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Metaverse 2030: blurring the lines between creator and customer

By Katie Burke, Metaverse co-lead

January 18, 2022 | 7 min read

The metaverse is on every marketer’s mind in 2022, but what will it look like in 2030? As part of The Drum’s Metaverse Deep Dive, Accenture Interactive’s Katie Burke tells us why the creators will gain power, as well as some of the watchouts for marketers as we write the future.

metaverse NFT

The world is buzzing with metaverse fever. It’s been a long time coming. While the term itself has a futuristic ring, it was first coined in 1992 by the writer Neal Stephenson.

Then, Stephenson defined the metaverse in his novel Snow Crash as a digital world where avatars of humans interact within a 3D world-adjacent virtual space. The technology was originally presented by Stephenson as something akin to a mutation of the internet itself.

That was then, but what about now? And what about the (relatively) near future of 2030?

Before we tackle those questions, there is something we should be clear about: the metaverse is just a name. How it manifests and whether people will desire to go there is still up for debate.

In recent years we have seen countless virtual worlds pop up, whether in the form of video games, events spaces, artistic exhibitions or anything else. These experiences highlight new ways to immerse digitally. However, there are digital layers, emerging in augmented reality that are making the physical world more interactive as well. So, to me, this means that the metaverse will be everywhere.

The metaverse should be defined as a new convergence of physical and digital worlds, an evolution from an internet of information to an internet of value with advancements in blockchain and extended reality technologies.

Stephenson’s vision, however, was rooted in dystopia. In reality, there are reasons to be optimistic about the metaverse’s potential, which is something we’ve explored in our recent Fjord Trends, as its bound to significantly affect society, culture and business in years to come.

At the heart of the metaverse’s great promise is the notion of place. All of us ‘visit’ websites each day, but our sense of place never changes in doing so. The ambition of the metaverse is to make that feel altogether different – deeper, more visceral, more imaginative and more valuable to those who use it. That could be through creating a virtual place with its own physical or architectural logic, or in implementing a new 3D environment around a location which already exists.

Purpose-driven communities and transparency are foundational to the metaverse and governed by the individuals that make up those communities. Whatever the application, the creative potential is boundless.

And so, for all the breathless talk within the business sector, it’s precisely those creative implications that make the metaverse a prospect which has caught our collective imagination.

Power to the creators

“We’re on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying… The context and the state of content is going to be so different than anything we envisage at the moment, where the interplay between the user and the provider is so simpatico it’s going to crush our ideas of what ‘mediums’ are all about.”

That was David Bowie, speaking to the BBC in 1999 not about any ‘metaverse’ but about the internet. I love that quote not just because of its foresight, but for how it so eloquently outlines the ways in which the metaverse can deliver the full potential of the technology which underpins today’s internet.

When speaking to clients, it is this capacity for collaborative and creator-led content that is driving the most excitement around the metaverse. In recent years we have seen what we call ‘the creator economy’ take shape, led by artists, performers, writers, hobbyists as individuals, but also as communities of technologists and experts creating new services around non-fungible tokens (NFTs). By 2030 the metaverse will have put rocket boosters under this sector, blurring the lines between creator and customer on an unprecedented scale.

This is partly because of another of the 21st century’s defining tech innovations: blockchain and cryptocurrencies. But while opportunities for creators have skyrocketed, we are watching for disruption too because governance of how services are created and revenues are generated are now shifting the balance towards the creators. So, it is a mix of excitement and a forecast of disruption for brands.

Another strand of the metaverse’s appeal can be found in the way it is set to allow creators to generate income. For evidence, look no further than platforms such as Roblox Studio or Axie Infinity, which have in their own ways pioneered play-to-earn, create-to-earn and learn-to-earn models based on blockchain and NFTs.

Writing the future

There is every reason to hope, then, that the metaverse of 2030 will be an abundant digital playground. However, there is more that we can be doing right now than simply hoping. It is essential, for example, that the right questions be asked to steer the metaverse’s designers.

I have identified two provocative questions. Firstly, how will the metaverse cater to all of us? Sadly, this is a particularly prescient question given that far too often I have been the only woman in the room when speaking on this subject. If the metaverse is truly going to take over the world and be ‘for everyone’, then it must represent everyone.

Embedding ethics from the start should be an absolute must. The societal harm caused by the current internet experience is plain to see, so we simply can’t build this thing without transparency. Unintended tech consequences are impacting humanity right now, and openness about that impact will need to be part of building trust in the metaverse – particularly around manipulating behaviors, sustainability and accessibility.

Secondly, and no less importantly, is the matter of how the metaverse will practically and seamlessly fit into our lives. Meaningful experiences are the key to attracting new people in – outside of the gaming community, where we can trace its roots. Today, so many of us are ‘always-on’ and have such hectic schedules, the metaverse is likely to find itself competing for the space we currently put aside for entertainment and family time. That won’t be an easy fight to win.

Fundamentally, these are questions of design. The metaverse’s potential is becoming clearer every day and our most pressing questions pertain to precisely how it plans to become an inescapable part of everyday life in the way the internet has.

By 2030, we’ll know the answers to those questions. Between now and then, it’s up to all of us to shape them.

Katie Burke is a metaverse co-lead at Accenture Interactive.

For more on the exciting, new opportunities for marketers in this rapidly evolving space, check out The Drum’s Metaverse hub.

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