Metaverse builders: Focus on UX first, interoperability later
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Most of the existing gaming metaverses promise interoperability, but how many working examples have you seen?
Interoperability across gaming metaverses remains a far-fetched dream, at least over the short to medium term, and there are many reasons behind it. For example, blockchain networks — the infrastructure on top of which gaming metaverses are built — have yet to achieve full interoperability.
By design, blockchain networks operate individually in standalone environments, catering to the specific needs of their community. They aren’t designed to communicate with each other, which has led to fragmented ecosystems. Accordingly, the gaming metaverses built atop these standalone environments will also face similar challenges when it comes to achieving interoperability.
Despite ongoing developments, the blockchain ecosystem has a long way to go before it can achieve the user experience offered by existing Web2 platforms, products and solutions. As we inch closer to Web3, metaverse builders should focus on more pressing issues first, then work with GameFi ecosystems that specialize in connecting different Web3 projects to bring them together.
Rather than focusing on interoperability, metaverse builders, especially those building metaverse games, must start focusing on user experience — one of the critical components that drive mainstream adoption.
User experience is paramount for success
User experience (UX) is crucial for any technology-based product or service to make its way into the mainstream market. It is no different for the metaverse and the individual virtual ecosystems operating within it.
The metaverse aims to provide immersive experiences. While there are many user experience components, the end goal is to provide meaningful, relevant and flexible experiences to users. Accordingly, every detail — from load time to aesthetics — will have a massive impact on the UX.
When it comes to gaming metaverses, which are among the most popular metaverses, increased adoption is directly related to UX. Even if the game includes AAA graphics and the latest play-to-earn features, it can’t attract a sizable audience if the blockchain it is built on top of can’t offer fast throughput.
Feeling the need for blockchain speed
Blockchain, as we know, still has a long way to go in terms of transaction speeds. Consumers don’t want to wait too long for anything in today’s fast-moving world, especially in the gaming arena. This change in consumer behavior is well supplemented by Web2 infrastructure (APIs, centralized servers, etc.). The existing Web2 ecosystem of platforms, products and services has built audience loyalty by delivering the convenience and accessibility that consumers want.
And all consumers want is a fantastic user experience!
Currently, even the fastest blockchain network is a slow, lumbering tortoise by comparison to players interacting with one another on a game server hosted on a rack in AWS or Azure. Despite being fast and highly responsive, traditional games have at times lost consumers due to millisecond delays in interaction. Thus, the first thing that gaming metaverses need to focus on is finding potential solutions to resolve the transaction rate of blockchains.
Making the gaming metaverse device-agnostic
Next, metaverse builders need to focus on cross-device compatibility. The majority of the metaverses in existence only support desktops. There are only a handful of gaming metaverses that work seamlessly on mobile devices as well. In a world where smartphones and IoT devices are taking over, metaverse projects can’t expect to achieve success if they don’t focus on compatibility.
Users should be able to join their favorite metaverses from whichever device they want to — be it a smartphone, a desktop or a console. For instance, Web2 games focused on cross-platform compatibility have always been able to engage more players than those that limited their games to a single platform. Therefore, it is equally essential to build gaming metaverses that work across devices and operating systems. End-users prefer accessibility, and accordingly, limiting these expansive metaverses to a single OS or device will bear no fruit.
Fast (and easy) navigation is a must
Metaverse builders should also focus on ease of use. By ease of use, I mean the process that the users have to go through to enter the metaverse. In the Web2 realm, users often bounce if they must undergo lengthy sign-up processes. This will remain a constant in Web3 as well.
Navigating one’s way through the expansive blockchain ecosystem, primarily through the decentralized marketplaces and platforms, is extremely confusing for most users. The metaverse and all of the virtual worlds within it — each with their own tokens, economies, wallets and networks — make it even more overwhelming.
To address these problems, metaverse developers should focus on adding features that enable users to quickly and easily enter their metaverses. They need to focus on their metaverse’s information architecture (IA), interaction design, visual design (user interface) and overall usability.
You’re gonna need players, too
Finally, gaming metaverses should also focus on engaging users. While the concept of play-to-earn, true ownership of assets and monetization opportunities attract users, it is equally important for developers to engage (and retain) their users.
For this, gaming metaverses can take cues from the Web2 gaming industry and how popular games like GTA, World of Warcraft, Roblox, Minecraft and many more expanded their communities through user-generated content. The gaming metaverse has a lot of potential in this aspect, especially because it is designed to provide an immersive and interactive experience.
In this context, gaming metaverses should focus on adding easy-to-use features that allow users to generate their own content and add it to the existing metaverse (for example: adding mods on GTA, players building their own skins in Fortnite, and player-generated worlds across Minecraft). At the same time, metaverse developers can leverage blockchain’s features to enable players to monetize their user-generated content — a win-win situation for both.
Focus on the present
While I can’t deny that interoperability is the key to the metaverse of the future, there are more pressing issues that metaverse developers need to address with greater immediacy.
Interoperability is a long-term goal, the road to which is still being carved. Hence, instead of focusing on something that isn’t achievable at this point, it is better to focus on improving the overall user experience of metaverse projects.
As the underlying technology continues to evolve and potential solutions for interoperability, such as cross-chain, multichain and omnichain protocols prove their worth, metaverse builders should work on their respective metaverse first, then join hands with GameFi ecosystems that specialize in connecting different Web3 projects to build an interconnected ecosystem.
Mirko Basil is CEO and founder of Unix Gaming.
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