It’s more than just a buzzy idea, but far from a concrete space yet. But nevertheless, kidcos are starting to place big bets on the metaverse, with business strategies rooted in the real world and aiming for the pixelated sky.
What is the metaverse? Currently, it’s being realized in kids entertainment via social gaming experiences like Roblox, where kids use personalized avatars to play, chat and buy digital stuff. Elsewhere, the metaverse is being activated in virtual real-estate ventures or virtual experiences like Fortnite’s Travis Scott concert, which combined a social event with a virtual immersive environment.
This still-undefined form presents both a challenge and an opportunity. On the biggest scale, Meta (formerly Facebook) has pledged US$10 billion to build its own (presumably massive) metaverse. More modestly, Nike’s recent partnership with Roblox features an in-game environment where kids can play games and outfit avatars with Nike athletic gear.
From a venture-capitalist perspective, the metaverse is appealing because there are lots of avenues for companies to engage kids in completely new ways. But vague or grandiose plans won’t cut it. Metaventures chairman and co-founder Jean-Charles Capelli says his investment firm needs to see three fundamental elements: immediate content plans, a long-term strategy incorporating metaverse-friendly elements like VR or NFTs into existing content, and the legwork to ensure a product will be unique in the marketplace.
Metaventures is focused on expanding its parentco—kids research firm and video game maker Dubit—into the metaverse with new initiatives. It started by raising US$8 million to grow Dubit’s Metaverse Gaming League eSports program that lets kids compete in different games on Roblox for prizes. The dual promise of being able to give kids social experiences online—and provide brands with new ways to reach them—attracted investment in the program, explains Capelli.
The pandemic shifted kids’ social interactions into the virtual world, accelerating consumer interest in emerging technologies and creating opportunities for companies that focus on creating safe online spaces or are adept at integrating new tech like VR into content, he says.