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No One Wants to Visit Your Metaverse
As the number of brand touchpoints increase, it becomes important for brands to consider the ways that their core brand aesthetic translates to a narrative in the context of a game experience.
All of these things converge when we look at what it means for brands to exist within the context of the metaverse. On the brand side, the definition of what success continues to evolve. Meanwhile, the design of a satisfying experience become more complex as we account for a new vocabulary of design within the context of the metaverse. Experience design in the metaverse requires a different type of design than bespoke physical and virtual experiences and games.
1. A New Definition of
Designing for the Consumer
Experience - Design for the Guest
Under this category are physical and virtual experiences designed to be defined experiences with a beginning and end. Think activations or virtual experiences with a time limit. The defined scope enables the singular creative vision of the author to have tighter control over the design of the experience—with defined triggers, directed attention, and more scripted narratives. A lot of this is simply due to duration. Experiences are either designed around a specific time-gated event, or are designed around a specific runtime (narrative VR experiences) that mean that interactions can be more bespoke, designed to be used only once, in perfect alignment with a narrative moment, without needing to be replayable.
Mechanics and Narrative are integrated to create a cohesive narrative. Experience can be nonlinear and customized to individuals, but the end result is more about telling a tight narrative from the creator standpoint, where contingencies are accounted for: I created the world and you can explore it, with defined affordances for interaction.
These types of experiences are the contexts wherein it’s easiest to define brand experience, since the authorial control is very much in the hands of the original creator. The brand can use the environment, narrative, and mechanics to all align in support of showcasing the brand narrative.
2. Brand and Product
A well-developed narrative system at the heart of the brand experience ecosystem enables product and brand strategy to become intertwined. This means that there is an equalizing value for consumer brands to build their brand and product narratives with relation to each other and think of both as shared elements of their brand ecosystem.
This diffusion (and increasing spread) of the domain of the consumer experience means that the touchpoints of brand and product experience are becoming nearly infinite. Nearly anything can now fall under the domain of the consumer experience (whether or not it is monetized). But as these touchpoints expand, so too does the definition of product. These touchpoints aren’t simply to support a singular product release, but now can become products themselves.
As brands move toward the creation of experience ecosystems, experience moves from being used to sell the product to become the product itself.
3. Virtual Product Utility
Within the context of the Ownership Economy, virtual product becomes a way to express identity, a way to showcase community, and a way to enable gameplay across the experience ecosystem. For brand's to facilitate this personal connection to virtual product, they must not just release product, but also create the context that builds value around it.
When brands consider what virtual product looks like they need to consider product beyond similar a virtual replica of physical product. Instead virtual product should unlock specific capabilities within the context of experience.
Product thus can become a bridge of experience across different touchpoints of the experience ecosystem. A consumer might go to a physical activation and get a digital product. Within the context of a virtual world/metaverse activation, that virtual product should not only showcases the brand, but also unlock specific capabilities for the player avatar.
Business models around virtual product aren't always as direct as simply charging for virtual product. When virtual product is built cohesively into a brand experience ecosystem, the release of the virtual product itself can become a key product experience.
4. Virtual Products in Virtual Worlds
The context for virtual product especially becomes relevant in the context of persistent virtual worlds.
Experience design in virtual worlds is still evolving, partly because the way that narrative is conveyed through these worlds is more complex—and evolves out of the relationship between the mechanics that are afforded individuals, and the dynamic way that the world responds to them.
The onus is on creators to not only define the role for participants with relation to the world but to also give them the ability to shape what that character looks like through their actions. This involves thinking of participants as resident characters that evolve in time with worlds and have an active role in co-creating the world.
This part of co-creation means that the definition of interaction extends. Beyond bespoke interactions and replayable mechanics, we now need to think of an expanded definition of mechanics defined with relation to creating persistent change within worlds. These mechanics need to be broader than they would be in one-off experiences or games. The interactions are more character-dependent, enabling participants to not only shape their personal narrative in the world, but to also shape and contribute to the evolution of the world.
This expanded agency also means an expanded chance for brands to encode themselves within worlds. The virtual world space is a chance to reflect brand values through visuals and top-down authored narrative events, but also the rules for participant interaction—both in terms of what it allows and what it doesn’t—and in the way that actions are implicitly and explicitly rewarded through internal economies and systems exchange.
The fundamental systems that make these worlds dynamic and generatively playable also serve to make these virtual spaces a useful canvas for deployment of virtual product. Virtual currency systems provide incentives for action and a means for purchasing virtual product. Avatars use product as a means to express themselves. Users can become co-creators of product, and through them shape the world.