There’s a movie starring Ryan Reynolds called Free Guy—it’s a solid entertainment option—where much of the action takes place inside the world of a video game. There are shops, restaurants, people to meet, jobs to work—I won’t give away the plot, but there are parts of it that I thought, “wouldn’t that be cool, a virtual world to explore and play.”
Of course, if Meta has its way, that will be a lot like its promised Metaverse, so we’re well on our way.
But something like this already existed, and I didn’t even know about it. And unless you’re the parent of a preteen, you may not have known either. But if you’re a brand, you might want to make it your business to know.
Tipped off by my colleague Rob Bates, I was recently introduced to Roblox.
Heard of it? Yeah, me either. But millions of tweens have, and according to Roblox’s latest report, it has nearly 50 million active users daily.
It’s not only the young ones using this platform, by the way, though they appear to make up the vast majority (a reported 54% are under the age of 13).
How does one spend their time in a virtual world? According to the company’s recent 2021 report, experiences that simulate real life—school, family, travel—dominated its list of most popular genres. Things like role playing, simulating activities, and a tycoon genre (where the goal is to earn money and build an empire) were popular among users.
There’s also a huge gaming element to it, and gaming has never been more mainstream. Fighting and survival games, mystery solving, BedWars “a competitive experience where you must destroy opponents’ beds in a floating arena while defending your own from other users”—yes, you read that correctly. People are having fun here.
But you know what else they’re doing? Shopping.
Shopping isn’t huge, at least not yet. But based on its list of participating brands, it’s going to be. Visit the Gucci Garden, an immersive multimedia experience in Florence, Italy, that explores the brand’s creative vision. Head to Vans World to collect in-game branded apparel, and even create your own pair of custom shoes to wear in real life. Kick on over to Nikeland, where sports abound and collectible merchandise makes your avatar look fly. There’s even a Forever 21 store that users can manage—stocking inventory, hiring employees, helping customers—with exclusive in-app content that in some cases can also be purchased and worn offline.
There are some sales going on here, but the name of the game is brand awareness. Are you going to generate millions of visitors as a mom-and-pop shop on this platform right now? Not likely, but poking around on there is a smart move in a long-term strategy.
When I was a preteen, we hung out at the mall. These kids? They hang out online. And if history is any indication, they’ll stick around Roblox as they age and generate more purchasing power. We tend to grow with our designated apps, don’t we? It’s typically an older generation hanging out on Facebook, many of them not adopting new platforms. We millennials are ride or die for Instagram. Some have hopped over to TikTok, but Gen Z dominates it. And these kids—some Gen Z, even others, Gen A—maybe Roblox is their platform of choice.
As far as planning for your future generation of clientele is concerned, being an early adopter of the platforms they hang out on could prove highly beneficial in the long run.
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