The metaverse feels like a futuristic mess. Is it Fortnite? Is it Pokémon GO? Is it Meta, the Artist Formerly Known As Facebook?
As marketers, we have to stay up-to-date on these trends – for better or worse. But the metaverse seems like a uniquely abstract beast. Inevitably, with the likes of Meta pushing this digital world forward, the metaverse will make its way into many aspects of our lives.
But first, for the last time, what the hell is the metaverse?
The Metaverse Explained
At its core, the metaverse is an umbrella term for a number of technologies, including:
- Virtual Reality
- Augmented Reality
- Virtual Worlds
Before diving into these three areas, try thinking of the metaverse as an evolving way we engage with technology and communicate with each other.
Virtual Reality (VR) usually involves two things: a simulated, virtual environment and a headset to place someone in that environment. So, if a user puts on a gaming headset and finds themselves transported to a digital world, they are engaging with virtual reality.
In gaming, users will usually wear a headset while holding a set of controllers in their hands. The Oculus Quest became a popular headset among gamers because of its innovation in this space.
Augmented Reality (AR) sounds like a scary word. But you’ve likely engaged with AR already. Think of the number of times your smartphone helped you find your way home. Or how many people in your life played Pokémon GO when it first launched.
AR contains two parts: the physical world alongside digital inputs. So, unlike virtual reality, AR users can still see and engage with the real world.
Still, the metaverse includes virtual worlds even without VR or AR. And the gaming industry has really pioneered the prominence of virtual worlds.
Fortnite, a player-versus-player video game, has more than 80.4 million monthly users. Roblox, an online platform where users can make their own games and play others, sees more than 43.2 million users every day. And while users play these games on consoles or PCs, they still make up a big part of the metaverse.
So, bringing it all together: the metaverse includes VR, AR, and other virtual worlds. Users can play games, interact with others, and explore digital environments all within the metaverse.
But a definition can only give us so much information. And while we can clearly see the metaverse in gaming, how does that look for other industries, including sports, fashion, and more?
Before we dive into other industries, gaming offers the clearest examples of the metaverse.
As we talked about before, Fortnite has started inching closer and closer to the metaverse. Released in 2017 initially as a player-versus-player shooter, users dive into an expansive virtual island and fight each other to win the game.
Since its inception, Fortnite’s community has exploded to millions of daily active users. Its Subreddit forum, r/FortniteBR, has more than 1.7 million members alone.
Epic Games, the creators of Fortnite, have tapped into this loyal player base – launching different game modes with an emphasis on community instead of combat.
Using our working definition of the metaverse, Fortnite solidly falls into the virtual world category. Users play the game and interact with friends all through consoles and PCs.
However, gaming dominates VR and AR elements of the metaverse as well.
Most notably, Meta’s Oculus Quest has enabled users to dive into virtual reality gaming. Trailers show players putting on the headset and fully emerging themselves into fantastical worlds. Have you ever dreamed about exploring fictional worlds from your favorite movie or book? With VR, you can easily do just that.
At first glance, sports seems like a pretty cut-and-dry kind of industry. Athletes play in person and fans watch at home or in a stadium. So, how does the metaverse fit into that?
Just ask the Brooklyn Nets, an NBA team marking one of the first sport entries into the metaverse. Through hundreds of high-resolution cameras placed around a basketball court and 3D renderings, fans can watch games in a truly immersive way.
Dubbed the #Netaverse (haha), this VR experience will revolutionize the way basketball fans engage with games.
Fashion brands have tried for years to stay up-to-date with the times. After all, luxury brands often set trends – but they need to follow emerging ones, too.
As a result, several fashion brands, including Ralph Lauren, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton, have made starting moves into the metaverse. And rather than create their own immersive worlds, brands have opted to use other platforms – including Roblox and Fortnite.
In particular, Gucci opened a digital garden experience on Roblox to celebrate the brand’s 100th anniversary. The brand wanted to promote self-expression and individualism, so users enter the experience as a blank mannequin. And as they explore the gardens, their mannequins pick up different parts of the garden. At the end, each mannequin has its own unique patterns – reflecting Gucci’s values as a brand.
After the experience, Roblox users can also purchase Gucci-branded items for their avatar.
Clearly, this metaversal example falls under the virtual world category. In fact, most luxury brands have focused on these kinds of collaborations. After all, why should a brand like Gucci make its own virtual world?
Sadly, media companies have had to grapple with millions of changes. Younger generations hate cable television. People want more on-demand content. And the metaverse represents another hurdle for the industry.
The majority of major TV companies have made small steps into the metaverse, including NBCUniversal. This past year, the media giant launched the Bravo Bazaar – an interactive mansion where users can shop for Bravo celebrity merch and sponsored products.
Other entertainment & media companies have started working on grander entries into the metaverse. Just a few weeks ago, Disney received patent approval for a “virtual world simulator”. The company seems primed and ready to launch an immersive, digital experience in which users can visit theme parks at home.
Disney’s shift also represents how the metaverse enables brands to adjust to market shifts, especially those caused by the pandemic. In 2020, Disney saw a 66.9% estimated drop in attendance to its Magic Kingdom theme park – a trend seen across the industry.
But through Disney’s entry into the metaverse, the company wants to enable people to visit its parks in a more accessible way.
With the steady decline of retailers, many brands in the beauty industry shifted to eCommerce and online sales. And the pandemic simply reinforced the need for beauty brands to work on digitizing their products and storefronts.
Tons of brands have already incorporated AR filters to let users see how makeup looks on them at home. L’Oréal recently acquired AR and artificial intelligence firm, ModiFace, to help the brand develop more ways to help customers try on products virtually.
While several brands have collaborated with other video games, including Roblox, others have opted for less mainstream options. Perfume company Paco Rabanne worked with a video game called “Curved Space” to promote its futuristic perfume.
And as Vogue Business noted, the metaverse will work for beauty brands provided they focus on relevancy and context – regardless of a platform’s popularity.
As we can see, the metaverse includes an overwhelming amount of examples. I feel like I need to take a nap after looking into all of this. But by understanding how the metaverse works in other industries, we can better see how it might creep into our brands and businesses.
And as marketers, you will soon have to figure out how you will make use of this growing and exciting space. Are you ready to enter the metaverse?
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