Is gaming the next social media?
Gamers and non-gamers alike are flocking to video games as outlets for social interaction. 61% of UK adults said they played games with friends and family to stay in touch during lockdown and 76% think online gaming is a good way to bond and make connections with people, according to a May 2021 survey from Xbox. Notably, 91% plan to continue to talk to others digitally post-pandemic to supplement in-person conversations, Xbox found. To accommodate this evolving use, major gaming companies are building in enhanced social capabilities.
Sony is making PlayStation more community-centric with the help of Discord. After reportedly rejecting Microsoft’s $12 billion bid earlier this year, Discord announced a new partnership with Sony in May 2021 to build its voice chat app into PlayStation consoles. The integration, which is scheduled for release in early 2022, will offer PlayStation users more options for in-game community engagement.
Houseparty, a social video app purchased by Epic Games in 2019, is bringing video chat to Fortnite. A new feature, announced in April 2021, lets players livestream Fortnite with up to nine other friends in a Houseparty room, allowing groups of friends to chat and interact during gameplay.
Rec Room is a social gaming startup that raised $100 million in funding in March 2021. CEO and co-founder Nick Fajt told GeekWire that he no longer distinguishes between social and gaming platforms. “Those entities, which probably used to be distinct, we’re kind of seeing them merge together. I think in a lot of ways gaming is the new social.”
Disillusionment with social media has people seeking new ways of digital engagement, Fajt explained. “At the end of the day, social media is not super social—it’s you in isolation, scrolling through a feed. And I think it creates this need for people to have real-time social connection.”
These new social gaming platforms are changing that, evolving gaming into a community-first social space. “Gaming is the future of social,” said Daniel Li, partner at venture capital firm Madrona Venture. And, he explained, for gen Z, “gaming is replacing not just old games, but it’s replacing TV and Netflix. So instead of going to watch music videos on YouTube, you’re going to a concert in Roblox and that’s a social experience with your friend…instead of going to the mall, now you’re in Roblox. It’s where kids are hanging out and it’s where culture is created.”
Main image courtesy of Rec Room