April 4, 2021 | 5:00 am
More than just free online video games, Roblox or Fortnite have become with the pandemic entertainment platforms where players can live a parallel life.
In addition to having seduced hundreds of millions of children and adolescents around the world, what do Roblox -where you can build your own mini-games- and Fortnite, a battle royale type game in which you have to eliminate others with weapons, have in common? players to win?
“It is the metaverse” (or metauniverse), explains Julien Pillot, researcher at Inseec, specialist in digital technology and cultural industries.
It refers to the concept developed in 1992 by Neal Stephenson in the science fiction novel ‘Snow Crash’, a cyberspace parallel to physical reality where a community of users in the form of avatars can interact, discuss or have fun.
The most striking example is the series of five virtual concerts last April, in full confinement, of the American rapper Travis Scott, appeared in the form of an avatar in Fortnite, which were followed by more than 12 million players. Something never seen.
Building on this success, the game, which attracts 350 million “gamers” mainly between 14 and 24 years old, has also launched a film festival called “Short Nite” or “Party Royale”, a gigantic virtual party animated by DJs renowned.
“Especially in a time like now, where meeting physically is more complicated, it is extremely important to have virtual experiences. We really think of Fortnite as a platform for connected social experiences and not just a game, ”explained Nate Nanzer, an executive at Epic Games, the publisher of Fortnite.
‘Metaverse’, the grail
Achieving a “metaverse” is something like achieving the “grail” in the video game industry but it is not something unprecedented, explains expert Charles-Louis Planade, who cites the example of the World of Warcraft game released in the 2000s.
“What is new is that these video games have almost become a ‘space’ where playing is one of the proposed activities, but not the only one,” stresses the financial analyst at TP ICAP. “This is a strong trend accentuated by the pandemic.”
What is the goal of Fortnite, Roblox and others? Winning the battle for attention and retention of your players by constantly creating something new. The remuneration is obtained through microtransactions carried out within the game.
Another goal: to monetize the audience – 150 million monthly players on Roblox – offering brands unparalleled visibility among young people without having “the intrusive side of traditional advertising,” emphasizes Julien Pillot.
‘Everyone will play’
Many advertisers, from Nike to Disney, which promoted the latest episode of “Star Wars” on Roblox in late 2019, have taken the plunge.
An original economic model that has seduced investors. Roblox is worth $ 46 billion after its IPO in New York in early March.
Enough to move the codes of social networks and perhaps compete with the giants of the sector such as Facebook / Instagram, TikTok or Snapchat?
“The key to entering a game like Fortnite is that you are a ‘gamer.’ In the mass of advertising contracts, you will never beat Facebook (2.8 billion users) which targets all ages, high and low socio-professional categories. You cannot compete at the same audience level ”, estimates Julien Pillot.
Analyst Charles-Louis Planade disagrees, citing as an example the sudden disappearance of MySpace, the flagship social network of the 2000s. “Video games are experiencing an acceleration of their democratization phenomenon. Tomorrow everyone will play video games, ”he predicts.