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    What Gen Z wants to see from brands as metaverse attachments grow

    • Gen Z consumers spend twice as much time socially interacting in the metaverse than they do in real life, according to new research conducted by Vice Media Group and Publicis Groupe’s Razorfish agency. The study draws a link between playing video games and the metaverse, a broad buzzword encompassing blended digital and real-world experiences. 
    • The age group carries bigger aspirations tied to these online spaces, with over half (52%) of Gen Z gamers reporting they would like to make money in the metaverse and one-third desiring to build a career there. Twenty percent plan to direct their “fun” budgets allocated for entertainment and leisure to in-game purchases over the next five years, representing an average annual spend of about $50. 
    • In turn, one-third of Gen Zers would like to see brands develop virtual stores, and 30% were receptive to brands selling skins and apparel to outfit digital avatars. Marketers must be mindful of remaining unintrusive, as 63% of respondents stated they were concerned about data privacy in video games and the metaverse. Still, those figures are lower than for millennials (66%) and Gen X (70%), underpinning a budding acceptance of branded virtual experiences among younger cohorts. 

    Razorfish and Vice Media Group’s new study, titled “The Metaverse: A View from Inside,” emphasizes that Gen Z not only spends more time in metaverse-adjacent spaces than older demographics, but also is developing more meaningful connections to their online identities. More than half (57%) of survey respondents said they feel freer to express themselves in games than they do in real life, while 45% reported their in-game identity is a truer expression of who they really are. The findings suggest brands have an opportunity to help enable those forms of self-expression and generate deeper loyalty and connections with Gen Z, including through the sale of custom skins and apparel for digital avatars that are common in many games. 

    The study notes that the researchers were not focused on defining the metaverse, which can encompass a wide range of experiences, from true virtual reality — which has not seen widespread adoption — to multiplayer games like Fortnite and Roblox. Razorfish and Vice Media Group largely seem preoccupied with the latter category, tying many of Gen Z’s metaverse preferences to casual online gaming. Some critics have resisted equating modern gaming with the realization of a true metaverse, pointing out that multiplayer titles like Second Life have technically been offering connected virtual experiences meeting these parameters since the early aughts.  

    Still, Gen Z’s attachment to games is noteworthy compared to other digitally-savvy groups like millennials, as is their receptivity to concepts like microtransactions. Major marketers have started to recognize this trend. Nike last fall created an interactive venue on Roblox called Nikeland, where visitors can participate in activities and try on virtual iterations of the company’s gear. Nearly 7 million people had dropped in as of March.   

    While gaming opens fresh avenues to engage otherwise aloof Gen Zers, brands should take note of how they prefer to be reached. In terms of what Gen Zers want to see from brands in games, 46% cited free products and experiences, 23% said “branded digital worlds” and just 18% said advertising. Nineteen percent of respondents stated they “don’t believe brands belong in games/other metaverse experiences.”

    Razorfish and Vice Media also positioned their findings around empowerment. The research pointed out that Black, Indigenous and people of color under the Gen Z banner are more likely to “be” themselves in-game than white peers. One of the study’s key insights is that “gaming is good for mental health,” with 77% of respondents claiming they play to relieve stress and anxiety. 

    The cognitive benefits of gaming have produced “mixed research” in broader academic studies, as noted on the Harvard Health Blog. Meanwhile, the pandemic has underpinned the deleterious effects prolonged isolation from real-world contact and connection can have on young people.

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