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Social+ gaming: enter the metaverse (no, not Facebook)

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Yaekyum Lee Global Head of CX
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Social+ gaming: enter the metaverse (no, not Facebook)

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The social era of gaming is here. And while the COVID-19 pandemic definitely accelerated the trend, it’s something we’ve been collectively inching toward for a while.

Social gaming isn’t a novel concept. Gamers have always been interested in socializing. Even back in 2003, a quarter of the people who played the online role-playing game “EverQuest” said their favorite part of the game was the ability to connect with other players.

Today, 84% of gamers use gaming to socialize, proving that socialization is moving beyond an add-on and becoming the focus for most gamers. 

And this move towards community-centric gaming isn’t exclusive to multiplayer games. Even single-player RPG-type games are benefiting from creating a social community.

This need for socialization was behind Discord’s rise to success in 2015. By providing a place for gamers to chat and connect outside of the game, they were able to fill a need. And until now, gaming companies didn’t really have a way to easily augment the gaming experience other than building their own chat for a single game. 

Take online gaming platform Battle.net, which Blizzard Entertainment developed into its own full-service ecosystem that supports social interactions, storefront actions, and matchmaking for all of the company’s modern PC games, including a built-in chat service for gamers to communicate with each other. Blizzard invested vast resources into custom programming to develop these capabilities.

Thanks to APIs and technological advancements in recent years, creating a socially integrated game today is more possible and cost-effective than ever before. It also presents a trove of unique benefits for gaming companies.

Welcome to the metaverse: the path to strengthening your community

Before we jump into benefits, bear in mind that there are different degrees of social+ gaming.

Some games have minor social elements, like watching your friends progress and sending rewards (as with “Candy Crush”). Other games have cooperative features and chatting (like “Among us”). And then there’s a new class of social gaming that focuses on simulating social environments. These are sometimes called metaverses. And no, we don’t mean Facebook (thanks Zuck).

What is a metaverse exactly? There’s no one agreed-upon definition, but everyone’s talking about it.

Basically, the metaverse is a virtual existence that runs parallel to our own. It’s the next evolution of the internet and a new digital dimension that merges our social media and real-life into a seamless digital experience.

But unlike the popular book and film Ready Player One, proponents agree that the metaverse will be interconnected to the real world with real connections and real-world impacts.

While we’re a ways off from complete actualization, many companies, brands and industries are already investing millions of dollars into developing their corner of the upcoming metaverse.

And gaming has been the first industry to test the long-term viability and benefits of the metaverse. Numerous games have already been able to independently create small ecosystems, aka metaverses, where users interact, play games and exist in a virtual realm.

Second Life has been doing it for years, but we’re seeing this same type of experience erupting in regular games. It goes beyond enabling chat and contact sharing and instead focuses on creating a thriving social community inside the game.

The community is independent of core gameplay, and enables gamers to hang out with each other. They can chat, play minigames, listen to music together and more. “Fortnite”, “Animal Crossing”, “Roblox” and “Sims” are some of the most popular metaverses, but it’s not limited to simulation-centric games.

For example:

  • Call of Duty Mobile” introduced a nightclub feature to allow their users to hang out casually. 
  • “PUBG” is a first-person shooter, multiplayer battle royale game that allows its users to create avatars. Many of the users go into the game to socialize using their avatars.
  • Blizzard Entertainment, the creators of popular games like “StarCraft”, “Overwatch”, “World of Warcraft” and the “Diablo” series, released a “Blizzard Launcher,” which allows users to use one ID to keep in touch with their connections from one game to the next.
  • Nexon similarly released the “Nexon Launcher,” which allows users to streamline their games, get updates about new games and connect to other players.

Aside from being a landmark example of what’s possible, there are some tangible benefits to adding social elements to games and moving toward a metaverse model.

7 benefits of transitioning to community-centric gaming

Here at Sendbird, we’ve had the advantage of working closely with some of the world’s leading gaming companies to help build their social infrastructure — and we’ve witnessed some clear advantages along the way:

  1. Social creates an incentive to keep playing: Most casual mobile games lose almost 90% of their players after one week of continual gameplay. But games that have multiplayer gaming and an embedded social component maintain players for several months or even years.
  2. Communities eliminate the guesswork: When your community is central to your game, you’ll always have proprietary insight into what your users want, allowing you to adapt your company to fit gamers’ changing needs.
  3. Decreases marketing spend: When you create a metaverse or space for your users to communicate, you no longer have to go to Discord or Reddit for remarketing every time you release a new game. Instead, you can target your users directly.
  4. Communities create loyalty: Your users are no longer just loyal to your games and products. They’re also loyal to their friends and connections they’ve made inside your metaverse. As a result, they’ll be more likely to stick around, even if they don’t love every update or game you produce.
  5. Users want it: Users are increasingly seeking out games with social components. In the crowded gaming space, having a thriving social component can often be the difference-maker between you and a competitor.
  6. You own the data: First-party data is one of the most valuable assets in today’s privacy-first world. Social and community features add an extra layer of data to mine and use to improve your bottom line, marketing efforts and customer experience.
  7. Provides opportunities to scale: Do you think Fortnite ever imagined it would stream live concerts to millions of people? Probably not. But creating a unique social community inside your game helps pave the way for future possibilities and makes it much easier to scale.

Despite the myriad of benefits, there are also some challenges. 

Don’t forget about safety and security

Social communities increase the need for safety and security. Content moderation and protection against abusive players are critical—especially since many gamers are children.

As games enter metaverse territory, there’s an increase in monetary exchanges, making the need for security even more stringent. It isn’t just about keeping data safe; it’s about 360-degree user safety.

When you commit to adding a community, your responsibility extends beyond your  content. You also have to prioritize creating a safe environment for your gamers to exist and socialize.

Adding social to your game

Iit makes sense that gaming has become one of the first frontiers for online communities and a flourishing example of what’s possible with Social+.

Thanks to advancements like the Friends API, which allows users to easily find their friends on your game, and in-app chat APIs like Sendbird, these once cumbersome features and services are much more manageable and affordable.  

Now, you can plug-and-play to offer best-in-class chat services to your end users and embed a social community into your game’s ecosystem. So there’s really no reason not to take advantage and give the users what they want.

When you choose a partner like Sendbird, you get access to robust chat, voice and video APIs and unparalleled content moderation features to connect your users and keep them safe.

Let us help you quickly create and implement a customized community in your game so you can rapidly and affordably build and scale a social community for your users.

Categories: Insights