescape, Second Life was not really a ‘game’ in the classical sense of the word. Instead it was a second reality – with its own economy and currency – where people could create an avatar and lead a social life with Second Lifers from all over the world.
Mocked by many at the time for its ‘bizarre’ nature, the game – like many new innovations – was just very far ahead of its time. The concept was beyond many people’s imagination of what our future might look like.
Today, we’re witnessing a swathe of vastly successful virtual universes that bring people together, including Minecraft and Roblox, which boast more than 200 million monthly average users combined. This month was particularly special for the multiverse genre: the self-dubbed astronomical Travis Scott performed hugely successful concerts in Fortnite, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons sold out across the world.
These new platforms are increasingly filling the role of an open social media network rather than that of a video game. So, what does that mean for advertisers?
Firstly, games cannot – and should not – be generalized into one bucket. There is definitely a future for shooters, sports games and other formats in which players battle to win in rounds of five-60 minutes each. However, the distinct multiverse genre is here, and it’s here to stay.
What sets it apart is the nature of its play. Players can spend an unlimited amount of time in a multiverse game, creating and changing their avatars’ appearance and abilities, and interacting with other players based anywhere in the world.
To some, it may sound boring. Why would you just ‘do nothing’ in a gaming environment instead of playing competitively? Why would you pay big bucks to change a virtual outfit? Why would you spend multiple hours of your day taking care of digital crops?
Here's the thing: the multiverse is an escape of the burdens of reality. People get to be who they want to be and act in a way that they might not feel comfortable with in real life. Additionally, it is incredibly convenient to be in a beautiful setting with thousands of people enjoying a concert – especially now.
Back in February, more than 10 million people attended a virtual Marshmello concert in Fortnite, making it the game’s biggest ‘event’ yet. This success was repeated with Scott’s four concerts last week.
The shows attracted millions of players to witness a concert augmented with wild, psychedelic graphics and animations. They also included a lot of sponsorship activation and advertising.
The latest concert featured a massive rendition of the limited edition Travis Scott Jordan collaboration sneaker, bringing real-life goods to a virtual world for immersive display.
I believe this is just the start. We are far from reaching maturity in the multiverse genre. It will only keep growing and become more sophisticated. And while target audiences tend to be younger, widespread adoption will follow soon.
For brands, the creative possibilities of a multiverse are boundless. Everything is a pixel, so there is no need to limit any message to certain screen sizes or billboards. Instead, the entire virtual world can be seen as an opportunity for exposure and engagement.
Does this mean that brands should be running to stick their logos and promotions everywhere they can? Absolutely not.
The brands that will do well are those that invest in truly understanding the virtual worlds and its player bases. They’ll also be aware that the owners of these titles are sensitive to brands’ insensitivity, as well as the fact that minor commercial mishaps can alienate an entire group of users.
So, brand marketers: I recommend you throw yourself into the deep and explore some of these virtual worlds. Try to accept that nearly all generations will eventually take part in a multiverse game in some form or another, and aim to be among the first to build a proper brand and advertising strategy for the genre.
Cuddle up to these next generation media owners as soon as you can and work with their teams to build fitting executions together in order to lead the charge now – while you still can.
Ruben Schreurs is chief executive of Digital Decisions