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Why mobile platforms are the gateway to the metaverse

Appearing at Pocket Gamer Connects London: Matthew Warneford, Founder of Dubit and Bildrs.io gives us his take on why mobile and the metaverse are made for each other
Why mobile platforms are the gateway to the metaverse
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By Matthew Warneford, Founder, Dubit and Bildrs.io

Like an unimaginative university student starting an essay with a definition from the Oxford English Dictionary, I’m opening this article with one from metaverse maven Matthew Ball. In his book, he defines the metaverse as “A persistent and interconnected network of 3D virtual worlds that will eventually serve as the gateway to most online experiences, and also underpin much of the physical world”.

When I read that definition, I automatically think of the mobile devices that underpin our daily lives, keeping us connected to each other and acting as a gateway to most of our online experiences. They have a major role to play in paving the way for the metaverse, too.

Skirting around the thorny issues of interconnectedness and interoperability for now, I want to look at the three platforms that arguably represent the closest thing to a metaverse we have today: Roblox, Fortnite, and Minecraft. Each is responsible for introducing millions of gamers to the metaverse, and a huge number of these introductions are made on mobile.

Mobile metaverses

One of the key factors that will define the success of metaverse experiences is reaching a critical mass of engaged players. After all, if the metaverse is built upon a philosophy of interaction and connectivity, having players online to socialise with is vital. Just one in five global consumers has access to a console (falling to 17% in India and just 9% in China). If the metaverse has a shot at being the gateway to most online experiences, that scale has to come from mobile.

Data from the big web2 proto-metaverse platforms backs this up. In 2021, Minecraft generated $161.18 million in mobile revenue (42% of its total income). Fortnite, before being unceremoniously chucked out of the App Store and Google Play in 2020, drove 144 million mobile installs and over $1 billion in revenue. Since then, mobile downloads have been confined to the Epic app or Samsung Galaxy Store on Android. Saving the most astonishing ‘til last; 72% of user sessions on metaverse poster child Roblox take place via mobile devices. With almost 59 million daily active users, that’s a whole lot of mobile metaverse users.

Though the noise around them has dissipated due to the travails of web3 over the past year, other platforms such as The Sandbox and Decentraland perhaps hold more promise for that holy grail of interconnectivity. For now, though, we can’t take them with us in our pockets (despite them needing to connect to our wallets)... The established player bases of the big three proto-metaverses, thanks in no small part to mobile, removes or at least significantly weakens the challenges of user acquisition and player retention: one of the biggest barriers many platforms face when operating within the metaverse.

Big metaverse business

According to a recent Citi GPS Report, the metaverse is expected to be valued between $8 trillion and $13 trillion by 2030. With the UK entering recession and the US maybe narrowly avoiding one, the metaverse unlocks new routes to business growth. While Meta Quest headsets may make the headlines, it’s on mobile devices that we are most familiar transacting with gaming content due to trusted, seamless payments. For companies and brands, the metaverse is a route to reaching people - particularly younger people - where they enjoy spending time, creating interconnectivity between virtual worlds and physical products through fun branded games and experiences.

The real economy of the metaverse is powered by what I call ‘builders’ - the people making a living making the content for virtual worlds. If the metaverse is a gateway, they’re the gatekeepers, with the vision and talent to shape it by building experiences they’d want to see themselves. Admittedly, building a Roblox game on mobile is bloody difficult, so this may be where the egalitarianism of the mobile metaverse falls down, for now, but there are things we can already do to support this burgeoning builder economy. Primarily, builders need the opportunity to monetise their content fairly (and I imagine I’m preaching to the choir here, mobile devs) beyond metaverse platforms’ basic revenue share, for example by bringing branded content into their games, or creating custom content for brands.

Persistent. Interconnected. Gateway. I now can’t unsee that this produces the acronym PIG, but really what these terms really bring to mind is mobile. With a forecast of more than three billion mobile gamers in 2023, building on the most frictionless, barrier-free platforms is our only surefire route to paving the way for an accessible, egalitarian, scalable metaverse.

About Matthew
As CEO and Co-Founder, Matthew Warneford has shaped Dubit into a global metaverse tech company dedicated to building and generating audiences for branded games, experiences and events. In 2021, Matthew was instrumental as Dubit raised $8m and launched Metaverse Gaming League - the first esports league for the metaverse. During Matthew’s tenure, Dubit has doubled in size to become an organisation of more than 150 staff, while its partner network of games and experiences has achieved similar growth. This network enables Dubit to drive huge audiences across metaverse platforms such as Roblox, Minecraft, and Core. In 2022, Matthew launched Bildrs.io, a community and tech platform to connect metaverse builders with brands. Matthew’s all-time favourite video game is Fallout 2.