How will the metaverse drive value?
We’re in some ways still in the first hype cycle with the metaverse, which has the risk of leading us to misunderstand what the future can be. But that’s normal for any hype-cycle technology. That’s how we learn to navigate our way through the trough of disillusionment and find ways eventually to create value that scales as we move along the bell curve.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t value in the early days. But I also think it’s our job to consider what value creation looks like as technology evolves—technology that doesn’t necessarily exist in the hands of consumers yet but will.
We need to design value in stages, developing the necessary expertise and infrastructure so we’re first to market or a fast follower. That value is in the eye of the beholder. The user doesn’t always know what they’re going to value 12, 24, or 36 months from now, but they’ll know it when they see it.
So, it’s important to stay close to the hyper experimentation among the community of startups and entrepreneurs who are creating these new realities. That is how we’re going to bridge what’s likely and what people will value once they see previously unimagined possibilities.
Iterating along with current value—even if it doesn’t last and is viewed as trendy—still gives us the experience and the expertise necessary to build upon those experiences to grow and learn.
In what ways will the metaverse impact society?
Governance will play a key role because user safety must be paramount. And user safety and user experience are often confused with the interpretations of government policies and laws, such as freedom of speech in the United States.
These things aren’t synonymous with freedom of consequence. Yet, there is this misunderstanding that you should be able to do and say whatever you want, when in fact these worlds are going to live and die based on how people feel using them and the value they extract by using them.
And the minute one of these worlds starts to generate negative experiences, that’s going to landslide into the next opportunity, the next metaverse, the next virtual world, or the next app that could tug users away from you.
The other thing to consider is ethics and the types of behaviors you want to encourage within these walls. There’s also currency and safety for privacy and data. We’ve already seen, for example, that in the Web3 world of crypto currencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), the ability to steal is greater than we had imagined earlier.
Some other things we have to think about—and aren’t really talking about—are the physicality and the emotionality of being in a new world for extended periods of time when we don’t necessarily have the training or the conditioning— much like astronauts go through—for us to be in these new worlds.
And last, but not least, haptics, or the ability to touch. As the immersion around us becomes more ‘real,’ the ability to run or move in place and the ability to feel the world around you are going to require a playbook, coach, or someone to get us ready for this new world.
The metaverse I envision is one that’s open, inclusive, accessible, and experiential. That’s the promise of any open standard. Now, it won’t be that way. It’s not that way now. And we’re often referring to the metaverse when what we’re actually describing is closed networks.
Inclusivity right now, especially in the metaverse and Web3, is allocated to the elite. And it certainly shows that the stakeholders of a lot of these properties, a lot of these networks, and a lot of these technologies are also often founded and funded by the elite. And inclusivity is very important, especially if we’re looking at creating simulations of a better world. I mean that’s the only reason we’d leave this world, even if it was intermittently, right?
What will the human experience look like in this virtual world?
In the metaverse, the experiences people have today are largely built upon the technology infrastructure that’s been implemented for them. Whether it’s a game or the ability to build an island, those are all experiences inherent in that world.
But if we think about gamification more like storytelling, you’ll have that ability to make something both sticky—or in some cases addictive—but also experiential to the point where you feel something you hopefully love, and want to come back for more, and share with others. One of the biggest hurdles that the metaverse is going to need to overcome to move forward is helping people see what they couldn’t see before, know what they didn’t know before, and feel what they couldn’t feel or didn’t know to feel the day before.
And so that means that we have to think about the experience design and every aspect of how you navigate that world, including the things you touch, the things you smell, the things you see, and the things you taste. Those are all designed as part of the story, and the best game designers would apply the physical world design to create the most experiential metaverses you could deliver.
How should businesses approach the metaverse?
What the metaverse is really all about is community. The value of belonging to this community. The role you can play as a user in this community so that you feel like a stakeholder and not as a ‘user.’ These are some of the human-based hurdles that I’m not hearing discussed enough. The number one thing whether it’s the metaverse, whether it’s NFTs, Web3, crypto, blockchain, virtual worlds, or games is to remember that when it comes to legacy companies, executives, boards, and shareholders are often not the ultimate users.
And there’s a disconnect between the strategy, the intention, and the ultimate user experience. It’s okay to market. It’s okay to brand. And it’s okay to deliver products within these networks because that’s what a business does. But do so in a way that adds value, that respects the rules and the culture of any one of those communities, so you become a participant in those communities.
I think this is a real opportunity to be curious and ask questions, without being judgmental. Because Generation Z, and Generation Alpha after them, are not thinking and acting like many of the executives running these brands and partnerships. But the more questions we ask, the more curious we are, the less judgmental we are, the more empathetic we could become, the greater the connection to value creation will be.