According to new data from Reddit users, Metaverse dating is blooming up. And there are a lot of ways for brands of all kinds to get in on the action, from interior design labels to food subscription services.
Reddit has found that people in a relationship are eager to meet new people (dating) in the Metaverse. And after more than two years of the pandemic, they’re more ready than ever to flirt in these online spaces growing. In fact, people talking about “dating” in VR interest groups on Reddit have gone up by 249% in the last six months. So, why is this happening? What does it mean for relationships in the future? And how will the metaverse change in the future?
1. The easy way to dress up (passion, Star Wars-style)
People started turning to virtual reality (VR) and new virtual ecosystems to immerse themselves in new experiences when Covid made it harder to socialize and travel in real life. In fact, sales of VR headsets have gone up by 92% from last year to this year.
This trend has been evident on Reddit. Redditors are 125 percent more likely than the general public to want to participate in the Metaverse and meet new people. They are 42 percent more likely to prefer spending time online rather than in person. Redditors are twice as likely as the general population to be interested in “joining the metaverse.” This is reflected in how they use the social site: between March 2020 and March 2022, the number of screen views of the subreddit r/VRchat grew by 193%. And they are more interested than ever in meeting possible romantic partners online. Users can not only meet people from all over the world, but with new virtual spaces and VR capabilities, they can also try out new things and get more involved in something they are interested in.
Rob Gaige, Reddit’s director of partner insights, explains, “It’s not just that you and I [may be] Marvel’s fans; we can truly immerse ourselves in the environment and… play out that passion in real-time.”
“that doesn’t require me to go across the globe and doesn’t require me to buy many things, dress up, or cosplay as you might otherwise do.”
“We can do it in a way that is much less formal. When you share a passion with someone, you make a more honest connection than when you date in person, where it’s a bit more surface-level.”
Reality can’t be ignored forever.
Most long-distance relationships that happen mostly online don’t work out. In fact, the average long-distance relationship only lasts five months. Internet users may find love in new places, but they can’t stay away from the real world forever. To have a healthy, thriving relationship, a couple needs to have physical intimacy, spend quality time together, and talk to each other in real life. But Gaige and the Reddit team found that these virtual spaces and experiences will continue to play a role in their relationships in the real world for couples who met in the Metaverse and fell in love there.
“We’re already seeing signs of this kind of hybrid relationship,” says Gaige. “Just because you met in the virtual world and are now in the real world doesn’t mean you’ve left the metaverse behind.” “This isn’t like having the dating app, where you delete it once you find a relationship.” Instead, he thinks that the Metaverse will stay a big part of these real-life relationships.
“We may be together in real life, but we’ll go back to that world and have a date night on Tatooine now.” He sees this mixed relationship as the next step in something that’s just getting started. It could even help these couples stay happy in the long run. Almost two-thirds of married couples (64%) say that having similar interests is one reason why their marriages work.
3. Different types of relationships (the new rule is that “anything goes”).
There are also many different kinds of relationships that can be made in the Metaverse. Gaige thinks that double dating in metaverse will become easier because people won’t have to live close to each other to meet up. At the same time, he believes that it will give users “a safe place to unlock less traditional relationship structures,” such as the growth of role-playing and non-monogamous relationships in a virtual world with lower stakes.
Because of this, he thinks that Gen Z, which is generally more sexually and gender fluid, will be very interested in metaverse dating. Even though romance is growing in the Metaverse, other kinds of interactions are also increasing.
People are using VR and the possibilities of new technology more and more to connect with friends and lovers who live far away and even to keep loved ones who have died alive.
Reddit user behavior shows a rise in support group activity: from March 2020 to March 2022, the number of screen views of r/griefsupport went up by 201 percent. This could mean that more people are interested in using new technologies to spend time with the dead.
Gaige and his team are eyeing how the idea might progress. “Could we make non-playable characters that look like people you knew in the past?” he asks. “It’s something we’ve seen over and over again in culture, from hologram concerts by dead artists to almost every science fiction story.
But this is now a real possibility. People are thinking about putting those personalities into code and talking to them.” He says he is surprised that people want to spend less time with famous people and more time remembering loved ones who have died.
“I thought this might be more about famous people, like, here’s my chance to hang out with Beyoncé. That’s not it. It’s like, “I really want my grandma, and It would be great if I could code my grandmother so that my son or daughter could meet their great-grandmother.”
What this means for marketers
The sudden rise in interest in metaverse relationships gives brands a wide range of good chances to make money.
Brands can also dig deeper into the fandom, which is a cash cow, to find new ways to engage people. They might put on virtual games or events where people can meet other fans who like the same things they do. Fans of Nintendo might go to Peach’s castle together, while fans of Harry Potter might play a virtual game of quidditch.
Brands could also find value in the space by joining the new commercial economy of cryptocurrency. As the world is already seeing with the high fashion industry’s move into NFTs, brands have many ways to help users dress their avatars and feel like the most authentic version of themselves when they go to metaverse mixers or dates.
Brands might offer a variety of clothes, props, accessories, makeup, body modifications, or even cars, bikes, or scooters. But token-based interactions have a lot more to do with business than that.
Gaige says, “On a date in the metaverse, I’m not limited by my budget, proximity, or what kind of food we might like because I’m trying to make the experience as real as possible.” So, he says, NFTs and tokens will be used to make unique dating experiences.
“People will say things like, “Hey, I made you a special experience” or “I’m going to buy you a special song to show you how much I care about you.” This is a great chance for brands.”
The Reddit team thinks that some industries may have a better chance of doing well early on. Fashion and luxury goods are clear early adopters. Gaige calls attention to the growing real estate market in the Metaverse.
Raising brands in the Metaverse.
According to a recent report by CNBC, real estate sales in the Metaverse topped $500 million in 2021 and may double this year. “In the Metaverse, companies are putting back together famous buildings. In some ways, your dream home should be in virtual space, and then you might not need much of it in real life,” says Gaige.
In the same way, he thinks that design brands will have a lot of new chances to grow. “I see companies like Herman Miller, and they should get involved right away and create a mid-century modern aesthetic in that space.
If I was in charge for any designer, like Kelly Wearstler, that’s what I’d be doing for them.” Will Cady, who runs KarmaLab, the creative strategy arm of Reddit, thinks that long-distance couples who try to connect in new ways could open up new opportunities for food subscription services like Blue Apron. Cady says that the space is so new that there are almost too many options to list.
“In some ways, these are still open fields. New habits and rituals can be made that haven’t been made yet. As an example, I was the officiant at a wedding in the Metaverse, and it was all brand new. About 200 people were online, and about ten people were there in person. There wasn’t anything like that before. What kinds of business opportunities are there to make a wedding in the Metaverse a good time for everyone who attends?”