Investors and big companies are betting that young people will flock to the metaverse and be the key driver of a virtual future.
But new research by Harris Poll suggests Generation Z needs more convincing that the metaverse is the shape of things to come.
The “metaverse” is a loose term that refers to virtual worlds where people have avatars that interact to play games, work, build things and watch performances.
Just 38% of Gen Zs – those born between 1997 and 2012- think “the metaverse is the next big thing and will become part of our lives in the next decade,” its survey found. In more-encouraging news for believers in virtual worlds, the level of agreement was 48% among millennials, defined as aged between 25 and 40.
Overall, Harris found that seven in 10 Gen Zs and millennials are interested in interacting with the metaverse.
Huge amounts of hype have been building around the metaverse lately, after Facebook rebranded as Meta and announced a switch of focus to virtual worlds. Nike and Adidas are among the corporate giants preparing projects.
Wall Street analysts are growing increasingly bullish on the metaverse, arguing that young people are already used to gaming and spending lots of time online and so will naturally take to virtual realities.
“Gen Z is going to be the population that will drive the significant early adoption of the metaverse,” Jefferies analysts, led by Simon Powell, said in a note Monday.
“This will initially take the format of crypto backed gaming and play to earn, but will expand into almost all other forms of human activity.”
Crypto enthusiasts are wildly excited about a potential boom in the use of cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens in metaverses. A company recently snapped up a plot of land in The Sandbox, a decentralized virtual world, for $4.3 million.
Harris’ polling found 37% of Gen Zs believe the chance to own unique digital items in the metaverse is worth spending their money on, compared with 33% of Americans overall. Again, millennials were more engaged, at 51%.
Harris said two-thirds of Gen Zs and millennials understood what interacting in the metaverse actually means. But that compared with just 27% of over-40s.
The confusion speaks to the fact that it’s far from clear what the metaverse will actually look like.
There are already numerous small metaverses, such as games that use virtual worlds. But one big joined-up metaverse “remains a distant and enormous challenge,” according to a recent note by Morgan Stanley analyst Edward Stanley.