The Metaverse Will Mean More to Gen Alpha Than Any Other Generation – Hope 103.2

The Metaverse Will Mean More to Gen Alpha Than Any Other Generation

The first movers of the Metaverse just might be Generation Alpha – the most technologically integrated generation of our lifetime.

By Mark McCrindleFriday 13 May 2022LifestyleReading Time: 6 minutes

Late last year, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced the arrival of ‘Meta’ – a parent company housing the stable of products and companies owned by the tech giant.

This major move allows autonomy between each product and company under a larger, purposeful banner.

This isn’t unusual in a corporate sense – Google famously developed and put itself under Alphabet to allow their significant stable of companies to coexist.

Unlike Alphabet, the announcement of Meta was also to provide a statement about the ushering in of Zuckerberg’s biggest aspiration – “The Metaverse”. This virtual reality world is what Meta describes as the “next evolution of social connection”, using 3D spaces to “socialise, learn, collaborate and play”.

This is a long-term vision and a big bet that Zuckerberg has been cooking for a while. In 2014, Facebook acquired virtual reality headset manufacturer Oculus for $US2 billion. Furthermore, “Facebook Reality Labs” – a new entry spun out of Facebook itself and firmly planted within the Meta umbrella – has a workforce of 10,000. This alone indicates a clear prerogative to win the Virtual Reality race.

The Meta move may have set the foundations of the beginnings of the “next big thing in innovation”. As technology analyst Ben Evans put it: “Personal computers, the internet and mobile phones emerged, grew and matured in waves – from a ‘silly idea’ to something everybody has a platform to build on and further evolve the next innovation.”

Waves of innovation can take place over time. As one innovation matures, another accelerates rapidly.

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So, what might this Metaverse look like? We look at two major pillars of seemingly disparate entities – social gaming and payments – and understand just how intertwined they are. We also must consider how Generation Alpha – who could be the beta testers of Meta – may shape the existence of the Metaverse.

blog visualisationBlurred lines: social network and a game

Gone are the days where kids plug a console in front of a TV and play Mario Kart with their friends in the living room. Video gaming is inherently social and boundary-less.

Virtual social spaces are, in principle, not new. Released nearly 20 years ago, World of Warcraft is a massive multiplayer online role-playing game. Players enter a virtual fantasy world as an avatar to meet with other players – from across the real world – to defeat monsters, find loot and earn currency. In 2010 at World of Warcraft‘s peak, there were 12 million players.

As online gaming evolves, the needs to create confined objectives change too. Recently, the hit video game Fortnite hosted a “virtual concert’ within its game world. More than 12.3 players viewed it. This blurs the line between what is traditionally done in a video game with set goals (working together to beat an objective and earn rewards), to a casual space with an undefined objective (hang out, listen to music). Fortnite‘s move also identifies the demand of virtual online spaces – or what is a social hub for Gen Z, its largest current cohort of players.

Roblox and Minecraft are also two examples of popular video games which do not conform to the traditional objective-led play. Rather, they allow experimentation, creativity and most importantly, unplanned social interaction.

Furthermore, Pokemon Go (an augmented reality game that simulates the virtual world of the popular franchise through a player’s mobile phone camera) captured the imaginations of the same demographic. Remarkably, it is still one of the most popular mobile apps, despite being five years old.

Zuckerberg expects the Metaverse to reach one billion people within the next decade. While currently there is an all-encompassing aspiration for people to “socialise, learn, collaborate and play”, there is every likelihood that the “play” could be the lowest hanging fruit. This is because existing use cases of successful social networking platforms within “traditional” video games and augmented reality gaming are proof of concept.

Further, it is already embedded in the minds and behaviours of our future teen generation – the current Generation Alphas.

blog visualisationA one-stop shop

An interesting arm in the Meta stable is the Calibra Digital Wallet (formerly Libra) and Diem network – a cryptocurrency payment product powered by the blockchain, to help people access “safe and affordable financial services”. This too is still in its infancy, with no usable product yet.

The premise of a blockchain network for this is simple: instead of an intermediary (such as a bank or accountant) keeping track of a customer’s financial transactions, it uses a decentralised network to allow all users to record every transaction, removing the need for an intermediary. Cryptocurrency (such as Bitcoin) is built on the back of the blockchain network and is the main asset for use.

Currently, people use cryptocurrency in a similar way to stocks. Already, 16 per cent of adults in the United States reported having owned or traded cryptocurrency in the last year. While Bitcoin has existed for more than a decade, the popularity of cryptocurrencies has exploded during the past few years.

At one point last year, all cryptocurrencies were as high as $US2.8 trillion.

Their form and usage has evolved visualisation

The use of cryptocurrency has moved to an unlikely industry – the art world. The development of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) allows individual pieces of data (in most cases, image files) to be “minted” into a blockchain network, creating exclusivity in commonly shareable files.

The most common use is for digital artists to create exclusivity in their work and derive value from it.

blog visualisationCompleting the ecosystem

Akin to how many non-western social platforms operate, a digital wallet within a social network allows seamless payments without the user ever leaving the ecosystem. For example, WeChat, China’s largest mobile app – with more than a billion users – is an “app for everything”. It is a social network, text messaging, video conferencing and video games platform.

WeChat uses the native WeChat Pay as a frictionless layer to manage payments within the app.

Cryptocurrency offers the next layer of sophistication in digital payments. In the case of Meta, allowing full control over the payment ecosystem. This could mean that not only will Meta be able to free itself from the reliance on banks or payment gateways, like Paypal, but it will be able to develop and control its own currency in its virtual world.

Most importantly, a blockchain-based network allows an organic development of supply and demand where limits are created based on the availability of goods, just like in real life. As NFTs are creating exclusivity and rarity over digital images through supply and demand, Meta can apply this concept within their own virtual world, and with virtual assets.

A self-sustaining economy that has no ties to “the real world” could be the immersive layer that creates a separation between “Metaverse” possessions and that of the real world.

Younger generations are used to converting fiat currency into “in-game currency” to purchase things in virtual worlds. This type of behaviour – where people purchase something to complement their Metaverse avatar – could very well be the norm in a decade’s time.

There are many more elements which need to be considered for the “S curve” of the Metaverse to form. For example, a problem Zuckerberg’s companies have been trying to solve for nearly a decade is ways to cover hardware and software limitations. However, the implications could be the same and the first movers of the Metaverse just might be Generation Alpha – the most technologically integrated generation of our lifetime.

The question is, as Mark Zuckerberg’s roadmap and offerings become clearer, will Meta and its Metaverse be fit for the most sophisticated generation of kids (and soon to be teenagers) to come?

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Article supplied with thanks to McCrindle.

About the Author: McCrindle are a team of researchers and communications specialists who discover insights, and tell the story of Australians – what we do, and who we are.

Feature image: Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash