Today, gaming is the gateway to the metaverse. Brands know it, marketers know it, and so it comes as no surprise that Microsoft has reached a deal to buy Activision Blizzard in the biggest all-cash acquisition in history. Or that just days before, Take-Two Interactive had made its own powerful move by agreeing to acquire Zynga, arguably the biggest company in social gaming.
For the industry, these two momentous deals are bursting with clues of what the future might look like. Brands are moving into or doubling down on gaming as they seek to tap into that community, bring interactive features to their business and create new virtual worlds to connect with consumers. And in years to come, we’ll continue to witness big moves in that direction as brands become increasingly interested in leaving their mark on the metaverse.
But in addition to gearing up for something that’s still being developed, these companies know that gaming spaces are already rich in cultural momentum and provide endless opportunities to create virtual environments where people can collaborate, exchange ideas and engage with others. But it’s not just consumers who will be there—these experiences can also extend to brands’ prospects and their own workforce. So, what exactly does the gaming trend mean for the future of work?
Investing in Memory-Making
If you’ve read our metaverse report, which you can read in English, Spanish, Portuguese or Chinese, you may recall the anecdote of how our Director of Creative Solutions Lewis Smithingham had a meeting with his client in the video game Red Dead Redemption, where their business talk was interrupted by a lion attack. Far from being ruined, the meeting became an inside joke that brought them closer together—a fun memory that they wouldn’t have made on a regular video conference.
The anecdote shows how the memories we form online can have the same value as those made in any IRL experience. Perhaps even more so, as virtual spaces enable us to do things we wouldn’t have otherwise—like fending off your adversaries with clients. The fact is, people have been collecting real memories online for a long time, participating in exchanges over their shared passions and making new friends. It’s only natural for companies to start leveraging the potential for memory-making, and bring that value internally.
The report also illustrates how gaming drives the desire for cooperation, which becomes easier and more engaging in immersive worlds. On one hand, it erases the notion of borders and physical distance, meaning two people can be present in the same virtual space in a matter of seconds. It also levels the playing field: with games like The Last of Us, people can customize their experience through the accessibility settings, which includes features that benefit low-vision players and other options focused on fine motor and hearing.
The same level of personalization can be extended to virtual workstations. People with chronic medical conditions or disabilities can personalize their setup according to their own needs and preferences instead of adapting to the one-size-fits-all kind of equipment they would find anywhere else. Horizon Workrooms’ settings, for instance, include color correction filters that help color blind people better distinguish elements.
Beyond the Fun and Games
It would be a big mistake to assume that immersive worlds can only bring value to the entertainment industry. Microsoft’s Mesh, for instance, is a platform that enables team collaboration through immersive telepresence, making use of elements of the AtspaceVR platform that the company acquired. Soon, that same technology will be used to enhance the Teams platform. Noticeably, Microsoft has identified immersive worlds’ potential to bring work teams together and provide them with the same engaging, bonding effect it has on consumers.
Immersion can also be extremely powerful when it comes to networking. As a guest on the Campaign Chemistry podcast, Smithingham explains there’s a special level of focus that comes from having one’s hands on a controller, which pushes you to be present in the moment. So while regular video conferences lack some of the most engaging elements of an in-person meeting or the famous “hallway moment,” immersive worlds reduce the possibilities for distraction, leading to higher productivity.
When it boils down to it, accommodation makes all the difference in performance. The virtual workspace offers the possibility to be designed and redesigned for each individual without intruding on the preferences of others. With personal assistive technology, workers easily focus on their tasks and preserve energy for what really matters instead of wasting it on working around the same old barriers.
That said, as we embrace these technologies we must make a conscious effort to erase other inequalities—financial, cultural, racial—and create digital environments for everyone. “An open metaverse is more than just interoperability; it's about accessibility,” explains Catherine D. Henry, SVP Growth, Metaverse Innovation & Transformation Strategy, XR Creative Technology.
Digital democracy is ensuring everyone has access to the tools to participate in the virtual economy. The more active participants, the richer the ecosystem and the user experience.
The Gateway to the Metaverse
For companies looking to build these immersive, collaborative environments, gaming serves as a source of inspiration and technological prowess. It shows how personalization and accessibility can bring about meaningful experiences, and that we don’t need to be in the same physical space to create a culture we truly feel part of.
But among all the learnings that transpire from gaming brands, perhaps the most important is the value they place on authenticity. These brands keep players’ interests at heart to focus solely on experiences and partners that deliver true value to their community. By the same token, it’s essential to take a people-centric approach when it comes to virtual workspaces. Only if we put people’s preferences first will we be able to become the sponsors of an unforgettable experience.
In seizing all the opportunities that the gaming industry is enabling for brands, it would be wise to approach each with an open mind. We’re already witnessing how modern and traditional companies alike are dipping their toes in gaming to unlock untapped audiences, but these values will also shift the way we approach other instances of life, such as work.
If the metaverse is the successor of the internet, and gaming is defining the shape it’s going to take, it’s time we start looking at the tools and features that make it so engaging, and find new ways to incorporate them into our own business. After all, experimenting internally is the first step to providing our audiences with the virtual, immersive worlds they crave.
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