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Mar 07 2022
Gen Z and Millennials are already in the metaverse, and the younger generation is more likely to be spending time in virtual worlds and to be participating in a range of metaverse behaviors.Here are three charts that show how this generation is primed for a virtual future…
What even is the metaverse? The buzzword is everywhere, but understanding of it is not as widespread. While the future of the metaverse is still very much being developed, generally, the metaverse is virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users. And it’s already quickly become a major focus in the world of marketing as companies—like Meta, née Facebook—heavily invest in it. Brands began racing to make their mark in virtual worlds last year, and the metaverse was a prominent theme for this year’s Super Bowl advertising.
But what does the metaverse actually mean to Gen Z and Millennials? YPulse’s recent The Metaverse trend report looks at the current realities of virtual spaces, how young people are truly participating in them today, what the future of the metaverse may look like, and how brands can pioneer their own virtual pathways. The truth is that Gen Z and Millennials have already been in the metaverse for some time now. For years, young people have been playing sandbox video games where they can interact in open virtual worlds, from Fortnite, to Animal Crossing, to Roblox, and Minecraft—and they’ve been embracing brands who market to them inside these games. In fact, our trend data found that the majority of 13-39-year-olds are currently playing games that put them in virtual worlds, and it’s Gen Z who’s really leading the way:
Gen Z is more likely than Millennials to say they play video games that brings them into a virtual world. Our last gaming report found that the majority of 13-39-year-olds play video games in some capacity, and the pandemic certainly shifted the role that games play for them. More time was devoted to gaming during quarantines and lockdowns, but in the last two years the sandbox games they have made so popular have also aggressively expanded beyond just gaming, becoming spaces for concerts, personal events, and more. These shifts were undoubtedly accelerated thanks to COVID, as young people sought more digital entertainment and socialization than ever before. But clearly Gen Z has been spending more time in these virtual worlds than Millennials. Minecraft, Fortnite, Roblox, and Animal Crossing are among the top virtual world titles that Gen Z play.
It’s also important to point out that entering into the metaverse is something that starts out at a young age. The majority (74%) of Millennial parents tell us their children play virtual world games—with Roblox, Fortnite, Minecraft, Animal Crossing, and World of Warcraft among the top titles that their kids are playing. In essence, the next generation is growing up with spending time in virtual worlds as their norm, and well accustomed to behaviors that could be the building blocks of the metaverse future. We already see this is the case with Gen Z, who are much more likely than Millennials to report they participate in a variety of metaverse activities and behaviors:
The majority of both Gen Z and Millennials are already taking part in activities that put them in a digital reality; but Gen Z is more likely than Millennials to have a social presence in virtual world games, with over half saying they have created an avatar for themselves in a video game and half saying they have hung out with friends virtually in a video game. They’re also more likely to have played a game using a VR headset (a key part of the metaverse future for some tech brands). But we also see that Gen Z’s metaverse behavior is stronger outside of gaming: they’re more likely to have created avatars for themselves on social media, and to follow a virtual person on social media.
Gen Z is also more likely than Millennials to purchase virtual / digital goods (a key part of the metaverse future for all consumer brands). They’re more likely to have avatars in these digital spaces, which means they are more likely to be buying things for those avatars:YPulse’s The Metaverse research also found that Gen Z is more likely than Millennials to say they have bought clothes / accessories for their avatar in a virtual world, and more likely to say they’ve also bought currency within a game. Video games like Fortnite, Roblox, and Minecraft have their own in-game currency (V-Bucks, Robux, and Minecoins) that players use to purchase items in the game including exclusive skins and accessories. However, the one area where Millennials are more likely than Gen Z to have done in the metaverse is buying cryptocurrency / NFTs. While some headlines link cryptocurrency and NFTs to Gen Z, we’ve told you that Millennials are much more likely than Gen Z to show interest in investing in cryptocurrency, and our trend data shows that Millennials are more likely than Gen Z to say they have purchased cryptocurrency and NFTs in general, and in virtual worlds.
So, Millennial might be the ones warming up to the idea of investing in the metaverse, but Gen Z is coming of age already playing and socializing in mini-metaverse spaces. This could help explain why when we ask these generations “What do you think of the idea of the Metaverse? (virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users, virtually go to work, school, shop, play games, hang out with friends, etc.)” Gen Z is more likely to see the concept in a positive light:
Gen Z is more likely than Millennials to describe the idea of the metaverse as “cool,” “fun,” and “exciting.” Our research also found that Gen Zs who play virtual world games are far more likely than Millennials to describe their life in virtual worlds as “fun,” and “happy.” Their positive perceptions of these spaces is likely prepping them for a willingness to embrace the future of the metaverse as well. However, over a fourth of Gen Z describes the metaverse as being “scary” and “weird” showing that the future of the metaverse may still be unsettling to some of them. It also reveals that while this generation might be spending the most time socializing in virtual worlds already,they don’t think of these spaces in terms like “metaverse” or “virtual reality.” To them, these games are the norm, and though they are already in “a computer-generated environment and other users, virtually go to work, school, shop, play games, hang out with friends, etc.” the terms that have more recently been conjured up to talk about virtual spaces feel less than welcoming.
But brands should be aware that though they don’t think of them as metaverses, Gen Z is already participating in virtual worlds. Instead of waiting for the future metaverse to arrive, they should be meeting these young consumers where they are now. (As YPulse has been saying for some time.)
YPulse Business users can access the full Metaverse trend report and data here.
Don’t have a YPulse Business account? Find out more here.
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