“What’s the Metaverse for?” You might have heard or asked the past year. A valid question – it’s the same question many asked about the early internet in the late 80s through the 90s. The internet was shifting from the military to commercial developers – and the potential wasn’t clearly noticed to the average observer.
People had many ideas though – for decades prior to that people envisioned online shopping, banking, social media, online gaming, and more. Less saw the rise of the gig economy like with Uber.
The key drivers in adoption are a mix of the new and the old. The familiar and nostalgic paired with the excitement of future possibility. There’s a term for this – the MAYA principle (Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable). You have to meet consumers where they’re at. Skeuomorphism (designing represented items to resemble their real-world counterparts) in the old iPhone is an easy example. At the time, people were still used to physical buttons so the digital buttons had clear shadows to mimic that.
Early internet was treated like a read-only digital encyclopedia. Websites mimicked what you might see on certain printed publications and often appeared extremely crowded. Today, website and app UI has its own style with lots of blank white space apart from the format seen on paper with limited space. With endless scrolling and hidden pages, there’s no need to cram loads of info in one page anymore.
So a new 3D immersive internet needs a pull from the present. This is why the likely early fast adoption will be in the gaming sector. Video gamers are very familiar with interacting in 3D virtual worlds and there is a clear existing esports market. But to expand to the general public like the internet has, the initial adoption should come from familiar brands.
Private networks (like today’s websites) in a decentralized Metaverse will attract many newcomers. When a kid can visit Arendelle (the city in the movie Frozen) a parent will see the use case. When a Game of Thrones fanatic can travel on a dragon through Westeros, or a longtime Harry Potter fan can finally take classes at Hogwarts, the engagement will shoot up.
AR got a huge boost in adoption with the rise of Pokemon Go. Millennials are very nostalgic for Pokemon and so it was a wise focus for the new technology.
Right now, Meta’s Horizon Worlds looks like a bland virtual set. There’s nothing new, and nothing nostalgic for the user to latch to. It’s in its early stages, so we can see how it’ll play out over time.