Metaverse And Web3 New Year's Predictions From Dubit's Andrew Douthwaite

As part of our continuing Q&A series with metaverse and Web3 specialists, MediaPost spoke with Andrew Douthwaite, the chief commercial officer at Dubit.

Dubit is a major creator of metaverse experiences, games, and events for brands in various platforms. In 2022, the company created the first virtual experiences for the BRITs and the Grammys, and was behind metaverse concerts such as a Samsung-sponsored show by Charli XCX in Roblox.

MediaPost spoke with Douthwaite about how brands can use these platforms and technologies to engage a younger audience and successfully enter the metaverse without overcommitting, as well as the emergence of digital-first companies, the benefit of user-generated content, and more.

MediaPost: Which metaverse platforms have been most promising for brands and creators that you've worked with?

Andrew Douthwaite: I'd say Roblox is the big one we build most experiences for brands on because they've got such a large audience -- 250 million monthly active users -- so for any brand wanting to reach younger audiences, Roblox is the perfect platform.

Around 50% of the platform is under 13 years old and 50% is over 13. They've also aged up well with the 17 to 24 demographic, and seem to be growing that side of the audience.

Roblox is perfect because it's open and anyone can build on it, and the players tend to try different experiences.

In terms of other platforms, I'm really interested in what Core is doing. It's a platform that's in between Web2 and Web3. With a gaming engine, anyone can build (like on Roblox), but it's also got the ability to integrate non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which is something only pure Web3 platforms like Sandbox and Decentraland are doing.

I'd also say Fortnite Creative mode. Next year, by what we're hearing in the press, Fortnite Creative will be upgrading their tools to feel more like Roblox, while maintaining the Fortnite aesthetic.

MediaPost: Are 'pure Web3 platforms' like Decentraland becoming less popular in the face of Roblox and Fortnite?

Douthwaite: I'm interested in those platforms, but they haven’t been around as long as Roblox, which was founded in 2006. If you went back only four or five years, Roblox wasn't even that popular. So I think the expectation for Decentraland and Sandbox is too high for where they are as companies.

I also think they have different strategies for growth. Roblox is investing a lot in research and development, thinking that if they build better tools for creators, they'll get better content, which will attract more players and more investment from players, which will thus attract more developers.

Decentraland and Sandbox, on the other hand, are using brands to try and drive audiences to the platform, which results in events and short-term spikes in traffic.

It's hard to quantify how many people are using Sandbox and Decentraland because it's based on specific events. They have a different audience made up of people more familiar with crypto wallets and NFTs, which still isn't a large portion of the population, causing a possible barrier to entry.

MediaPost: Do you think gamified experiences, like on Roblox, are a better bet for brands?

Douthwaite: There are 3.3 billion gamers on the planet, so it's not like making a gaming experience is going to limit you in any way.

Roblox is social, but it's built around little games that don't have to be complicated -- they can be as simple as a treasure hunt. Many Roblox games have great retention surrounding rewards and social events as well. They're also aimed at a younger generation that has grown up on iPads and is used to hanging out in virtual worlds.

However, I've also met older people who hang out with their friends in Fortnite. I liken it to going to the pub and playing a game of pool. You're not a pool enthusiast, but there's a game of pool going on as you have a chat.

When we have social interactions, you never just sit in a room, stare at your friend and talk (maybe on Zoom, actually, which feels totally unnatural). There's usually a drink, some food, an activity. Gaming has become so popular that it's the activity of choice now.

MediaPost: How will NFTs fit into the metaverse as it continues to evolve?

Douthwaite: I think we're going to see more innovations with NFTs. We've gone through the phase of profile picture NFTs that have a utility equivalent to buying a Rolex -- to basically signal wealth. I think people are done with trying to just buy the next Bored Ape in the hopes that they make a ton of money.

Now we're seeing more interesting things. Starbucks Rewards is a great example because it will onboard people that aren't into Web3.

I think when we talk about NFTs, it's all about how it benefits the creators: the creator benefits because they can sell directly to users, or because they get paid on every subsequent transaction. That's all well and good but it doesn't help the user or buyer in any way.

Here’s where we need more focus: Why is it better for me to buy a song as an NFT when I can listen to it on Spotify? I don't think we're quite there yet in communicating the user benefits.

MediaPost: How should a brand first approach getting into the Metaverse?

Douthwaite: Well, NASCAR's campaign on Roblox is a great example. They didn't just come in and build a racing game -- they integrated their brand into an existing popular game, and it went down phenomenally.

Platforms like Roblox, and Fortnite Creative have so much user-generated content allowing brands to simply dip their toe into the Metaverse by working with an established developer.

Another option includes brands building virtual items and placing them into existing games to see if people like them.

MediaPost: What effect do you think Mark Zuckerberg's vision will have on the future of the metaverse?

Douthwaite: Meta has invested an incredible amount in virtual reality (VR), so I think that side of things will be affected, but VR isn't the metaverse, it's just an access point.

It’s also worth noting that a lot of people disagreed with Meta's strategy of pushing forward high-end devices rather than going for something simpler.

Overall, Meta's investment should only affect the hardware side, since not many people are using its Horizon Worlds Metaverse game. One company isn't going to build the metaverse -- that's very clear.

MediaPost: How will the metaverse change (or not change) in 2023?

Douthwaite: People will continue playing games. That will be a significant driver of this. The people more used to playing 3D games and socializing in them are more likely to adopt metaverse-style experiences.

I think generative AI over the next two years will speed up metaverse adoption. With more builders having access to build more amazing worlds and experiences, we'll have more variety of content, which will attract more people. This and better hardware are key.

MediPost: What about the next 10 years?

Douthwaite: I'd like to think that in the next 10 years, we'll have some form of augmented reality (AR) hardware that closely integrates 3D experiences into the real world. Even if it's as simple as telling me where to go, that would be useful.

Right now, we're used to communicating through phones and laptops; creating more realistic methods using AR and VR where people feel truly present will be important.

I'm also interested in seeing where digital fashion goes. As we spend more time in the digital world, what does that mean for legacy brands? They'll either adopt it or be ousted by digital-first creators. As things progress, more companies will start launching as digital-first.

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