Perhaps the last people you would expect to find on popular online gaming platform Roblox is an insurance company like AIA, but according to Prashant Agarwal, AIA's head of group customer and digital marketing, Roblox is exactly where they need to be.
"We need to be where the audience is," says Agarwal. "Roblox is immensely popular with children and makes up an existing part of their screen time. Even in Asia, it is one of the most widely adopted metaverse platforms, easily used on mobile phones."
This made it [Roblox] an obvious choice for Agarwal and his team when they were understanding ways in which they could deploy new-generation technologies to connect with a younger audience.
The result is the AIA Arena, a virtual game that encourages players through awareness building and education to make healthier lifestyle choices, all in a fun and entertaining manner.
"With the AIA Arena, we hope to replace some of their [children's] existing Roblox time with a game where they can learn about health and wellness, develop healthy habits, have fun, and interact with their peers.
Reaching a younger audience by deploying next-gen technologies
Deploying next-gen technologies like metaverse and Web 3.0 to engage and interact with a younger audience is what Agarwal describes as being core to AIA's purpose, not their current commerce.
"Our purpose at AIA is to help people lead healthier, longer, better lives," says Agarwal. "We wanted to tap into new-generation technologies like the metaverse and Web3 to connect with children in ways that would not only educate them but also entertain them."
The game features two major play zones: one of them, 'AIA Vitality Park', focused on nutritional and physical health and the other zone, 'The Retreat', is focused on mental health.
"The primary focus of the first play zone is to provide a high octane ‘doer’ experience through a uniquely designed Super Marathon game," says Agarwal. "The second play zone is designed to provide awareness towards mental health focusing on calm, concentration, and gratitude."
As childhood obesity, poor nutrition and lack of exercise is becoming a bigger issue in Asia, Agarwal says that the core of the AIA Arena is a simple game that subconsciously helps the player understand the difference between unhealthy and healthier foods by making the unhealthy foods the ‘obstacles’ as they run on screen.
One other important topic the game addresses is mental health. "While the AIA Arena is online, we also wanted to ensure the game nudges children to do sub-games that focus on relaxation and meditation techniques in a fun engaging way," adds Agarwal.
To create the AIA Arena game, Agarwal and his team partnered with tech startup Datapeace Technologies and 22feet Tribal Worldwide.
"We wanted to be nimble, launch the Arena, and let audience response help shape the direction it takes," says Agarwal. "This combination allowed us to work on the game play formats and the underpinning tech in parallel with Roblox experts."
Roblox is actively trying to shed its image as a kids-only platform
The AIA Arena game comes at a time when Roblox is reportedly
trying to shed its image as a kids-only platform. As one of the most popular game-making apps, Roblox counted a staggering 52.2 million daily players last quarter and is one of the most-used platforms for kids
on the internet.
Of the gaming platform’s over 50 million active daily users, around 47% are 12 or younger. However, last October, Roblox issued a statement
to say it has committed to blocking new ad campaigns, sponsored experiences or items and user ads for users under the age of 13, although new, age-targeted options will be introduced instead.
But despite changes in direction for Roblox, AIA is betting on the platform, helping it to connect with a younger audience.
"Even in Asia, Roblox is one of the most widely adopted metaverse platforms, easily used on mobile phones," says Agarwal. "This made it an obvious choice, as we were understanding ways in which we deploy new-generation technologies to connect with our audience.”
Still betting on the metaverse
Even Mark Zuckerberg, who ploughed US$36 billion on its Metaverse Reality Labs division has put a pause on any further investment in favour of focusing on AI. Earlier this year Meta's VP of Metaverse, Vishal Shah, told Fortune
, "I think the metaverse hype is dead. I think we were in a hype cycle," Shah said at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech live conference hosted in Utah. "We didn't invest for the hype, we have been investing in the space for years," he added.
Yet, despite the hype dying down around the metaverse, Agarwal at AIA remains confident that embracing next-gen technologies like metaverse and web 3.0 will ultimately benefit the brand in helping it to engage new audiences.
"We avoid letting these views—positive or negative—impact our thinking and learning agenda," says Agarwal. "The metaverse and mixed reality represents one of the many exciting new technologies that AIA is embracing. It can be a powerful tool for enhancing the employee experience and deeper engagement with our customers, agents, and the talent we seek to attract."
At least for now, AIA is focused on making significant strides in its transformation journey to become a simpler, faster, more connected digitally enabled company.
"We have hosted employee events on the metaverse and now we are launching the AIA Arena in Roblox to digitally engage with our future customers," says Agarwal. "We will continue to explore other ways on how we can help people live healthier, longer, better lives using Web 3.0 technology."
The AIA Arena is live and can be accessed through the Roblox app via desktop or mobile now.