Younger people spurn Instagram & Facebook for more immersive, virtual worlds
The world of social media is rapidly giving way to more immersive social experiences found within expansive virtual worlds, a new report claims.
Everyrealm, a technology and infrastructure company in the virtual worlds, gaming, and metaverse spaces, has just published its first-ever Immersive Media Market Report. Shockingly, it found that younger people spend five times as much time using “immersive media” as they do with traditional social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
The report defines immersive media as “interactive, social video-like” games and content that’s delivered through virtual worlds. Social video games are a new generation of immersive and engaging video games that enable players to interact with others while playing. Examples of such games include Roblox, Minecraft, Apex Legends, and Fortnite, which offer multiplayer modes and leaderboards, allowing players to communicate with others during and outside of games.
Besides being different, social video games also offer some novel revenue-generating channels. They also contain unique opportunities for advertisers, with ads that can blend seamlessly within the game environment, similar to billboards in the physical world. For instance, in-game market forces can motivate players to “get with the times” and purchase the trendiest items to show off to other players.
According to Everyream, the report suggests that Generation Alpha and Gen Z are ushering in a new era where people are transitioning from 2D social media platforms to virtual, video-game-like worlds. For a growing number of younger people, simply scrolling through a news feed is no longer enough. Instead, they seek to spend their time in “fully-formed digital environments” where they can create an alternative identity through their avatars, complete with a virtual home and virtual possessions. Such worlds are becoming increasingly popular at the expense of other media formats, and both brands and marketers need to pay attention.
According to Everyrealm, a majority of young people spend more of their leisure time playing social video games than they do watching TV or reading books. Even Instagram can keep up. While the average user spends 30 mins a day scrolling through social media apps, the typical Roblox gamer spends two hours a day immersed in its alternative, digital reality.
Everyrealm offers some concrete numbers, saying almost 90% of Gen Alpha and Gen Z consider themselves gamers. Moreover, more than half of respondents in those demographics said they spend double the time with friends in virtual worlds as they do in the real world. Around 50% also spend money regularly on such games, with in-game purchases adding up to more than $60 billion a year globally.
Respondents said they prefer virtual worlds to traditional social media because they offer a higher level of engagement and interactivity. In addition to connecting with friends, users in virtual worlds can create their content, customize games, cooperate and collaborate, and participate within in-game economies.
Everyrealm likens the rise of social video games to that of online dating, which was once considered embarrassing but has become the norm. When online dating first emerged in the 1990s, it was mainly used by people who struggled to meet potential partners in the real world. However, with the rise of trendy, casual dating apps like Tinder, online dating has become a much more acceptable way to meet people. Social video games may have had a similar stigma at first, seen as the domain of “geeks” and “nerds”, but this perception has changed and they’re rapidly becoming a mandatory form of social currency.
“Social simulation games and virtual worlds are undergoing a similar shift, where behaviors once considered fringe have become mainstream,” Everyrealm said in the report.
The findings suggest that immersive media quickly transforms the digital landscape and disrupts traditional social media. Gaming and interactive media storylines are beginning to replace passive narrative media types, with virtual worlds providing more excellent value to users than simple, “mindless” scrolling.
Everyrealm CEO Janine Yorio said the report’s findings make it clear that companies and brands must embrace the emergence of immersive media to make themselves more appealing to younger audiences. “Businesses and marketers must prepare for the rise of immersive media by adapting to this new reality if they want to remain relevant and capture the attention of the next generation of consumers,” she said.