Personalization, Play-To-Earn and the obligatory Metaverse. Our CEO Kristan Rivers looks at the year ahead.

Jan 11, 2022

The start of a new year demands obligatory predictions, and it’s inspiring to reflect on what the tech world will bring us in 2022 having just been at CES in Las Vegas, the annual tech barometer of top dogs and top duds.

You won’t be surprised about the key topics on most tech leaders’ and marketers’ minds: The show was a (virtual) walk along the meta-strip and I burnt my NFT tokens far too quickly in the Vegas casinos. 

Back in the real world…what does the new year have in store for mobile gaming?

Firstly, one hot-button topic I won’t be sorry to hear less of in 2022, is how targeted advertising will work in the “post-IDFA era”. Over-reliance on intrusive and fragile technology has long stifled innovative ways to create more relevant advertising that didn’t require tracking. Good riddance, IDFA, and hello advertising relationships that respect privacy. 

Personalized advertising experiences will prevail

Consumers, who were already irritated with invasive ads that track them across apps and websites, are realizing their attention is worth a lot more than the value they’ve been receiving from the free-to-play model.

We’ve all experienced clicking on an in-game ad for another game, downloading that new game, hating it, deleting it, and then being subjected to several months’ worth of exposures to the same ad. 

In a recent Harris Poll, 57% of Gen Zs stated they disliked the current barrage of targeted ads so much that they had curtailed social media consumption or completely stopped using certain platforms. 

Consumers will demand that their attention is properly valued or else will simply vote with their eyeballs and move on.

As we inch closer to a cookie-less world, the content-creator/consumer/advertiser relationship will be enhanced by a value-based paradigm. Relevant engagements based on first and zero-party data, complemented by user choice and transparency will create personalized brand experiences and sustain the ‘free content’ ecosystem beyond cookies/IDFA/AAID et al. 

Play-to-earn games will be the new hyper-casual

Play-to-earn blends together popular game design features such as “grinding” (doing lots of similar or repetitive activities) to gain currency or in-game benefits, with the de rigueur shift in the gaming world towards blockchain and NFTs.

Last year saw games like Axie Infinity propel the play-to-earn revolution. It’s both a fascinating short-term fad and a possible new economy, with immediate downsides as well as long-term upsides. 

In many ways, better than with free-to-play, player attention is directly compensated by this model. What gamer doesn’t love the idea of getting paid to play games? The downside is: grinding is inherently not fun. From a developer’s point of view, the best way to make a play-to-earn game sticky is to take the simplest, least interesting core mechanic, and maximize it. 

Not everyone wants a transactional gaming experience. Sometimes, you just want to have fun. As Bryant Francis of Game Developer said: “I do not want to rent out my Pokemon.

Like early days hyper-casual games, play-to-earn games will go through a heyday of rapid growth with a lot of crap games churned out in 2022. There will be a lot of losers and a few winners, but by the end of the year the genre will become meaningful and probably the best mainstream enabler for NFTs. 

The Metaverse will be mobile and enhance the real world

Only a fraction of the world’s population will ever have an Oculus or PSVR headset that will allow them to “Snow Crash” into the metaverse; but pretty much every single person over the age of 12 has an AR-capable device in their back pocket. 

Apple has been a game-changer for mobile gaming since 2007 and I have a bet with our CTO, which for accountability purposes I will share here as well: Within 18 – 24 months Apple will win the metaverse hardware game by releasing an AR device, probably some form of glasses (although I would not be surprised if it was instead based on AirPods headphones), and within six months that device will outsell every AR and VR device – from Oculus to PSVR to HoloLens – sold up to that point. 

So that’s my top three CES takeaways and predictions for the year ahead. A year where I am looking forward to interacting with the real world enhanced by my Apple AR device and where the brands I choose to give my attention to in that mixed-reality are truly meaningful to me. 

As a tech optimist, I think that 2022 will be the year this happens. 

Written by Kristan Rivers 

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