The News: Lego and Epic Games, the developer of the Fortnite series, unveiled a new long-term partnership to create a vast and creative metaverse environment for children and families where new virtual worlds can be safe, fun, and easy to use for kids. The announcement, while short on details, brings together two of the most well-known companies in the world of entertainment for children. Read the full Press Release here on the Lego website.
Lego and Epic Games Are Taking the Metaverse to Children by Co-Building Immersive Digital Play Space for Kids – Is This a Move to Entice Grown-ups to Follow?
Analyst Take: Lego and Epic Games taking on the metaverse is news that doesn’t surprise. With all the recent talk about and interest in the metaverse, I expect to see increasing interest on the part of brands looking for ways to market virtual metaverse environments directly to children.
We’ve already seen Roblox making inroads in the metaverse. In January, the company reported the Roblox community grew from 32.6 million daily active users in 2020 to nearly 50 million (as of November 2021) across some 180 countries. In fact, Roblox has taken to calling its offerings “experiences” rather than games, as the ecosystem expands well beyond simply gaming, and experiences that simulate real-life activities are dominating the list of most popular genres on Roblox.
And now, two of the biggest names in retailers aimed at kids — Lego and Epic Game (maker of the wildly popular Fortnite gaming series), are jumping into the metaverse as well. I see these moves — both on the part of Roblox and Lego and Epic, as savvy marketing efforts designed to perhaps bring the metaverse to adults by creatively going through their children. Hooking the children and bringing the parents in tow has been a successful marketing ploy for decades. Think Disney+, platforms like SnapChat and TikTok that started out by being wildly popular with kids, and things like cheeseburgers and kids’ meals or pizza joints and animated animal bands as dinner music.
The Challenge of the Metaverse
As with anything new, there are challenges as it relates to the metaverse as a whole, and figuring out how it will work, who will participate, what ‘participation’ really means, and how successful corporate efforts in the metaverse will be, are questions on the minds of organizations everywhere.
I have written before that I have been a skeptic about the need for virtual worlds in business and the public sphere since I covered IBM’s pronouncements about the creation of its Second Life 3D simulated communities back in the early 2000s. IBM’s Second Life envisioned us all engaging in virtual worlds in addition to our everyday business and personal lives, but it never really materialized as an essential part of our lives. It was an idea with more fluff than value and it was not ready for prime time as a tool for enterprises and the world of business.
I think this challenge still exists – finding a real use for the metaverse and figuring out ways to encourage people to participate and immerse themselves in it are on the minds of many.
In comparison, the creation and mass use of the internet is a great example of an out-there idea that has been useful for the world since its broader inception back in 1994. While I feel like the concept of the metaverse has legs, I think we are in the nascent stages here and it will be a while before we see substantive value from the metaverse.
Maybe that is why Lego and Epic Games are making this end run around the issue of relevance and potential use cases for the metaverse by focusing their efforts on bringing the metaverse to children. As leaders from Lego and Epic Games argue in statements, children are already more involved and adept at crossing over between physical and digital worlds today compared to their parents, so maybe focusing on young people is one of the paths toward making the metaverse a viable concept and one that is actually adopted and utilized.
The Enterprise Vision of the Metaverse
The goal of enterprise metaverse designers and dreamers is a bit different than perhaps what Lego and Epic Games envision. They want to see the metaverse as a virtual community where people can interact, schmooze, collaborate, buy, sell, and perhaps also open new personal and business relationships that could increase business, sales, and revenue for the participants.
For me, I do not want such virtual things. I would rather just see and meet new people and new opportunities in real life, in real meetings, and in real experiences, especially after two years of this long, isolating COVID-19 pandemic. The metaverse as a global community has no interest for me. But it’s important to distinguish between my personal preferences and what I see as trends in the technology space. Just because I don’t see the metaverse as being for me, I do see the myriad opportunities it presents and understand why technology companies and others are venturing into the metaverse space.
One place I see true business value with virtual world technologies is in the specific area of digital twins and related true-to-life uses and possibilities. Digital twins, where companies can virtually create virtual environments of all kinds to test product ideas, theories, building plans, water system infrastructure, or any other use, can provide amazing flexibility to take new looks at complex things through the use of creative keystrokes and applications. NVIDIA and others are already doing fascinating things with digital twins and are showing real world and viable enterprise use cases for the technology, which makes it much more approachable and believable.
As my colleague and fellow analyst Michael Diamond covered recently, Qualcomm last month announced a $100 million Snapdragon Metaverse Fund that is designed to make investments in the metaverse, recruit content developers, and give developers access to the firm’s portfolio of tools and platforms from Snapdragon XR Platform to the Snapdragon Spaces XR Developer Platform. This Qualcomm move, though, is specifically designed to propel the market for Qualcomm’s chips and accelerate needed use cases for virtual reality and augmented reality in consumer and business markets.
Even Microsoft made some news last November about blending metaverse features into its Teams collaboration products. In that specific use case, Teams users will be able to appear as animated avatars in meetings and virtual workspaces using anything from a smartphone to a VR headset or HoloLens, as my Futurum colleague Shelly Kramer wrote at the time.
But those Qualcomm and Microsoft examples are different than the typical generalizing and pontificating that we hear about the metaverse and how it will change our lives.
In his recent research note about the Qualcomm announcement mentioned earlier, Michael Diamond wrote that those who think that the metaverse is a fad should think again. The metaverse, he wrote, is a natural beachhead for gaming as players gather in virtual games from all over the world every day.
But that is the part I do not get. Online game players are already doing this as they play online games without a metaverse. I have trouble believing that they need a hyped metaverse layer to enhance what they already have in their gaming today. That said, I’ll be the first to admit that in some instances, like the metaverse, I’m more old school than not. And I will be the first to eat my words and say I’m crazy and missing the boat as we watch the metaverse space continue to evolve. In fact, I look forward to being proven wrong!
Wrapping up, I do think the partnership between Lego and Epic Games is a brilliant move and I think that creating a place for young people to immerse themselves in the metaverse is smart. It makes sense that these two giant brands, who are already closely connected to young people (and the future) than others are working together to do innovative things in this space. I can’t wait to see how it all evolves. And I’ll be watching with even more interest the metaverse in the enterprise space and the inroads companies will make there.
Disclosure: Futurum Research is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.
Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of Futurum Research as a whole.
Other insights from Futurum Research:
Image Credit: Epic Games
The original version of this article was first published on Futurum Research.