A new study has found that the vast majority of Americans would rather own digital items than stream them (77%), with more than a quarter (28%) spending over $49 a month on the likes of digital art, music, and in-game items.
According to the new “Digital Ownership Report 2022” from metaverse platform Virtua, these findings indicate a shift away from the golden era of streaming, shaped by the likes of Spotify and Netflix, towards a new age in which consumers seek to acquire, store, and curate digital items.
(That’s possible, but also a prediction we should take with a grain of salt. As a blockchain-driven metaverse platform, Virtua has a solid interest in promoting the idea that digital goods like NFTs are to be valued as much if not more than physical ones.)
However, it has listed out its questions and responses to a survey of 2,000 US consumers and the results are intriguing.
As Mike Butcher at TechCrunch puts it, “It’s clearly still too early to tell definitively, and let’s face it, a movie is very different to a Fortnite in-game skin. But there is a whiff of changing attitudes in this survey.”
READ MORE: As Netflix pivots, American attitudes shift to owning digital assets, not just streaming them (TechCrunch)
The metaverse may be a wild frontier, but here at NAB Amplify we’ve got you covered! Hand-selected from our archives, here are some of the essential insights you’ll need to expand your knowledge base and confidently explore the new horizons ahead:
- What Is the Metaverse and Why Should You Care?
- Avatar to Web3: An A-Z Compendium of the Metaverse
- The Metaverse is Coming To Get You. Is That a Bad Thing?
- Don’t Expect the Metaverse to Happen Overnight
- A Framework for the Metaverse from Hardware to Hollywood and Everything in Between
The affinity with digital assets runs deep, with the majority of those who purchased digital items (61%) also preferring to receive a digital item (such as an NFT or in-game outfit or “skin”) as a gift rather than a physical one, perhaps in part due to feeling that owning digital items is better for the environment (38%).
Commenting on the study for Virtua, Dr. Janice Denegri-Knott, professor of Consumer Culture & Behavior at Bournemouth University, suggests that there have been marked shifts in people’s attachment to digital items.
A commonly held assumption has been that people value digital items for utilitarian reasons — and because of this, digital items are less emotionally meaningful than physical equivalents. However, this study reports changes, with the majority of participants (75%) expressing feeling emotionally attached to their digital items.”
Web3 and The Future of Digital Ownership
By Abby Spessard
Digital ownership is one of the primary keys to Web3, argues VentureBeat’s Filip Martinsson, who asks a critical question designed to shift our thinking about the internet, “What do you own online?”
Noting that “in the current version of the internet, we don’t have ownership rights online,” Martinsson traces a path from the very beginning of the internet to the business model we have today. “In the 1990s — the decade of desktop computers and dial-up connections — the internet was predominantly a content delivery network consisting of simple static websites showcasing information,” he illustrates. “What we refer to today as Web1 was slow, siloed, and disorganized.”
From there, we developed platforms like Meta and Google. These companies, he explains, are driven by wireless connectivity and the development of handheld devices, which provided consumers with free-to-use services that allowed users to generate and interact with written content. These changes paved the way for today’s Web2. “These platforms centralized the web, putting in place a top-down structure that saw users reliant on their systems and services,” Martinsson says.
“In this environment, netizens are both participants and products. We sign up for services in exchange for our data, which is sold to advertisers, and we create content that generates value and fuels engagement for these platforms. We do all this while having no rights to anything online.”
Martinsson believes the best way to think about Web3 isn’t through the metaverse, but the evolution of the internet. “Today, the digital experience is very corporate and very centralized,” he notes, but Web3 is working to shift the power away from big techs and back into the users. “It will do this by spreading the data outward — putting it back in the hands of netizens who are then free to use, share and monetize it as they see fit — and expanding the scale and scope of interactions between users and the internet.”
His claim is that digital ownership isn’t actually too hard of a problem to solve — the solution is NFTs.
“Simply put, NFTs act as proof of ownership. The details of the NFT’s holder are recorded on the blockchain, all transactions and transfers are tracked and transparent and available to the public, and everything is managed by the token’s unique ID and metadata.”
Once an NFT is uploaded, a “smart contract” is created to track the creation, current owner, and royalties, Martinsson continues, explaining that if someone purchases an NFT their details are registered to the contract, and nobody can edit or remove them. They now own that NFT.
If there’s a change in ownership of the NFT at any point, the smart contract keeps track. “This is the key value proposition of NFTs: Verifiable ownership and the option to liquidate digital assets.” This is what ownership will look like in Web3, “netizens will be able to own their digital assets in the same way that they own their home, car and watch.”
But Web3 is still developing. “The fact is that as of right now, we are still writing the Web3 rulebook. This is still a very new, very young space. And while few things are certain, what we can say for sure is that the internet is only moving in one direction: ownership.”
While this is especially true for younger cohorts, the study also found greater levels of attachment among older cohorts than reported a decade ago.
“This study’s finding that 87% of respondents would be upset if they lost their digital items is indicative that deleting digital items may no longer be so easily done.”
The research revealed how different generations that purchase digital items view digital ownership and identity differently. Millennials are clearly leading the way, with nine in 10 (90%) of this age group (24-42) feeling emotionally attached to digital items, while three-quarters (74%) view them as a good investment.
Are NFTs just more hype, or are they actually the building blocks of the creator economy? Understanding blockchain technology can seem like a lot, but NAB Amplify has the expert knowledge and insights you need to remain at the top of the intersection of art and technology:
- NAB Amplify’s NFT Primer
- What’s the Real Future of the NFT Crypto Art Market?
- Weird Science: The Connection Between NFTs and… Human Nature?
- What Is the Value of an NFT?
- NFTs: Content Strategy or Digital Craze?
Further reinforcing their connection to the digital world, most of those aged between 24-42 say their digital identity is important (80%), and nearly half (47%) view it as very important. 86% of the 24-42 demographic also said that digital items are part of who they are, and 73% said they are important to their identity — more than any other generational age group.
However, when it comes to trading and selling digital items, Gen-Z (aged 16-23) are the most active, with 30% selling digital items and 20% trading them. That said, more than half (52%) of all Americans said they buy, sell, or trade digital items.
Virtua is planning to launch its own “metaverse” soon in which users will be able to “acquire plots of digital land, build on their plots, interact with one another, play games, store digital collectibles and personalize their own virtual environment.”
It also plans to launch “islands and even planets dedicated to activities such as sports, entertainment and gaming.”
Virtua CEO Jawad Ashraf said: “The ‘possessions’ we will own and take into the metaverse are evolving. With the introduction of Web 3.0, the meteoric rise of digital collectibles, and the dawn of the metaverse, we will value our digital items more than ever before.”