Remember Second Life? In 2003, it became the first real-time 3D virtual world, enabling players to connect around live events and build virtual businesses but also make real money. Several creators made hundreds of thousands of dollars being virtual architects or building virtual furniture, plants, fashion items and accessories for the platform.
More recently, Roblox or Minecraft took the concept further, enabling players to create not only virtual items, but mini games — without having to write code — and publish them on their platforms. In 2020, 350,000 Roblox developers will share a total of $250 million revenue among themselves, with the top ones bagging millions of dollars.
Yet with these few exceptions, most people think of games as stand-alone applications, not platforms where economies can be built for the benefit of the players.
I believe that we are on the verge of a revolution, and over the next few years, gaming will evolve from applications to platforms. This is happening mainly for three reasons:
1. Democratization of real-time-3D content creation. It is easier than ever to build complex gaming content, from tools such as Unity to no-code editors such as Buildbox or GDevelop.
2. Reach of distribution. Billions of people are playing games and can be reached easily via the app stores or communities such as Twitch, Discord and Roblox.
3. Evolution of monetization tools. The ability for creators to monetize their creations creates the incentive they need to start building. In-app purchases and in-play advertising have been growing fast and provided new tools for creators to make money from their content.
These are key ingredients for gaming to develop a complete infrastructure around its apps. This might not be obvious immediately, but I believe gaming is following the same evolution pattern the internet did over the past 20 years.