This generation of consumers does not like “people”
If you want to select the most popular business keywords in the past year, then the only one that can challenge the “Metaverse” is “virtual human”.
From the artificial intelligence model “Hua Zhibing” of Tsinghua University, to the virtual person “AYAYI” in the field of content e-commerce, and to the best employee of the year “Cui Xiaopan” of Vanke, Xiaoguo Culture also launched a virtual talk show actor “Mei” “Sweetness”, no matter whether it is “hard technology”, “high-tech”, or “Gen Z”, almost all walks of life are trying to make their presence felt by launching their own “virtual people”.
Even the “Metaverse” is posting backwards.
For example, in a media sector research report released by Northeast Securities in December last year, the researcher listed the virtual idol group “A-Soul” launched by Lehua and born out of the “idol collapse phenomenon” in the rice circle economy on page 51. For the “Metaverse Investment Case” – only A-Soul’s fans have a “questioning” attitude towards this point of view, and they asked on Zhihu, “What is the relationship between A-Soul and the Metaverse, and why has it become a Metaverse Investment Case? , with barely more than 2,000 pageviews, and someone quickly gave a standard answer:
“The Metaverse is divided into two concepts: the physical universe and the virtual universe. In the virtual universe, everything that is virtual is included.”
The explosive “jelly” at the beginning of the year further confirmed the fact that “the Metaverse is essentially a virtual human economy”. Industry media are discussing “Has Jelly got Metaverse tickets?” “Is Jelly a Metaverse social network?” The fission transmission between users is done by pinching the face, and the opening poster also plainly reads ” trendy outfits”.
However, there are natural bugs in “virtual people”, and the market did not accept all of them according to the capital’s vision. Especially for “young people”, the theoretical core audience of “virtual people”, on the one hand, the “Metaverse” linked to virtual idols has become a near joke-like existence among young people. On the other hand, virtual idols are currently There are too few behaviors and interactions that can be achieved. Enterprises value digital people so much, which makes young people who are already facing work pressure somewhat chilled.
In the past, I liked Hatsune Miku and Luo Tianyi, but I was able to decompress, but now, why are all the virtual idols coming to grab their jobs?
The more realistic situation is that for enterprises, in addition to their determination to develop new technologies, virtual people are far from being able to innovate business models. For virtual idols in the cultural industry, the risk of “people in the middle” It also became the sword of Damocles hanging over the head of the “collapsed house”. No matter how you look at it, “virtual human” is not the best choice for the outlet. The existence of the “human” factor can easily push consumers into the “uncanny valley” of business.
In contrast, if we really want to set off a wave of “virtual new infrastructure” in the “virtual universe” space, “virtual pets” seem to be more suitable for introducing young people. From the early days of Tuomagezi to the later ether cat and ether dog, the characteristics that virtual pets have always possessed are actually what companies want to obtain in the Metaverse now.
Virtual idols: the awkward end of the virtual economy
The possible development bottlenecks of virtual people have been intuitively reflected in virtual idols. As the most mature product in the concept of “pan-virtual human”, virtual idols have developed to today claim to be able to independently complete most of the daily behaviors of “being an idol trainee”, and already have relatively clear definitions and usage guidelines.
iiMedia Research divides the application field of virtual idols into four major sections: food and catering, corporate services, fast-moving consumer goods, and entertainment industry. Among these four sections, the early Hatsune Miku, Luo Tianyi, and the hottest A-Soul girl group currently known to the public belong to the entertainment section, while the virtual idols in other fields have not made much waves. Regardless of how the business is set up, virtual people do not really complete “independent” work.
In short, the existence of virtual idols in most enterprises and service fields is more like occupying a hole in a brand-new technical field. While maintaining a sense of presence in the industry, it broadens people’s acceptance of virtual people.
(The two virtual employees launched by Midea are very virtual idols)
This phenomenon of collective casting of virtual idols reflects two problems.
The first is that the top-down operation of virtual idols in enterprises deviates from the initial popularity of virtual idols, that is, content co-creation.
The virtual idols before Vtuber – such as Hatsune Miku and Luo Tianyi – were created by the operators, and most of the content was created by fans. Despite the current pursuit of amazing technology and visual presentation, virtual idols are increasingly cooperating with capital and appearing on the TV stage for linkage, but virtual idols such as Luo Tianyi still have a lot of co-created content. On the contrary, the virtual idol/digital person serving the enterprise just tells the public that there is such a thing, and then there is no more splash in the content.
(Luo Tianyi still has a lot of co-created content at station B)
This also leads to the second problem – the embarrassment of the usage scenario. Generally speaking, virtual idols are more of a pastime in daily life, such as live broadcasts, and second-generation content created and consumed by fans. Only very few moments will they face non-core groups on the big stage on TV.
But for B-side virtual idols, it is unrealistic to invite fans to co-create daily content. A virtual idol from a company can essentially be regarded as a “marketing employee”. For “marketing employees”, creating content is not an end but a means. “Method, the marketing department is obviously willing to turn to. And without a long-term content creation strategy, it is difficult for virtual idols to further appear in front of the public.
This kind of contradiction makes the company’s deployment of B-side virtual idols, at least for now, really a hot but thankless move.
Compared with the more mature entertainment field of virtual idols, there is also a contradiction: can virtual idols really “never collapse”? These four words have even become the slogans that A-Soul carried when they debuted.
The term “collapsed room” refers to the fact that idols have fallen in love due to falling in love or some bad behavior, and fans cannot continue to project their emotions on them. This is the most representative controversial topic in the rice circle economy. The classic debate is whether the existence basis of “ta” is a natural person or a commercial packaged product (typically, Wang Yuan smokes, Lu Han and Guan Xiaotong officially announced their love, etc.) ?
From a principle point of view, it seems that virtual idols can avoid this trap. Even if “ta” is not capable of business, he will not fall in love and have bad deeds like real people, right?
But this only works in theory. Anyone who has been in contact with the V circle knows that the “people in the middle” is actually a key role in the virtual idol. It refers to the real person behind the virtual idol who plays the virtual idol. It is the actual direct content creator and is the virtual idol. The lower limit of the fineness pocket. “Lao Jiang Jukai”, the UP master of station B, believes that what the audience in the V circle actually likes is the complete image of the virtual idol’s virtual appearance and the person in the middle, such as the person in the middle who is set as a cool guy. She gradually showed the side of a soft girl under her role, and this gained more fans’ love.
However, even if the real life of the person in the middle is not investigated, it has become the political correctness of the V circle. When the “person in the middle” has an accident, the reaction of fans is exactly the same as the collapse of the fan circle. Xiang Wan, a member of A-Soul, has experienced the turmoil of “replacement after the real identity of the person in the middle is discovered” (even being used as a joke).
There are more than one such incidents. The first digital student of Tsinghua University, “Hua Zhibing” mentioned at the beginning, was questioned after the official release of the video. Perhaps the prototype was just an original video from the UP master “Caviar Sauce” of Station B. “Hua Zhibing” was only a one-time Change the skin.
Pushing further, Zhongzhi can be traced back at least to the “Turkish chess puppet” in the 18th century. An Austrian magician built an automatic chess device to please the Grand Duchess, and defeated many nobles. Debunking a scam that is just a chess player playing chess behind a machine. In other words, virtual idols are not really virtual.
From the above analysis, we can see that virtual idols do not seem to be the best choice in addition to companies expressing their determination to enter the Metaverse. They lack a clear industrial positioning, and there is no content co-created by the public to support “never collapse.” “It is the privacy boundary that may be broken at any time – it is just a layer of moral constraints on the logic of the fan circle, and many virtual people have not even been seen by the public.
Virtual Pets: The Other Side of Possibilities
Before imagining the market prospects of virtual pets, let’s take a look at such a meme.
This picture implies two key pieces of information: First, the tiger, the king of beasts, needs to regain its popularity in the image of a “cat” – this year’s popular “Tiger Down the Mountain” emoji package is a typical case. This set of emojis The basic starting point of the package is to make the tiger image cute with the logic of the cat to gain more favor; secondly, the cat will be loved by more young people accompanied by the virtual image and the ID card.
Moreover, several of the Gao Zan comments believe that it is the child’s ID card with a cat head and not his own, so why should he give birth? Another comment is that it is still necessary to raise children, why not directly raise cats?
This is a microcosm. At present, young people are far more tolerant of pets than people. Young people who are afraid of childbirth, marriage, and complex interpersonal relationships are more willing to become “shit shoveling officers”. Data from iiMedia Research shows that in 2021, 58.4% of Chinese singles own pets, and 26.3% of non-single groups own pets.
The companionship of pets is obviously worth exploring, and the virtualization of pets is even more interesting.
Take cats as an example. In ancient times, cats entered the families of scholars because they could protect books from being eaten by mice. Over time, they had a kind of companionship. The Song Dynasty poet Lu You once wrote “The firewood in the stream is soft and warm. , I don’t go out with the raccoon slave”, which reflects the companionship characteristics of cats. In modern society, some scholars believe that the cat’s emotional sustenance function has a more structured color: the phenomenon of living alone is increasing, young people lack intimacy in the city, and they can only place their emotions on cats. Cat cafes, cat emojis, etc. exploded.
If the rise of virtual idols in the past two years is related to the collapse of real idols, then there is a social background behind the rise of virtual pets that has to give up raising real pets.
Virtual pets can be traced back to Tamagotchi, or Tamagotchi, produced by Bandai in 1996. At that time, Japanese policy stipulated that pets should not be kept in offices and apartments. On the other hand, Japanese houses were relatively small, and there was not much space to keep pets. Therefore, one of the designers, Aki Mita, came up with the idea of making a virtual pet. idea.
This also means that the design of virtual pets has been used as a substitute for pets from the beginning, designed to relieve the mental pressure of modern people, balance emotional needs and limited living costs.
The technology of Tuomagezi is not complicated. There are only four buttons for eight interactive operations such as feeding, sleeping, taking medicine, and cleaning feces. The main program can be completed by a single chip. Therefore, after it was introduced into China around 2000, a large number of imitation products of more than ten yuan were sold at the school gate (the counter price ranged from 100 to 300), which indirectly promoted the expansion of the audience of virtual pets: from Office workers developed to primary school students.
(Technical interaction model of Tuoma Gezi, picture source “Electronic Production”)
It’s just that the development of mobile communication equipment was still in its infancy at that time, and the way people used electronic devices for entertainment was almost zero. “Virtual pets” were once regarded as “flood beasts” in this unfamiliar environment. People discussed more about Tuomagezi Is this “toy” will affect children’s learning. For example, the Thai Minister of Education at that time signed an order requiring schools across the country under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education to ban electronic pets from entering schools. There are even third-party intermediaries hosting electronic pets in many places.
It is worth mentioning that, in addition to Tumagoko, which is mainly for girls, Bandai also launched the “Digital Tyrannosaurus Machine”, a virtual pet machine with combat elements to open up the male market. Its most famous peripheral product anime “Digital Monster” “Baby” was introduced to China in the early 00s and received huge acclaim, when children could watch a complete Digimon in the summer. This also paved the way for the introduction of Takuma Utako and Digimon in China soon.
According to the time line, when these children who are holding Digimon machines in their hands grow up, their lifestyles quietly coincide with the background of the birth of “Toma Gezi”, and they naturally become similar to traveling frogs. The first consumers of companion games.
The popularity of smartphones has further boosted Chinese consumers’ acceptance of virtual pets.
Around 2010, with the full popularization of 4G, smartphones began to become a rigid need for young people’s lives. A large number of ideas that previously needed to rely on independent electronic devices were realized at low cost with the help of smartphones. “Virtual Pets “It is one of the biggest beneficiaries of this. Minorities have pointed out that the original child-oriented application “Talking Tom Cat” – this is almost the first virtual pet to appear on the smartphone – just because of the smartphone also attracted a large number of adults.
On the other hand, the increase in social pressure has also made Chinese youth groups have a need for emotional sustenance. This kind of game that focuses on companionship often has a simple game mode, does not emphasize the use of time, and is based on collection and cultivation rather than battle. The characteristics are like the golden mantra of “collect, develop, exchange, and add” summed up by Yamauchi Yu (1927-2013), who was in charge of Nintendo for 52 years. The accompanying virtual pet travel frog mentioned above is a typical example of this type of game. There are also cat backyards of the same type. There are still netizens who bring real frog dolls to the real scene to check in.
Of course, if we only talk about having a sense of companionship, another pet experience that has been mediated also has a considerable degree of emotional companionship – cloud pets.
A huge amount of data shows that the total number of videos related to Douyin’s “cat” and “dog” topics will exceed 300 billion in 2021. For most content consumers, such a large-scale content obviously helps their emotional catharsis.
However, this kind of enthusiasm is a problem for content producers, because they need to think about how to form their own IP in pet videos and continue to output content. Over time, consumers see another kind of “Chinese” The pet videos with “people” thinking also face the risk of house collapse.
A well-known Weibo blogger, “Reminiscence Vest”, has experienced a huge controversy caused by excessive consumption of pets – posing for pets, recommending pet sterilization but letting your pet breed.
(Pet blogger collapsed house has a similar effect on consumers, from Zhihu “Evelyn”)
In this way, the logic of raising pets in the cloud is actually “getting the psychological companionship brought by pets – the trouble of raising pets in reality + the risk of the blogger’s house collapse” , while the logic of virtual pets, which are now showing a revival trend in the past, can be summed up It is ” getting the psychological companionship brought by pets – the trouble of keeping pets in reality + the randomness that real pets will not have “.
For example, the travel frog just mentioned has this kind of randomness. In the game, players preparing different foods for “Frog Son” will trigger different travel times (wild vegetable sandwiches correspond to leaving in a hurry, mountain garlic pie corresponds to going home early, pumpkin bagels correspond to long-distance travel…) Different item combinations will also be used. Generate different travel destinations, different visiting friends like different gifts and so on. To a certain extent, the game strategy of this companion development system is to crack the randomness of this experience.
Of course, whether this strategy violates the original intention of the game, and whether the strategy can exhaust the conditions for event triggering, is another question.
(There are a lot of collections of Raiders about Traveling Frogs on Xiaohongshu)
It’s not just the current development game that has this kind of randomness. On the surface, the earliest new products of Tuomagezi are only catering to IP, but they are also broadening the gameplay of developing randomness. For example, the earliest setting of Tuomagezi was that different ways of raising pets will affect the final appearance of pets. In the joint models with EVA launched in recent years, according to the answerer “Classmate Yishan”, it is possible to Cultivate more than 20 kinds of apostles – higher than the 18 set by TV, and even the father of the male protagonist, Ikariyuantang. In the joint project between Takuma Utako and the anime “Blade of Ghost Slayer”, nine different forms can be cultivated in the end, and they will encounter “ghosts” randomly to fight with them.
If this randomness is extended forward, virtual pets will undoubtedly become one of the most likely implementations of the empty concept of the Metaverse.
What is the future of virtual pets?
Before the concept of Metaverse was proposed, a personalized and randomized virtual pet was already known as “Crypto Kitties”.
This is a game based on blockchain or NFT (Non-Fungible Token) technology. According to the introduction of the computer newspaper, in the initial stage of the game, the developers of the game sold 100 Genesis cats, and at the same time, a generation 0 cat was born every 15 minutes for sale. Each cat in the game looks different, and genes can be passed on to the next generation. The children born from the mating of two computer cats will inherit their own 256 genomes, affecting appearance, personality characteristics, etc. There are a total of 4 billion changes. possible. Each CryptoKitty is unique and owned by the user.
This kind of game with strong randomness and personalized experience is in line with the basic characteristics of the Metaverse in terms of characteristics, that is, people have a unique and exclusive experience, and the random database is large enough.
However, the disadvantage of the integration of “cryptocat” with virtual pets is that it still judges electronic pets based on financial value and rarity . In CryptoKitties, fertility declines for kittens born in later generations with more breedings, and cats that are closer to generation 0 or more unique in appearance are more expensive.
This means that there is no value measure of its own in the game, the general economic value of virtual pets is still the same, and the real companionship of pets is not highlighted. The so-called decentralization of the blockchain still operates under the center of the economy, and the exclusive value of individuals to cats is second.
At the same time, it means that the gameplay of CryptoKitties is similar to that of most blockchain technology games, and it is still essentially a game based on currency transactions. This emphasis on financial value actually deviates from randomness to a certain extent. The core of this pet game with a sense of companionship.
The rise of AR technology also brings another possibility of randomness and exclusivity. The AR game Pokémon made by Niantic, which was popular in 2016, is the beginning of the connection between pets and AR technology. The game can place virtual stations and virtual pets in real locations. The combination of virtual and reality brings randomness. The beauty is that players can capture random Pokemon in a random location they pass by.
In 2019, Google also introduced AR animal features in the search engine. Users can open the AR card by searching for animals in the search engine, and view the interaction between animals and real space through 3D and AR. Even primitive animals, creatures that are impossible to see in reality, can interact with real space through AR technology.
However, the limitation of the current AR technology is that there is no way to customize the pet image that you want to see, and the image that consumers see is determined by the platform. However, the ability to conduct random animal searches in random physical spaces has a certain prototype of reality and virtual fusion.
So back to the beginning, the Metaverse that everyone is concerned about can completely combine some of the existing characteristics that should be present to carry out the future development of virtual pets. On the one hand, the characteristics of randomness, personalization, and the combination of reality and virtuality displayed in the current Metaverse planning have been presented in existing virtual pet products: Tuomagezi’s personalized image generation, travel frog, AR The high degree of randomness of virtual animals, etc. already exists. On the other hand, the core of the virtual idol, which is currently more well-known as the Metaverse, does not reflect the characteristics of the Metaverse. It is neither completely virtual, nor lacks a long-term and unbreakable sense of companionship.
But then again, the concept of the Metaverse has only been fragmented until now, and these characteristics already exist in most of people’s existing scenes. Like: “I’ve never seen anything when I play games, and Monopoly is also a Metaverse.”
 iiMedia Research: 2021 China Virtual Idol Industry Development and Netizen Survey Research Report
 Lao Jiang Jupao: After I thought about ASOUL, I understood that Jia Ran was equal to Cthulhu
 Prophet Travel News: From “dog fans” to “Ms. Jiaran’s dog hook”: how did A-Soul conquer black fans
 iiMedia Research: Data analysis of pet economy industry: 58.4% of single people in China have pets in 2021
 Surging Thought Market: Celebrating the New Year of “Looking at the Cat and Drawing the Tiger”: Rethinking the Urban Life of Human and Companion Animal Coexistence
 Xu Xiaoyuan. Cats as Media: Connections and Barriers to Interpersonal Communication [J]. Beijing Social Sciences, 2019(10): 89-99.
【7】Fang Peimin. New Electronic Toys——Introduction to “Electronic Pets”[J].Electronic Production,1997(08):15-16.
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 Minority: Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds… What happened to the 10+ games that once occupied our mobile phones?
 Huge calculation: 2021 Douyin E-commerce Pet Economic Insight Report
 Kang Ren: From Electronic Pets to AI Development, Computer News, Issue 1, 2021, Page 11
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