An increasing use of the metaverse buzzword is seemingly having an impact in areas outside of virtual reality and gaming. The case in point in this regard is the rise of social media platforms that use virtual avatars of users instead of their real images – somewhat similar to how Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One segregated the virtual and ‘real’ realities in the movie.
Data from market research and internet analytics firm Data.ai states that avatar-based social media platforms have witnessed a sharp growth phase over the past two years – with user interest up by 215% since 2020 and 60% year on year. Some of the more prominent names in this nascent sector are the likes of Zepeto, IMVU and Itsme.
Adoption is still nothing in comparison to the ‘standard’ social media platforms that use real user identities instead of virtual avatars, though. Data.ai states that the cumulative number of downloads in the avatar-based social media apps space as of March 2022 was 38 million. In comparison, Sensor Tower data said that in Q4 2021 alone, Meta’s Instagram garnered over 170 million downloads.
However, interest in this sector is growing. In November 2021, Japan’s SoftBank reportedly invested $150 million in Zepeto. The latter has so far claimed to have had over 300 million users signing up for its platform, and has over 20 million monthly active users (MAUs). IMVU, in January 2021, raised $35 million from Chinese internet company NetEase, and according to its own data, has 7 million MAUs on the platform.
Data.ai said that these platforms are seeing an increasing amount of interest among brands to engage a very young audience age group. The report cites designer house Ralph Lauren’s digital apparel launch in August 2021, and Samsung’s digital treasure hunt for users of its smartphones in April this year, as examples of how adoption of the ‘metaverse’ social media platforms are growing.
Adoption of these platforms have so far been centric to markets such as USA, UK, France, Japan and South Korea, with Data.ai making no mention of any nascent interest in these platforms from the Indian subcontinent.