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Digital Media Disruption Driving Towards ‘Unlimited Reality’

International survey finds younger audiences abandoning TV and streaming for gaming and the metaverse

Younger audiences are dissatisfied with streaming video on demand (SVOD) services and are increasingly turning to gaming and the metaverse – or what we might call protometaverses – for digital entertainment.

That’s according to a new report by leading financial institution Deloitte, which identifies six digital media trends for 2022 and beyond in the 16th edition of its user survey, appropriately enough titled, ‘Toward the metaverse‘.

The US-based company broadened its horizons overseas for the survey, including insights from Brazil, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom for the first time.

The broad conclusion is that consumer behaviour is shifting as Gen Z and Millennial entertainment choices gain favour across the globe. The survey found that people are looking for more personalised, interactive and immersive content such as social and gaming experiences that compete head-to-head with video for consumers’ attention.

The top six trends:

1) Streaming video’s retention struggles continue

US consumers—especially Gen Zs and Millennials—are growing more frustrated with their paid streaming video services (SVOD).

2) Consumers want more SVOD content and pricing options

Offering more flexibility in subscription choices could help SVOD providers retain customers—and keep them around when there are lulls in programming.

3) Consumers are eating up user-generated content (UGC)

Better than chocolate? Watching user-generated content online is a popular entertainment activity for many, especially Gen Zs.

4) Influencers boost social commerce around the world

Consumers flock to social media—and the influencers they find there—for entertainment, information, community, and to discover products and services.

5) The gaming frenzy is global, social, and unstoppable

Levelling up: Led by Gen Zs and Millennials, playing video games has become a favourite entertainment activity around the world and across generations.

6) Game experiences blur virtual and real worlds

Into the metaverse? Gaming meets social and emotional needs, monetizes self-expression, and offers larger-than-life entertainment experiences.

Gaming and the metaverse

Much of the report is understandably focused on streaming video as the most popular form of digital entertainment globally, but let’s zero in on the two trends that most interest us here at – gaming and the metaverse.

The survey reveals that 80% of both men and women regularly play games in the States, with Gen Z and Millennial gamers logging an average of 11 and 13 hours per week. Must try harder, frankly. The numbers are only slightly lower in the UK, Germany and Brazil, with Japan surprisingly coming in at a lower 63%.

Regardless of territory, it seems that around half of this audience is trading other entertainment options for playing games. The report concludes this to be at least in part to online multiplayer and the social side of video games.

The pandemic has only underscored the value of socialisation in digital worlds.

Amid lockdowns and social distancing requirements, the pandemic has only underscored the value of socialisation in digital worlds. While the report notes the potential for bullying, harassment and toxic behaviour, it identifies new opportunities for advertising. 

Gaming and music also appear closely linked, with about half of US gamers surveyed saying that they often discover new music while playing video games. About a quarter of US gamers say they have attended an in-game event in the last year, while 82% of those attending live in-game events also made a purchase because of the event, whether digital goods or physical merchandise.

The report notes that this trend is, “Reinforcing the steady blurring between the real and virtual”. Which brings us nicely onto…

The metaverse priority

Of course the metaverse is a “big priority for leading companies,” but as the report says, “People have been building their digital lives for a few decades now, with social media and gaming expanding our sense of self into digital representations. And now, two years into a pandemic that has urged us to maintain physical distance, more aspects of our lives have become digitised and virtualised”.

Our smartphones have become more of an extension of ourselves than an independent tool we use.

With pundits predicting the coming of Web3 – or even Web 3.0, however you look at it – for many people, the internet has surpassed being a service that users opt in to. “It’s become a routine part of our lives—enough to feel just as real for many people. Our smartphones have become more of an extension of ourselves than an independent tool we use”. 

And with that potential for online existence only growing the report suggests that, “The metaverse may be riding a hype cycle because we already spend much of our lives there”.

The new digital scarcity

Deloitte reports that, “A major shift is underway, one that could radically recompose internets and economies”. Predicting the disruption of existing business models, the firm says that there are, “Innumerable cryptocurrencies conferring specialised rights to niche communities; NFTs giving weight and scarcity to digital goods; and distributed ledgers such as blockchain working to decentralise assets and distribute trust. Social game worlds built on blockchains and NFTs are attracting users – and celebrities – and monetising the new digital scarcity”.

The twin engines of capital and human behaviour may be moving irrevocably toward that kind of unlimited reality.

Citing edge computing and 5G as delivering the next generation of computation and connectivity, the report says that billions of dollars are already flowing in to support this shift. 

According to Deloitte, the metaverse is coming and that, “The twin engines of capital and human behaviour may be moving irrevocably toward that kind of unlimited reality”. 

You can read the full report here.

Written By

Steve is an award-winning editor and copywriter with more than 20 years’ experience specialising in consumer technology and video games. With a career spanning from the first PlayStation to the latest in VR, he's proud to be a lifelong gamer.

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