The Metaverse Is Here. Are You Ready?

By The Storytelling Revolution Archives
Cover image for  article: The Metaverse Is Here. Are You Ready?

In recent months, the industry has been buzzing about a new world order: the metaverse. But what exactly does this trendy word mean? During the "Gaming: Highway to the Metaverse" panel at the recent ANA Masters Conference, two experts -- Alex May, Managing Partner, Strategy, dentsu Aegis Network and Dan Holland, Senior Vice President, dentsu Gaming Lead, Americas -- unveiled the substance behind the hype.

They described the metaverse "as the future of all digital media and commerce ... the successor of the internet … made up of persistent, shared spaces linked together into a universe ... underpinned by interoperability, a fully functioning economy and open access to all." The word "metaverse" is a portmanteau of the prefix "meta" (meaning beyond) and universe.

From Hearst's recent launch of a blimp in the metaverse to give brands virtual visibility on an Airship to Gucciusing virtual try-on activation on the Snapchat platform, the rules of the game are now truly meta.

May and Holland offered highlights of what they call the "7 Ps of the Metaverse":

According to May and Holland, the metaverse is a profound new paradigm "that will come to define not only the next ten years, but the next century of technological advancement." It represents a unique and accelerated way to communicate and share information.

There is an entire metaverse infrastructure stack that brings together content, assets and identity services with virtual platforms, interoperability standards, payments, networking, hardware and compute platforms, illustrated by the table below:

Consumers will be moving from the physical to the digital to the virtual, seamlessly interacting with digital assets and real-life tactile assets along the way depending on the digital path they choose.

Gaming is the superhighway of the metaverse. "If web developers are the architects of the internet as we know it (Web 2.0), then game developers are the architects of the metaverse (Web 3.0)," said Ryan Gill, CEO & Co-Founder of Crucible.

During the pandemic, gaming became the test bed for new meta-experiences, from people getting married on "Animal Crossing" because they were unable to host an in-person special ceremony to over 12.3 million views of Travis Scott performing in Fortnite. A whole new dimension in eCommerce is emerging, in terms of creating digital marketplaces and assets, with Gucci bags selling for $6 in Roblox and then reselling for over $4000 the next day in the physical world.

Gone are the days that gaming was seen as a young Gen-Z or Millennial pursuit. Today, 87% of all internet users are playing digital games, which is equal to almost 3 billion gamers globally.

The gateway to pop culture is increasingly being driven by gaming -- from A-list music artists to award-winning movie franchises and the latest fashion trends from New York, Milan and Paris. Global brands are leveraging the power of gaming to serve as their canvas as they experiment with new ways to tell digital stories. It is no longer a niche platform reserved for the elusive male teen audience but is becoming part of the zeitgeist, and serving as a barometer for relevance, edginess and simply being on trend.

The big players in this ecosystem include Epic Games, makers of Fortnite, who recently announced a $1B funding round to support its long-term vision for the metaverse.

Ariana Grande did a recent concert with Fortnite, where fans could immerse themselves into digital assets from skins, emotes and piggy smallz back bling and showcase their digital goods on Fortnite characters while enjoying the concert.

Epic also created the "Unreal Engine" not only for games but also for architectural concepts and product design, with Ferrari and McLaren both using it to design next-gen automobiles.

To experience the sheer realism and technological advancement of the metaverse, visit the Metahuman Creator program and see how digital humans are created. These developments remind us that game engines and 3D engines are the future of creative asset production.

Another important player in the space, Roblox, currently at a valuation at $45B, has been largely responsible for driving the creative economy in gaming. By enabling gamers to build their own gaming environment, a new digital economy has arisen using the new currency, Robucks. This has propelled over 12,250 Roblox developers to earn $10K or more in Robucks in a given year, with over 300 of these developers earning over $100K.

Roblox has teamed up with leading brands including Netflix with Stranger Things and Vans for Vans World to transport fans and consumers into fully immersive virtual worlds where you take on the persona of a skateboarder or appear in your favorite demogorgon costume.

Another company leading the way is Vietnamese studio Sky Mavis, which launched its popular "play to earn" games (also known as Crypto games). It's latest game, Axie Infinity, allows players to earn income through NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and cryptocurrencies by breeding, battling and trading digital pets called Axies.

Sky Mavis has recently raised $152 million at a nearly $3 billion valuation, with funding backed by Andreessen Horowitz and Mark Cuban, stirring a developer and player revolt against the establishment of gaming. Sky Mavis has made over $2B in revenues to date.

A great brand partnership that has also pushed the envelope is the Louis Vuitton and League of Legends collab, where fans can buy skins for just $10 and firmly give a prestige brand a front seat with younger audiences.

NFTs are unique, one-off digital assets that maintain stores of value -- from art, real estate, fashion and even sports history. These ecosystems are fairly complicated but with the right advice can be navigated strategically to capture the most value, Alex May explained (see NFT table below).

Coca-Cola has also made a play in the fast-growing metaverse with its first-ever NFT collectibles. On International Friendship Day, four unique Coca-Cola NFTs (by design artists) were up for auction as a single "loot box" through the OpenSea online marketplace, with proceeds of over $500K going to the Special Olympics.

McLaren worked with Unreal Engine to design new cars first in the metaverse before launching in the real world. By dropping new virtually designed cars into Rocket League, marketers could get an early read on consumer sentiment and assess engagement with a younger audience.

From cars to fashion, omni reality commerce takes on new heights with the Balenciaga-Fortnite partnership, where a specially-designed sweater can be purchased for $8.50 versus the real-world sweater at $725. This duo was also featured in a metaverseque anamorphic illusion execution in Times Square and Piccadilly Circus.

As brands look to enter the metaverse and create new exciting environments, it is important that they are guided by experts who are able to bridge across the three realities -- physical, digital and virtual.

Dan Holland reminded us that dentsu Gaming's mission is to "create brand love through fandoms." For marketing leaders, it has become increasingly important to understand the culture of gaming, adopt an omni-reality mindset, and learn the new language of a metaverse world that immerses, inspires and invokes a completely new reality of self-expression and engagement.

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